Brief History of C.S.A.A Cross Country 1968 – 2022

Introduction by Paul Manning M.B.E. (President of C.S.A.A.)

The Athletes
We can feel justly proud of the achievements of our athletes over the past half century, from Jeremy Lothian through to our latest England Schools International over the country, Maisy Luke. We have six National Champions, Jeremy Lothian (1975), Jon Richards (1978 & 1980), Neil Caddy (1991), Connor Robinson (2008) and Harris Mier (2006).
Before the advent of chip timing, I was a Finish Recorder for Cornwall at the National Championships. I enjoyed sharing the excitement of the athletes on their gaining international selection. There were many special memories including:
Jon Richards victory at Maidstone 1978, Sarah Salmon being selected with Paula Radcliffe (Junior Girls – Wadebridge 1990), Neil Caddy, Charlie Low and Sarah (Taunton 1991), Connor Robinson, Annabel Gummow and Katie Knowles (Liverpool 2009).
Special mention should be made of John Willcock and Penair School for their outstanding successes in the E.S.A.A. Cross-Country Cup competition 1984 -2002
with 15 team victories
Cornwall has also had 38 South-West Counties Champions over the past fifty years.
Most important is the Roll of Honour,on the website, which lists the names of the athletes with excellent achievements at the South-West Counties and National Schools Cross-Country Championships. Several of the Schools Internationals listed have gone on to represent England or Great Britain at Senior level.

The Background
I started teaching in Cornwall in 1968 and formed the Poltair Plodders Cross-Country Club on my first day. I was lucky enough to have a lot of support from a very enthusiastic group of parents. This team gave me an enormous amount of help and we built up a reputation for organising cross-country events. This included hosting the Cornwall Schools, South-West Schools, Cornwall A.A. and South-West A.A. Championships and Westward League at Poltair School all in one winter season.
The experience gained in those early years was a great help when taking on the role of Cross-Country Secretary and Championships Secretary on numerous occasions.


As Alan Rowling will explain in a later section, the successes achieved by our athletes at both regional and national events has evolved from a group of teachers who are extremely passionate about the sport and dates back to the early 70’s. This group included Alan, Ben Penberthy, John Willcock and myself who have coached and encouraged athletes for over fifty years. Other coaches who have made a huge contribution to the sport include Dave Collins, Dave Buzza, Mark King, John Knowles, Chris Jeffery, Peter Meredith, John Scott,
Dave Varney, Paul Wright, Steve Woodfinden and Chris Wooldridge.
It is also important that we acknowledge the hard work put in during this period by our C.S.A.A. Cross-Country Secretaries, Reg Payne, Peter Coe, Ben Penberthy,
Alan Rowling, Geoff Jones, Peter Meredith, Mandy Metcalf, Jason Hedaux, Brett Marsh, Helen Blackburn, John Knowles, Lesley Taphouse and Adam Hughes.

County Championships courses over the years include Poltair, Redruth, Mounts Bay, Camborne, Penair, St.Austell Rugby Club and Wadebridge. Truro School with John Knowles guidance have hosted many County events as well as the South-West Counties on three occasions and the 2010 S.I.A.B. International Schools. Newquay Tretherras have been alternating with Truro School with the excellent support of John Scott and Paul Wright. This school has also hosted three highly successful E.S.A.A. Cup Finals.

We are fortunate in Cornwall to have a loyal army of officials and marshals, some of whom have supported the C.S.A.A. for most of this period. They share our passion for the sport and great determination to organise events with meticulous attention to detail. We are extremely proud to have hosted the following events:

1990 National Schools Cross-Country – Wadebridge
In view of our geographical position, Cornwall provided billets for the greatest ever number of athletes at a National Championships. In charge of this mammoth task was Mo Pearson, our long serving C.S.A.A. Secretary. Few, if any, have devoted more time to our sport than Mo.
Cornwall were Group C Girls Team Champions.
1994 S.I.A.B. International Schools – Trelissick (the first time a cross-country event held on National Trust land.)
2010 S.I.A.B. International Schools – Truro School
The C.S.A.A. were also involved in the organisation of the following events hosted by Newquay Tretherras School.
2009, 2014 & 2021 E.S.A.A. Cup Finals – Newquay

Cornwall has also offered to host the I.S.F. World Schools Cross-Country Championships on three separate occasions. The latest in 2010 was supported by Seb Coe and Dave Moorcroft. Unfortunately the cost involved prevented this happening.

A great deal of the credit for the success of Cornish athletes over the years is down to Alan Rowling (1964 Senior Boys Champion), a highly experienced Endurance Coach.

Alan Rowling B.E.M. recalls further details of how schools cross-country has developed over the years.

I returned to Cornwall, teaching Geography at Tolgus School, Redruth in 1972 and soon formed a school Cross-Country club. Perhaps by chance Ben Penberthy, who taught Rural Studies at Heamoor in Penzance and Paul Manning, a Maths teacher at Poltair School, St.Austell, were also active in forming their own cross-country teams at the time.
We were all involved in organising the Cornwall Schools Cross-Country events at a time which coincided with the formation in 1974 of the Duchy of Cornwall Athletic Club, later to amalgamate with West Cornwall Athletic Club to form Cornwall Athletic Club in 1982.
Our first move was to combine our school teams into the Duchy of Cornwall club and focus on the Westward Cross-Country League, at a time when all fixtures, heaven forbid, were held in Devon! We would book a coach for each fixture, starting at Penzance with Ben’s team aboard, picking up at Redruth and then on to St.Austell. I would suggest this was the beginning of a strong Club/School link in the County which has remained to this day. Just look at the list of South West Schools winners in the Roll of Honour, proof of what has been achieved over the decades.
The 70’s and into the early 80’s were a purple patch for Cornwall Schools with International runners Jeremy Lothian, Jon Richards, Mark King and Dave Buzza leading the way.
A popular secondary schools Cross-Country League involving schools in Camborne, Pool, Redruth, Helston, Falmouth and Truro introduced so many youngsters to cross-country in the 70’s followed by the reign of Penair School, under the leadership of John Willcock, as the ‘school to beat’ in the early days of the English Schools Cross-Country Cup Competition and more recently the South Restormel Primary Schools Cross-Country League initiated by Dave Varney and Newquay and Par A.C. have all had their part to play.