PORTSMOUTH athletes are ready for the first major test of the winter as they go up against the best runners in the south today.
Parliament Hill, in London, is a notoriously tough venue.
But with the weather being fairly dry this year so far, it could be kinder conditions than usual for some fast and furious racing in the Southern Championships.
City of Portsmouth coach Vince Stamp has given his athletes a slightly easier workload this week to ensure they are a bit fresher.
His group have been flying in races already with lots of county success banked.
However, it’s always difficult to get a full squad out for each race and some top athletes will be absent.
Many of City’s top runners, including recently crowned double Hampshire champions Lachlan Wellington and Saffron Moore are bottom years in their respective age groups as well.
But team medals and individual medals will certainly be in reach if the Portsmouth contingent are at the best today.
Stamp said: ‘The southerns is the first of the big ones for us, it’s one we target.
‘At Parliament Hill it is firm under foot this time.
‘It was a mud bath last year but it’s pretty firm at the moment so that will make it interesting on the day.
‘My group have done a lot of hard work and will be ready.
‘The sessions have been tough in the build-up to the race but we do ease up a little bit for this one.
‘Our under-17 men and under-17 women are all bottom years.
‘So there’s no pressure on them to win medals.
‘We have a good squad of under-17 women if they are all there.
‘The under-17 men might put some pressure on themselves because they know they can mix it with the top years.
‘Our under-15 girls won’t be at full strength but it will take a big team to stop them.
‘Hopefully our girls will get a bit of a reward.
‘Other teams will be looking at us and thinking they will be hard to beat.
‘Our under-13 girls are a good team as well and if they all run well they could be in the mix.’
Ellie Farrow is ruled out of the under-15 girls’ team because she’s away on Duke of Edinburgh duty.
But City are still strong with double county champion Moore and 2016 national under-13 champion Nicole Ainsworth leading the challenge.
Matilda Atkins, Bo Sansom, Mia Billins, Penelope Batty and Hannah Newton all showed good form in the schools’ championships last weekend.
City under-13 girls are the county champions and have plenty of strength in depth.
Anya Pigden, Eleanor Purdue, Libby Hedley and Katie Simister make up a good under-17 squad.
Double county champion Wellington, double county medallist Jacob O’Hara and Steven Cross spearhead the under-17 challenge, with the in-form Callum Crook leading the under-15 boys’ group.