Young Heanor athlete Lily Winfield takes more giant strides

FLYING THE FLAG FOR ENGLAND -- Heanor Running Club star Lily Winfield.
FLYING THE FLAG FOR ENGLAND -- Heanor Running Club star Lily Winfield.

The cross-country running career of Heanor Running Club teenager Lily Winfield has taken three more giant strides.

First, Lily, who is 14, finished a hugely impressive seventh in the junior girls’ final at the English Schools Cross-Country Championships, held at Wollaton Park in Nottingham.

Next, she won a call-up to represent England at the Home Countries International meet staged in Falkirk, Scotland, which meant she wore the vest of her country for the first time.

And then, Lily capped a month to remember by helping England to a team gold medal at Falkirk, while also finishing an excellent eighth herself in the individual positions.

“The result at Nottingham was fantastic considering it is such a prestigious race,” said Chris Rainsford, on behalf of Heanor RC. But she arguably surpassed that with her exploits in Scotland.

“Five months after kicking off her cross-country season for the yellow and blue at Markeaton Park in Derby, Lily finished off her winter in style, making her first appearance in the white and red of England,” said proud Chris.

The schoolgirl began her long trip north early on the Friday morning and after an overnight stay at the team’s accommodation in Alloa, she was up bright and early the next day to compete in the junior girls’ 3k race.

The contest, staged in bright sunshine, consisted of two laps of undulating parkland course. Starting seventh in the pen, Lily worked hard from the start and made her way through the field.

In the opening exchanges, she kept with the front pack, but after the race’s fast, aggressive start, things soon cooled down among the 32-strong field. By the end of the first lap, Lily had settled into a sensible top-15 position.

With a third of the race to run, she found herself in eighth spot, with breathing space behind. That’s where she remained and because seven of the top ten positions were filled by girls wearing England colours, the team gold was won by a comfortable margin.

It was just the latest eyecatching display by Lily, who clearly has a bright future in athletics if she continues to progress.

Earlier this year, she made her mark at both the Midland Counties Cross-Country Championships, finishing third at Loughborough, and the Derbyshire County Cross-Country Championships, finishing second at Heanor.

She is no mean middle-distance runner on the track either, and won several races last year over 800m and 1500m. After being crowned county champion in her U15 age group over both distances, she was fifth over 1500m at the English Schools Championships at Gateshead.

Lily now returns to the track for the summer season. She will be hoping to gain more valuable experience in prestigious races and, hopefully, win another place at the English Schools where so many athletics stars of the future have learned their trade.