Ballarat cross country students chase state titles and selection

FRONTING UP: Harry Sharp will carry the St Patrick's College colours as part of a strong group of Ballarat runners in the Victorian All-Schools Cross Country Championships.

FRONTING UP: Harry Sharp will carry the St Patrick's College colours as part of a strong group of Ballarat runners in the Victorian All-Schools Cross Country Championships.

The cream of Ballarat’s young cross country talent has the form to figure prominently in a bid for state school titles and state selection at Bundoora on Saturday.

Ballarat will have a strong representation in the Victorian All-Schools Cross Country Championships, which double as selection trials the national championships.

Under-18 and under-16 boys’ contingents will lead the Ballarat charge in what is also the fourth round of the Athletics Victoria XCR’17 Series.

St Patrick’s College duo Andrew Amor and Sam Williams sit one-two in the series under-18 aggregate after just the two events, with Williams winning first-up at Wandin Park and Amor taking the honours at Cruden Farm.

One of their main rivals over the 6km is likely to be former Ballarat competitor Nick Fidler, who now attends Melbourne Grammar School.

He has started the Associated Public Schools season with two top 10 finishes and goes to Bundoora as the reigning Victorian all-schools cross country under-16 champion.

Ballarat potentially has an even stronger hand in the under-16 boys’ division over 4km.

Harry Sharp (St Pat’s) has been dominant in taking out the two rounds of XCR’17.

Sharp is a national steeplechase champion and will be joined in this age group by fellow St Pat’s student Matt Catterson and Ballarat High School’s Ben Ludbrook, who both also sit in the XCR’17 aggregate top 10.

Lily Gilbert (Loreto College),  Georgina Mees (Ballarat Grammar School), dual state track champion Katherine Dowie (Ballarat Clarendon College) and Tahlee Van Roosmalen (Ballarat High School) are other youngsters who might be contenders.

Gilbert is equal eighth in the under-14 girls’ XCR’17 Series season aggregate, Mees 10th in the under-14 girls’ standings and Dowie equal 7th in the girls’ under-20.

The under-14 to under-20 all-school events will be contested over distances ranging from 3km to 8km.

School Sport Australia is having its own cross country championships this year, which means junior athletes will have the choice of competing either in Tasmania or New South Wales for national titles.

Open athletes will run over 10km at Bundoora.

Ballarat Regional Athletic Centre’s Tom Hynes is third in the XCR’17 open men’s aggregate after winning at Cruden Farm, with Paul Burge equal seventh.

BRAC has three representatives in the open women’s top 10. Michelle Hawkes is second, Rachel Gibney fourth and Courtney Parker equal seventh.

Ballarat will be the venue for XCR’17 round seven on Saturday, July 29.