The Cross Word: County crown jewel shining as bright as ever

Madelaine Wilton in action at the Hampshire Athletics Track & Field Championships. Picture: Mick Young (150643-05)
Madelaine Wilton in action at the Hampshire Athletics Track & Field Championships. Picture: Mick Young (150643-05)

Hampshire Athletics chairman, Colin Goater, is asked how do they do it?

One of the sport’s great stalwarts isn’t quite sure of the answer.

The Xbox generation aren’t all sat in a dark room screaming blue murder into a headset in Call of Duty deathmatches.

But while other similar events founder, the Hampshire Athletics Track & Field Championships goes from strength to strength.

That was showcased in emphatic style amid a celebration of achievement, rivalry and competition at the Mountbatten Centre last weekend.

Over 700 athletes descended on the city at its long-established home for one of the crown jewels of county competition.

Athletics, like most sports, has faced challenges from social evolution and the trappings of modern-day life.

But the Xbox generation aren’t all sat in a dark room screaming blue murder into a headset in Call of Duty deathmatches.

Some are out there earning their glory for real – and showcasing prodigious talent along the way.

Take Lachlan Wellington, who was fitting his running in around his football not too long ago.

The 13-year-old delivered a double county victory, with his success in the 3,000m setting a new championship-best performance by a whopping 11 seconds.

Or what about his City team-mate William Cubbage or Havant AC’s Thomas Miller registering new county highs at under-13 and under-17 level respectively.

They were three of 21 championship bests recorded as a definitive riposte was delivered to those snivelling over declining standards.

Then there was rising middle-distance star Josie Czura blowing away the field in one lap in the 1,500m, as the weekend drew to a close.

In the end she won by a whopping 13 seconds, to double up after winning the 800m by nearly five seconds the previous day.

Everywhere you turned there were tales of success and dedication, feats of determination, grit and will.

At one end of the spectrum was City’s under-13 pair, Saffron Moore and Nicole Ainsworth, grabbing silver and bronze over 1,500m in their first-ever track championships – in times which would have seen them romp to wins 12 months ago.

Then, at the worldly age of 26, came Havant’s Corin Bearpark delivering a 400m-800m senior double.

Not bad going but an achievement put firmly into context by the fact she’s balancing the work needed to reach that level with motherhood, after giving birth just last year.

The numbers involved in the competition are at their second highest in 12 years, with City alone sending 80 athletes into action.

And didn’t they deliver.

A whopping 56-medal return (17 golds, 23 silvers and 17 bronzes) is testament to the amount of emerging talent at one of the city’s great sporting institutions.

Although the envy of others, the Hampshire competition is not without challenges.

The senior categories need 
greater numbers and the tireless volunteers who hold the event together could do with an injection of young blood.

But while others are forced to merge and stage their championships over a single day, the Hampshire County Championships stands alone as its own two-day gala event.

There is a tendency in sport, as in life, to look to the past, to reminisce over those halcyon days of yesteryear.

When you see names like Roger Black, Kriss Akabusi, Todd Bennett and Michael East littering the records in the championship programme, it’s easy to see why it would be the case in county athletics.

But there’s so much to look forward to – and, thanks to the Hampshire Athletics Track & Field Championships, we can see that’s so.