Woodford’s budding Burgess joins the county set with gold medal

PUBLISHED: 10:00 12 March 2015

Havering's Lydia Hallam (second from left) and Woodford Green's Jessica Burgess (second from right) helped Essex to gold at the Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships

Havering's Lydia Hallam (second from left) and Woodford Green's Jessica Burgess (second from right) helped Essex to gold at the Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships


Woodford cross-country star Jess Burgess was in great form in Birmingham

Jess Burgess was celebrating after helping Essex to a memorable win in the Inter Counties Cross-Country Championships in Birmingham with a magnificent performance.

The Woodford Green with Essex Ladies athlete, who has just turned 18, has pursued her objectives all season with great determination.

In November, she made a guest appearance in the Essex League in Chelmsford to try and catch the eye of county manager Phil Oatham and did that with an excellent third-place finish.

In January, Burgess was third in the Essex under-20 Championships and went on to finish a fine 12th 
in the South of England Championships in Brighton as well as 28th in the Nationals at Parliament Hill.

Her performance on Saturday, though, topped the lot.

Burgess finished 18th out of 143 runners and helped Essex take the gold medal on the day, while moving her nearer to her first Great Britain vest.

Coached by former Woodford sprinter Ayo Falola, Burgess trains with a group of the club’s male distance runners on a Tuesday night and it has clearly done the trick as Oatham acknowledged.

“Jess has been one of Essex’s most consistent performers in the major cross-country championships over the past three seasons,” he said.

“She has been part of two gold-medal winning under-20 teams, plus she also won a silver medal at under-17. She has always been a reliable athlete, keen to know what she has to do for county selection. One more year with her at under-20 level is a major bonus for me.”

In the recent past, three members of the Sparke family – Jess, Kat and Ronnie – have all represented GB in the World Cross-Country Championships while with Woodford.

Burgess will look to emulate that and her last race over the mud will be this weekend’s English Schools’ event.

Meanwhile, in lovely spring-like conditions, 609 athletes took to the road for the Roding Valley Half Marathon on Sunday.

While James Connor of Kent and Megan Evans from Chelmsford took the main prizes, there were a number of Woodford runners also taking part.

Woodford’s first man home was Lithuanian Donatas Tumaitis, who converted his fine form from the mud to the road to the extent that he is now challenging for the club’s Ken Bray Trophy for winter consistency.

Tumaitis clocked 1hr 15mins 22secs, while Woodford’s first woman home was veteran Jenny Thomas who was an excellent 13th in the women’s race in 1:42.02, her best time for several years.

Thomas is currently leading the Brenda Bray Trophy stakes, though Sunday’s race didn’t count towards the final tally.

A notable finisher was Gareth Dyball, who is more accustomed to the high jump, but is training for the London Marathon. He clocked 1:56.28 on his half marathon debut.

Masseurs from Spire Roding Hospital were on hand to offer a rub down to weary limbs at the finish, a service which many took advantage of on a warm day.

Many competitors also praised the organisers for their superb running of the event.

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