TEENAGER Zoe Wassell took centre stage at the Midland Counties Cross Country Championships in Leamington Spa, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

The 14-year-old Malmesbury School student was the only local athlete to make the podium in the 10-race programme as she finished an excellent third in the under 15 girls race.

It was Wassell’s first regional cross country medal and after her fourth place in the Cardiff Cross Country Challenge the previous weekend represents a terrific start to the new year.

“I was really pleased with that performance,” said Wassell, who lives in Tetbury.

“I went to Leamington hoping to make the top three but it was an extremely muddy course – and I don’t particularly like mud.”

Wassell, who is coached by Chris Frapwell at Stroud & District Athletic Club, started cautiously and admitted she let the top two runners get too far ahead, but the bronze was far from granted as the race developed.

“My legs still felt a little tired from the race in Cardiff the previous Sunday so I didn’t start hard enough,” added Wassell.

“Laura Mullin (Charnwood athlete) was ahead of me and opened quite a gap at one stage. I eventually caught her up and we were running neck and neck I the last lap.

“I knew then it would come down to a sprint finish and luckily I had a lot of support, including my mum and dad (Jane and Mike Wassell) cheering me on down the finish straight and I managed to just beat her by two seconds.

“I won a team gold a few years ago but that is my first Midlands individual medal at cross country and that was definitely one of my best performances this winter.”

Wassell’s next race will be the rearranged Wiltshire Schools’ Cross Country Championships at Grittleton House School on Saturday. The original fixture on January 18 was postponed due to a waterlogged course.

“Hopefully the event will go ahead this time as the following week is the South West Schools’ Championships (in Bournemouth) and this is a great event to do,” said Wassell.