Josie Czura was the shining light for City of Portsmouth at a gloomy, rain-soaked Hampshire Cross Country Championships at the weekend.
The rising star of the sport proved a class apart in her under-13 girls’ age group, leading from the start and cruising to victory in 12min 43sec around a boggy Fleming Park, Eastleigh course.
Czura’s dominant 3,450m display – which saw the now three-time county champion finish 54 seconds ahead of nearest rival Rebecca Poole (Basingstoke) – would have landed her a silver medal in the under-13 boys’ race.
And City coach Vince Stamp was quick to laud another outstanding show of force from his ‘incredible’ protégé, who triumphed in the Eastleigh parkrun 5K event three days earlier.
He said: ‘Josie is an incredible talent.
‘I was just telling her to go easy and relax. But she ran it as she so pleased!
‘She won the Hampshires last year and the year before, so it’s no surprise that she won again.’
Stamp believes Czura is now reaping the rewards of a new-found tactical maturity in her running.
‘Over the last couple of months Josie has learned that it’s not just a case of going out, running as hard as she can and challenging anyone to stay with her,’ said Stamp.
‘At the start of the season she started to get out-kicked by some of the girls who learned to stay with her.
‘But in recent competitive races, instead of time trialing, she has really learned to race against her fellow competitors and put in a kick.
‘So, of course, this time she kicked and put in a good finish but there I was screaming at her to ease down – she’s got to race every weekend this month!’
Czura’s title-winning run delivered City’s only individual gold on the day.
However, it was still a memorable day for the club and Stamp’s young charges.
Team gold greeted the under-13 boys, who were led home by second-placed Lachlan Wellington (12.45), with team-mates Harry Moore eighth overall (13.32), Jacob O’Hara 12th (13.52) and Adam Kimber 22nd (14.17).
Meanwhile, Czura & Co earned silver in the same age group thanks to strong finishes from Anya Pigden (seventh, 14.38) Cheyenne James (ninth, 14.42) and Bo Sansom (23rd, 15.35).
The club’s under-15 girls took top honours in their category, inspired by impressive runner-up Elizabeth Hedley (16.49), with Elizabeth Rose sixth (17.29) Maisie Grice 11th (18.42) and Seren Hawkes 26th (20.55).
And City’s under-11 girls also claimed a medal with a fine team bronze thanks to Emma Leach coming fourth (6.24), Ellie O’Neill 11th (6.45), Poppy Herbert 19th (7.07) and Yasmin Knight 28th (7.29).
Stamp added: ‘I’d like to give credit to the tireless course organisers, who tackled the conditions sensibly to put on a great event.
‘And my lot have all done themselves proud.
‘’They’re a hardy breed, who always go out, have fun and give 100 per cent, regardless.’