ATHLETICS: Eve and Hawtin are new Oxfordshire champions

Headington’s James Eve en route to victory

Headington’s James Eve en route to victory

First published in Sport Bicester Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter specialising in Rugby, Cricket and Athletics. Call me on 01865 425456

James Eve sprung a surprise, while Melissa Hawtin showed why she was pre-race favourite as the Oxfordshire cross country season concluded at Harwell.

Both athletes doubled up with victories in the final round of the Oxford Mail League and the Oxfordshire Championships, which took place concurrently.

But it was David Bell (Cirencester) and Susie Bush (Newbury), who were crowned men’s and women’s league champions, also in contrasting circumstances.

Eve (Headington Road Runners), who finished a lowly 23rd in his only other league outing this winter, pulled clear to win by 18 seconds, clocking 30mins 14secs for the 8.5km course.

And with Steve Naylor, from Cassington, who had won the previous three county titles, among those not racing, Eve was able to take advantage to land a trophy double.

“I was really pleased and very, very suprised as well,” said Eve.

“I knew I was in good shape and when I got to the start line I just thought I would give it a go.

“I don’t think I have ever finished in the top ten before in an Oxford Mail race.

“I managed to pull away up the hill on the last lap and held it to the finish.

“It was about the best race I have won in the last four or five years.”

Bell (30.32) finished second, which meant he took the league title from Oxford City senior men’s captain Aaron Burgess (30.55) by one point.

Had Burgess not been beaten into fourth by clubmate Les Newell (30.42), he would have shared the title with Bell, but there were clearly no team orders.

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Oxford City’s Melissa Hawtin (1161) and Gemma Bridge (1156) lead the ladies’ race ahead of league champion Susie Bush (left, blue vest)

Frances Briscoe, from Wantage, had won the last seven Oxon ladies’ titles, but was missing this time due to family commitments.

This left Oxford City’s Hawtin a strong favourite – and she didn’t disaspoint.

Hawtin clocked 22.41 for the 6.5km course, leading home Bush (23.18) and Cirecenster pair Jenny Manners (23.23) and Wendy Nicholls (23.48) in the league race.

City’s Gemma Bridge (24.47) was sixth overall and second in the Oxon race.

Hawtin said: “I was really happy with how the race went. I couldn’t have really asked for much more.

“I intended on sticking with the lead group for the first lap as I was aware that there were some strong competitors in the field.

“But up the hill on the first lap I realised I had opened a slight gap. I felt good so decided to keep pushing on from there and managed to continue extending my lead all the way to the finish.

“This is my first year as a senior so I’m really pleased to take the win and make it my 12th consecutive county championship cross country title.”

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