Keith Gerrard created some Manx sporting history by
becoming the first local athlete to be selected to compete in the World Cross
Country championships following the UK team trials last Saturday. The World
Championships will be held in Brussels on 20th and 21st March and Keith is due
to compete in the Men’s Under 20 race in what is said to be the most competitive
race in the world as it attracts runners from such a diverse range of
The trial was held in conjunction with the Reebok
Inter Counties Championship and televised live on Sky Sports. With the first
three gaining automatic selection plus up to three discretionary places
available, this was arguably Keith’s biggest race to date in terms of pressure.
Held in the impressive setting of Wollaton Park, Nottingham the parkland course
was firm underfoot with one tough hill per lap plus a few other
For the first half of the 8k event, Keith tucked
into the lead group, but at halfway started to make his move. With 3k to go, it
looked like he might be part of a two man breakaway as he and Gary Davenport of
Avon made a bid for glory. However, it was not to be and with 1k remaining a
group of six contested the lead. In a frantic final 800m, Davenport made a
successful bid for victory. Try as he did, Keith missed out on an automatic
place by just 5 seconds to finish a brave 5th place. However, this run – and no
doubt his other efforts over the winter – sufficiently impressed the selectors
and at 7 pm on Saturday night he received a call from the GB team manager Bob
Ashwood to say he had been selected for the World Championships – a great moment
for Manx athletics.
Keith is a great role model for local youngsters to
follow – unassuming and dedicated to his sport, his slight frame belies a steely
determination to succeed.
Two other athletes were also selected to run for
Lancashire. In the under 15s event Andrew Newton made a very steady start.
However, he used the psychological benefit of passing people to his advantage by the end of the 4.5k event had worked his way up to 104th position. There were
over 300 finishers – all selected to run for their respective counties. Three
years ago Keith finished 157th in the corresponding race so with hard work who
is to say that Andrew cannot try to emulate Keith in the years to
In the under 17 event over 6k, Rushen United
footballer Chris Shimmin demonstrated his versatility for finish 94th in a
similar sized field. Again he started steadily and moved through the field. If
he decided to concentrate on athletics, he could be a real force to be reckoned
Both lads will have learned greatly from this
experience. Such is he competitiveness of the event that small amount of time
can cover large numbers. For example, in Andrew’s race there were more than two
finishers per second at one point. Thus, a small improvement in time can bring a
big improvement in position. Hopefully, Chris and
Andrew – as well as other local athletes – will be inspired by Keith’s efforts
and look to progress over the next year or two.
So, a very successful day for local cross country
running and much to be positive about. It would be nice to see more Isle of Man
runners in this event – hopefully we will see more in the future.
Enthusiasts now look forward to Brussels as Keith
takes on the world – bring on the Kenyans!!