Whilst the rest of the clubs members where enjoying and thriving in winter season openers across the country, Skelmersdale Boundary Harriers' Ladies Captain Maria Cook went solo on a visit to Derby's Markeaton Park for the British Athletics hosted 'British & Irish Masters International' Cross Country Qualifier. Maria picked up some experience here last year in a debut to the international ranking events and utilised that knowledge of the course to directly impact her race strategy this time around.
After a quiet summer of racing this was an event where Maria would be back to her prefered understated, almost underdog, position in what had been described by the England Athletic selection coaches beforehand as "the most stacked field we've had at this race to date". With GB athletes, alongside many who had arrived on the back of strong track and road seasons, brimming with confidence, Maria's impressive turnout at road relays gave a glimpse of a potentially intriguing battle ahead.
The day started with a chill in the air, the sun shining after a very damp few days in the midlands, but the long grass and undulation of the course meant conditions, whilst muddy, were firm and conducive to strong performances and that's exactly what the race produced with athletes needing to be 2minutes faster than last year just to be in contention infront of the selection commitee.
Maria, who shone at counties level earlier in the year to earn a second representation in a Lancashire vest, excelled with an attacking pace early on to take a well deserved 4th place in her age graded race to earn both her and the club's first International vest to represent the England squad in Glasgow next month.
Coach, Dan Gilbody, described the result as "everything Maria has deserved for the consistent work over the last few years and puts the icing on the cake of a tough summer to which she can now grow to new heights".
From all your SBH family, congratulations, savour every minute and continue to fly the flag 💛🖤