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Record field to compete for cross-country honours

THE Kent Cross-Country Championships on Saturday seem certain to attract a record number of athletes. Entries closed at the beginning of last month and if all those accepted by the championship secretary turn up there will be almost 900 runners at the Wildernesse School in Sevenoaks.

That would beat the total competing last year and at any time since the championships were first held in 1921. History could also be created in the senior women's category after 17-year-old Charlotte Dale was given special dispensation to run.

If Dale, now sponsored by Lashings restaurant in Maidstone, decides to take part and goes on to win she will become the youngest-ever holder of the title. The previous youngest was Louise Watson when she triumphed, a few days short of her 18th birthday, in 1989. Watson will be taking part again, trying for her sixth victory, as will Andrea Green, the defending champion from Dartford.

If Dale does not run with the seniors the women's under-20 category will be her chosen event and this would set up a classic head-to-head with two other outstanding athletes, Lisa Dobriskey and the multi-talented Henrietta Freeman.

Jennifer Pereira of Medway and Maidstone AC will defend a 100 per cent record at the Sevenoaks venue in the under-17 race while the Bromley pair of Ella Fisher (under-15) and Rebeccah Taylor (under-13) will be favoured to win gold in their categories.

Allen Graffin is down to defend the men's championship he won for Tonbridge last year, despite not having raced a great deal this winter.

Nick Francis, on the other hand, has been competing regularly, and a win in the Kent Men's League last month suggests he is peaking at just the right time. This is the one title to have eluded Francis over the years, and it might have to be now or never for the Cambridge Harrier.

No-one with a sense of history can rule out Barry Royden; he has finished in the first three (seven wins) in each of the past 11 years.It would be a surprise, actually a sensation, if Jermayne Mays (Kent AC) fails to win his fourth successive title in the under-20 race. Tom Fahey (Dartford Harriers) is also expected to go for his fourth win in a row in the under-17 event while Jamie Ross-Davies, from Maidstone, or Aidan Lowicz-Brady (Deal Tri) are favoured in the under-15 race.

Matt Dawson will be looking for Ashford's first ever gold medal by a male athlete in the under-13 race.

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