Triumph at English Schools Cross Country for Eastbourne Athletes

George Armstong – Smith, Jonah Messer, Daisy Connor, Freda Pearce, Eleanor Strevens, Fin Lumber – Fry, Fintan Pearce, Ben Brown & Byron Roberts – All selected to represent Sussex Schools in Pontefract.

A group of Eastbourne Rovers’ best and most dedicated young cross-country runners stepped up a gear last weekend, representing Sussex in the English Schools National Championships held at Pontefract Racecourse near Leeds. It was a fantastically successful day for Sussex, with teams bringing home a record-breaking four winners’ trophies – two for outright team wins (lowest total score from the first six runners home) and two for the first team to get all eight runners over the line. 

Freda Pearce, Fin Lumber-Fry and Eleanor Strevens had the most outstanding runs of the day for Sussex, each leading their team home and achieving positions inside the top 15. This is an incredible achievement with over 300 of the best secondary school runners in the country contesting each race. In the first race of the day, Freda Pearce placed 14th with Rover’s Daisy Connor close behind in 31st.  With other Sussex runners coming in 15th, 19th, 41st and 44th they were absolutely delighted to be crowned national team champions for the Intermediate (Under 17) girls. A fantastic start to the day which boosted team morale for the following races.

Fin Lumber-Fry was close to the lead group for the entire race in the Junior Boys (U15s) competition and finished 12th thanks to a very strong finish. He was rewarded with a reserve spot for the forthcoming home international match on March 23rd in Ireland.

Junior Boys Sussex Team celebrate their 1st place which included 4 Eastbourne Rovers AthletesFin Lumber – Fry, Jonah Messer, Byron Roberts & George Armstrong – Smith.

Eastbourne endurance coach Chris Voice said, ‘Fin and Freda were both within 10 seconds of international call-ups, a tremendous achievement which gives them and the rest of our training squad huge inspiration for the future.’

Half of the Sussex U15 boys’ team was made up of Lumber-Fry’s Eastbourne teammates. Jonah Messer finished 53rd, Byron Roberts 59th and George Armstrong Smith 132nd in a packed race where three or four athletes were crossing the finishing line every second in the middle of the field. With other Sussex finishers in 17th, 19th and 36th the boys were hopeful of matching the girls’ success, which indeed they did, and they were over the moon to be Sussex’s second national cross country champion team.

Eleanor Strevens, who has previously achieved top 10 positions nationally, was delighted to return to a similar level of success and placed 11th in the Senior Girls’ (Under 19s) race which was won by European Junior Champion Innes FitzGerald. Her Sussex team mates, a close-knit group many of whom have competed together in Sussex for their respective clubs since Under 13 level, put in an impressive performance to gain an excellent 4th place overall. They were then rewarded with the ‘Team of 8’ trophy since with their 8th finisher coming in 134th they were the first team to have all eight across the line. Sussex Junior girls (U15s) also won the ‘Team of 8’ trophy for their age group.

The Sussex Senior Boys’ team missed the ‘Team of 8’ trophy by a mere second with Greater Manchester’s 8th runner finishing 153rd and Sussex’s Rowan Curtis 157th. They achieved 4th place overall with Eastbourne’s Fintan Pearce 103rd closely followed by Ben Brown in 124th, both boys making strong debuts at this championship, 5th and 6th runners home for the Sussex team.

With Sussex so highly ranked nationally all athletes are immensely proud to be part of these teams. A number of Eastbourne Rovers athletes narrowly missed selection after performing well in the county schools and southeast England schools’ races and were on standby as reserves. The strength and endurance gained by all the cross-country runners during the winter sets them up well for a successful track season which begins in April.