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Griffiths digs deep to retain Welsh title; CROSS COUNTRY.

DEWI Griffiths was forced to dig deep to hold onto his Welsh cross-country title after briefly losing touch with the leaders in the second-half of the race at the Glanusk Estate, Crickhowell.

Griffiths came into the race having only recently overcome an illness and spending time studying for exams.

He was always in the leading group in the early stages, but then began to fall off the pace.

But just as Wales' brightest young distance prospect looked set for a minor medal at best, with Swansea Harriers clubmate Phil Matthews and two-time champion Ian Mitchell setting a hot pace, he found an extra gear and motored back into contention.

Having bridged the gap, Griffiths then proceeded to break the spirit of Matthews and Mitchell by powering up the final hill before going on to complete the 10,240m course in 33 mins, six seconds to beat Tipton Harrier Mitchell by two seconds.

Matthews became the second Swansea Harrier to get among the medals, but the team title went back to Cardiff AAC thanks to splendid runs in fourth and fifth places from Rowan Axe and Jon Hopkins and by getting six finishers home in the top 12.

Griffiths' victory made it a second successive individual double for Swansea Harriers following the victory in the women's race by Andrea Whitcombe.

In 2012 it has been a Caryl Jones and Griffiths double act, but Whitcombe stepped up to the plate in the absence of Jones to win an unexpected second national title.

By her own admission, the 41-year-old Whitcombe expected to come second again, this time to clubmate Non Stanford, the World Under-23 Triathlon champion and winner of the title in 2011.

The 'big two' broke clear early on and Stanford set the pace for her older rival to try to hang on to.

In the end, Whitcombe's greater strength on the final hill worked to her advantage and she was able to add a second Welsh crown to the three English National titles she won earlier in her career as she beat Stanford by four seconds over the 6,170m course.

Their battle at the front end of the field was too much for the other athletes in the race and Cardiff's Debbie Rees came home in third place, 74 seconds further back.

Cardiff's Mike Ward found enough speed at the finish to outkick Newport's Chris Carpanini and Swansea's Josh Griffiths to win the men's under-20 crown, but there was an upset in the women's race at the same age group.

Everyone had predicted a battle for supremacy between Brecon AC twins Ffion and Rhianwedd Price for the title held by Ffion, but neither took the title as North Walian Sarah Livett stepped up to steal the show.

Ffion had to settle for the silver medal, Megan Withers took bronze and Rhianwedd ended up in fourth place more than a minute behind her sister.

109th Welsh Cross-Country Championships (Glanusk) Senior Men (10,240 metres): 1. Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) 33 min, 06 sec; 2, Ian Mitchell (Tipton Harriers) 33:08; 3, Phil Matthews (Swansea Harriers) 33:11; 4, Rowan Axe (Cardiff AAC) 33:28; 5, Jon Hopkins (Cardiff AAC) 33:29; 6, Marc Hobbs (Swansea Harriers) 33:43; 7, Tom Marshall (Cardiff AAC) 34:00; 8, Rhodri Buffett (Brecon AC) 34:03; 9, Sullivan Smith (Swansea Harriers) 34:04; 10, Jon Peters (Cardiff AAC) 34:14 Team: 1, Cardiff AAC; 2, Swansea Harriers; 3, Fairwater Runners Under-23 Men: 1. Dewi Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) 33:06; 2, Rowan Axe (Cardiff AAC) 33:28; 3, Jon Hopkins (Cardiff AAC) 33:29.

Under-20 Men (6,170m): 1, Michael Ward (Cardiff AAC) 19:24; 2, Chris Carpanini (Newport Harriers) 19:29; 3, Josh Griffiths (Swansea Harriers) 19:33.

Team: Newport Harriers. Under-17 Men (5,670m): 1, Iolo Hughes (Menai T&F) 18:45; 2, Ciaran Lewis (Cardiff AAC) 19:02; 3, John Cove (Cardiff AAC) 19:18 Team: Cardiff AAC Under-15 Boys (4,250m): 1, Jake Heyward (Cardiff AAC) 14:38; 2, Evan Webb (City of Sheffield) 14:50; 3, Nikita Neary (Carmarthen Harriers) 15:18.

Team: Carmarthen Harriers Under-13 Boys (3,000m): 1, Luke Davies (Brecon AC) 10:04; 2, Benji Edwards (Bridgend AC) 10:12; 3, James Vincent (Cardiff AAC) 10:25 Team: Swansea Harriers Senior Women (6,170m): 1, Andrea Whitcombe (Swansea Harriers) 21 min, 00 sec; 2, Non Stanford (Swansea Harriers) 21:04; 3, Debbie Rees (Cardiff AAC) 22:18; 4, Sian Edwards (Swansea Harriers) 22:39; 5, Alaw Beynon-Thomas (Swansea Harriers) 22:50; 6, Elysia Ridley (Swansea Harriers) 22:58; 7, Katherine Matthews (Chepstow Harriers) 23:08; 8, Shan Mansfield (Swansea Harriers) 23:24; 9, Emily Brown (Cardiff AAC) 23:36; 10, Jane Horler (Chepstow Harriers) 24:08.

Teams: 1, Swansea Harriers; 2, Chepstow Harriers; 3, Cardiff AAC.

Under-23 Women: 1, Carys Hughes (Les Croupiers) 24:24; 2, Lily Matthews (Cardiff AAC) 29:21.

Under-20 Women (5,070 m): 1, Sarah Livett (Menai T&F) 20:14; 2, Ffion Price (Brecon AC) 20:18; 3, Megan Withers (Pembrokeshire Harriers) 21:10.

Team: Cardiff AAC Under-17 Women (5,070 m): 1, Georgia Garner (Colwyn Bay) 19:56; 2, Rebecca Evans (Cardiff AAC) 20:49; 3, Kate Seary (Cardiff AAC) 20:52. Team: Cardiff AAC Under 15 Girls (4,250m): 1, Cari Hughes (Menai T&F) 16:23; 2, Heidi Davies (Brecon AC) 16:35; 3, Jessica Bradley (Pembrokeshire Harriers) 16:52.

Team: Cardiff AAC Under 13 Girls (3,000m): 1, Lucy Davies (Pembrokeshire Harriers) 11:11; 2, Abigail Fisher (Blaenau Gwent) 11:13; 3, Isobel Dodd (Bridgend AC) 11:14. Team: Cardiff AAC

CAPTION(S):

Mike Ward, left, and Chris Carpanini

Non Stanford, right, and Andrea Whitcombe in cross-country action

PICTURE: Gwynfor James
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 20, 2013
Words:952
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