Peck strikes gold as Suffolk enjoy another great day at the English Schools Championships
PUBLISHED: 11:54 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:54 16 March 2020
Suffolk enjoyed another fantastic day at the annual English Schools National Cross Country Championships, held at Sefton Park in Liverpool on Saturday, spearheaded by Ben Peck’s terrific win in the junior boys’ race.
Brandon-based Peck therefore followed in the footsteps of his fellow Suffolk runner Lewis Sullivan, who had lifted the junior boys' title in style at the same championships the previous year.
It has been an amazing last couple of years for Suffolk, in the junior ranks, and Peck's latest victory was the perfect way to end this latest cross country season.
Earlier this year, Sullivan had won both the English National Championships and Inter-Counties Championships, at junior boys' (under-15s) level, with his occasional training partner Peck, who is a year younger, finishing an excellent runner-up in last month's Inter-Counties event at Nottingham.
On Saturday it was the turn of Peck to be crowned a national champion, at Schools level, followed home by another Suffolk athlete in Henry Dover, who was a fine second.
The Schools age groups work differently to the County age groups, so Sullivan was competing at the bottom end of the intermediate boys' age group, where he finished an impressive fifth behind four athletes who were all a year older.
Suffolk also won the team bronze medals in this intermediate age group, an outstanding achievement against 45 other counties, most of them much bigger than Suffolk in terms of population. They were only headed by Kent and Surrey.
And there was further Suffolk success in the junior girls' age group, with Woodbridge School's Ruby Vinton, who led the field for much of the race, finishing in fourth position.
New English Schools champion Peck enthused: 'Everything went according to plan, especially as we knew all about the other athletes by then, having raced against them several times in the past.
'I had a plan in mind, and so I started off relatively slowly, as usual. I think I was in around 40th or 50th place, in the pack, during the first lap (of two), but then made my move towards the end of the first lap.
'I went from being in the pack to leading the race, and making a break. If I stuck to the plan, I knew in my mind that it would be OK.
'I opened up a gap on the rest and won by 13 seconds in the end. I think the gap was even bigger at around three-quarters of the way around the second lap.
'It was another brilliant day for Suffolk, and I'm pleased to have managed to retain the (junior boys) title for Suffolk following Lewis' win last year,' added Peck, who is a pupil at Mildenhall College Academy.
A member of Thetford AC, where he is coached by Dean Kirton, 13-year-old Peck also trains once a week with the Saint Edmund Pacers on the track at Bury St Edmunds, under the watchful eye of coach Martyn Brophy.
Peck has now completed the hat-trick of major national titles, having won both the English National Championships (at Leeds) and the Inter-Counties Championships (at Loughborough) last year, in the under-13 age group, as well as winning the South of England title.
Peck clocked 14mins 10secs at Sefton Park on Saturday, with fellow Suffolk athlete Dover, a member of Colchester & Tendring AC, second in 14:23. Sam Plummer, also a member of Colchester & Tendring, was a fine 13th in the colours of Essex.
Meanwhile, an in-form Sullivan put the finishing touches to his season by finishing fifth in the intermediate boys' section.
Unbeaten in the under-15 class all season, Sullivan stepped up an age group in impressive fashion. His time of 18:25 was only three seconds off a medal - Surrey's Woody Jerome posted 18:22 in third spot. The race was won by Cumbria's Fraser Sproul (18:08).
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Sullivan is a member of the Bury-based Pacers and a pupil at Sybil Andrews Academy (Moreton Hall).
Supporting Sullivan in Suffolk's bronze-medal winning team were Kit Evans Lombe (14th), Oliver Hitchcock (25th), Freddie Adams (33rd), James Peck (52nd) and Charlie Turner (76th).
Ruby Vinton flew the flag for Suffolk in the junior girls' race, eventually finishing fourth in 11:12, which was just five seconds behind third-placed Sophie Nicholls (Somerset) and nine seconds behind the top two of Zoe Gilbody (Shropshire) and Jessica Bailey (Cumbria).
Vinton, the reigning Suffolk and Anglian Schools champion, finished sixth at the English National Championships last month, and was 10th at the English Schools event last season.
Elsewhere, Stowmarket Striders' twin sisters Maddie Jordan-Lee (22nd) and Mille Jordan-Lee (67th) led the way in the senior girls' race, while James Petterson (35th) and Will Lowden (62nd) were to the fore in the intermediate boys' section.
Suffolk boys lifted an aggregate team trophy as well.
They won the Sussex Trophy by beating similar-sized counties with 1,643 points, ahead of Cambridgeshire (1,758) and Durham (2,265), while Suffolk girls finished fourth in their section competing for the Sidney Rose Trophy.
The top eight athletes in each age group were due to represent English Schools in the annual Home Countries Schools International in Falkirk, Scotland, where Peck, Sullivan, Dover and Vinton would all have been in action, but this meeting has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Suffolk results at the annual English Schools Cross Country Championships:
Junior boys: 1 Ben Peck 14:10; 2 Henry Dover 14:23; 73 Rowan Shearer 15:52; 109 Taylor Ashley Plumb 16:02; 118 Luca Wallace 16:08; 147 Ryan Grady 16:20; 231 Jack Teuten 16:48; 259 Max Fisher 17:03. (Suffolk 7th team).
Junior girls: 4 Ruby Vinton 11:12; 155 Alexandra Bell-Cobbold 12:35; 172 Amelie Taylor 12:38; 188 Elise Wright 12:42; 224 Phoebe Harpur-Davies 12:52; 299 Isabel Mitchell 13:23; 309 Eva Marshall 13:29; 343 Connie Davies 14:20. (Suffolk 29th team).
Intermediate boys: 5 Lewis Sullivan 18:25; 14 Kit Evans Lombe 19:01; 25 Oliver Hitchcock 19:11; 33 Freddie Adams 19:19; 52 James Peck 19:31; 76 Charlie Turner 19:47; 152 Elliot Gladwell 20:23; 237 Sam Burditt 21:06. (Suffolk 3rd team).
Intermediate girls: 109 Tilly Aldis 14:02; 148 Mia Dann 14:20; 160 April Hill 14:25; 178 Maddy Lansdown 14:33; 214 Amy Goddard 14:45; 217 Lila Battell 14:45; 274 Francesca Mann 15:09; 280 Rebecca Morley 15:14. (Suffolk 27th team).
Senior boys: 35 James Pettersson 22:16; 62 Will Lowden 22:46; 177 Nathan Goddard 23:58; 222 Sam Stevens 22:34; 233 Edward Harvey 24:44; 259 Jack Hammond 25:17; 292 Matthew Bennett 26:06; 307 Ethan Turner 27:01. (Suffolk 30th team).
Senior girls: 22 Maddie Jordan-Lee 17:05; 67 Mille Jordan-Lee 17:46; 142 Holly Fisher 18:43; 212 Amy Graham 19:59; 261 Lily Genner 20:42; 270 Katie Challinor 20:53; 274 Chloe Cavill 21:11; 286 Helena Hines 22:40 (Suffolk 30th team).