Swansea Harriers: Dewi Griffiths has to dig deep to retain national title
DEWI Griffiths was forced to dig deep to hold onto his Welsh cross-country title after briefly losing touch with the leaders in the second half of the race at the Glanusk Estate, Crickhowell.
Griffiths came into the race having only recently overcome an illness and suffering from a heavy workload through exams. He was always in the leading group in the early stages, but then began to fall off the pace in the second half of the race.
But just as Wales's brightest young distance prospect looked set for a minor medal at best, with Swansea Harriers club-mate Phil Matthews and two-times champion Ian Mitchell setting a hot pace, he found an extra gear and motored back into contention.
Having bridged the gap, Griffiths then proceeded to break the spirit of Matthews and Mitchell by powering up the final hill before going on to complete the 10,240 metre course in 33 mins, six seconds to beat Tipton Harrier Mitchell by two seconds.
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Matthews became the second Swansea Harrier to get among the medals, but the team title went back to Cardiff AAC thanks to splendid runs in fourth and fifth places from Rowan Axe and Jon Hopkins and by getting six finishers home in the top 12.
Griffiths's victory made it a second successive individual double for Swansea Harriers following the victory in the women's race by Andrea Whitcombe.
In 2012 it has been a Caryl Jones and Griffiths double act, but Whitcombe stepped up to the plate in the absence of Jones to win an unexpected second national title.
By her own admission, the 41-year-old Whitcombe expected to come second again, but this time to clubmate Non Stanford, the World Under-23 Triathlon champion and winner of the title in 2011.
The 'big two' broke clear early on and Stanford set the pace for her older rival to try to hang on to.
In the end, Whitcombe's greater strength on the final hill worked to her advantage and she was able to add a second Welsh crown to the three English National titles she won earlier in her career as she beat Stanford by four seconds.
Their battle at the front end of the field was too much for the other athletes in the race and Cardiff's Debbie Rees came home in third place a massive 74 seconds further back.
Cardiff's Mike Ward found enough speed at the finish to outkick Newport's Chris Carpanini and Swansea's Josh Griffiths to win the men's Under-20 crown, but there was an upset in the women's race at the same age.
Everyone had predicted a battle for supremacy between Brecon AC twins Ffion and Rhianwedd Price for the title help by Ffion, but neither took the title as North Walian Sarah Livett stepped up to steal the show. Ffion had to settle for the silver medal, Megan Withers took bronze and Rhianwedd ended up in fourth place more than a minute behind her sister.
109th Welsh Cross Country Championships (Glanusk) Selected results — Senior Men (10,240m): 1. Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) 33:06 2. Ian Mitchell (Tipton Harriers) 33:08; 3. Phil Matthews (Swansea); 6. Marc Hobbs (Swansea) 33:43; 9. Sullivan Smith (Swansea) 34:04. Team: 1. Cardiff AAC; 2. Swansea Harriers; 3. Fairwater Runners
Under-23 Men: 1. Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) 33:06; 2. Rowan Axe (Cardiff AAC) 33:28; 3. Jon Hopkins (Cardiff AAC) 33:29.
Under-20 Men (6,170m): 1. Michael Ward (Cardiff AAC) 19:24; 2. Chris Carpanini (Newport Harriers) 19:29; 3. Josh Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) 19:33. Team: Newport Harriers.
Under 17 Men (5,670m): 1. Iolo Hughes (Menai T&F) 18:45; Team: Cardiff AAC
Under-15 Boys (4,250m): 1. Jake Heyward (Cardiff AAC) 14:38; 2. Evan Webb (City of Sheffield) 14:50; 3. Nikita Neary (Carmarthen Harriers) 15:18. Team: Carmarthen Harriers
Under-13 Boys (3000m): 1. Luke Davies (Brecon AC) 10:04; 2. Benji Edwards (Bridgend AC) 10:12; 3. James Vincent (Cardiff AAC) 10:25. Team: Swansea.
Senior Women (6,170m): 1. Andrea Whitcombe (Swansea Harriers) 21:00; 2. Non Stanford (Swansea) 21:04; 3. Debbie Rees (Cardiff AAC) 22:18; 4. Sian Edwards (Swansea) 22:39; 5. Alaw Beynon-Thomas (Swansea) 22:50; 6. Elysia Ridley (Swansea) 22:58; 8. Shan Mansfield (Swansea) 23:24 Team: 1, Swansea.
Under-23 Women: 1. Carys Hughes (Les Croupiers) 24:24.
Under-20 Women (5,070m): 1. Sarah Livett (Menai T&F) 20:14. Team: Cardiff AAC
Under-17 Women (5,070m): 1. Georgia Garner (Colwyn Bay) 19:56 Team: Cardiff AAC
Under-15 Girls (4,250m): 1. Cari Hughes (Menai T&F) 16:23. Team: Cardiff AAC
Under-13 Girls (3,000m): 1. Lucy Davies (Pembrokeshire Harriers) 11:11. Team: Cardiff AAC