GEMMA Holloway made it a county double at the Essex Schools Cross-Country Championships.

The 15-year-old, representing Thurrock, held off a strong field to win the intermediate girls race at the championships at Basildon’s Gloucester Park, ensuring she could add the schools’ title to the AAAs’ title she won earlier in the month.

There was reward too for Alice Perkins (Southend), who though finishing behind Holloway, was the first of the senior girls to finish meaning she picked up her first major county title.

There were plenty more fine performances from south Essex athletes and they, once again, will form the backbone of the Essex team that will be travelling to Derbyshire for the English Schools Cross-Country Championships next month, with almost half of the squad made up from athletes based in this part of the county.

South Essex representation will be particularly strong in the junior boys squad with Max Jones, Gus Withers, Toby Wright, Jody Meredith and Ollie Cantwell all making the team.

Jones (Castle Point & Rochford CPR) was third at Gloucester Park and was chased down hard by Southend pair Withers (fourth) and Wright (fifth) who produced stunning runs given they are in the younger year of the age group.

Meredith (Thurrock) was next home in sixth while Cantwell (Basildon) will round off what looks on paper to be one of the county’s strongest squads, led by the race winner and last year’s English National Cross-Country Champion Canaan Soloman.

Jodie Judd (CPR) was not quite able to keep pace with her training partner Khai Mhlanga as she finished runner-up in the junior girls’ race where eight of the top 10 finishers were from the younger age group.

One of those was Katie Faint (Southend) who made the Essex team with a superb sixth place and she will be joined in the team by Basildon AC’s Jemima Walker (Mid-Essex) who was seventh.

Sinead Clark and Niamh Smith (both CPR) just missed out on selection finishing in ninth and 10th places.

There was a fantastic run by Basildon AC’s Adam Houchell (Mid-Essex) in the intermediate boys race where he split the pre-race favourites Jordan Rowe and George Elliott to finish second.

Elliott (Southend), who was another from the bottom end of the age group, settled for third and was one of four Southend borough athletes to make the Essex team, with Lawrence Willmore (fifth), Adam Jordan (seventh) and James Nadin (eighth) the other Southend athletes to make the top eight.

Holloway led the intermediate girls race pretty much from start to finish, with Waltham Forest’s Georgia Tuckfield, the only athlete who could put any pressure on her.

Behind those top two came a fantastic run from Victoria Hiscock (Southend) who put herself into the Essex team with a fine seventh place, particularly impressive because she is another one from the younger end of the age group.

Holloway and Hiscock will form part of another very strong Essex intermediate girls team that will surely have a chance of medalling at the English Schools.

There was a superb run by Tom Richardson (Thurrock) in the senior boys race as he showed he is in top form by giving eventual winner Hoseah Gikungu (Havering) a real run for his money.

Richardson, in the end, had to settle for second, and he will be joined on the coach to Derby by two Southend athletes Ollie Kyriakides and Rob Frith who ran well as a bottom year in.

Although they are representing their school boroughs, it is well worth noting that five of the eight members of the senior girls Essex team represent Basildon AC, with four of them under one coach Jacqui Childs.

They include the senior girl’s winner Alice Perkins (Southend) and third placed Eleanor Johnson (also Southend) who had a storming run to finish third.

Jade Peel (fourth) and Kaylee Dodd (fifth) also train under Childs while the fifth Basildon AC member will be Emma Houchell who had a terrific run for seventh place.