THERE were few surprises in the opening round of the Essex Cross-Country League as south Essex’s big guns opened their winter seasons with victories.

Gemma Kersey took a run-away victory in the senior women’s race while there were wins too for Jodie Judd (under-15 girls), George Elliott (under-15 boys) and Gemma Holloway (under-17 women).

In the youngest age group, there was a first league win for Basildon AC’s Gus Withers while the performance of the day arguably came from Alice Perkins, another Basildon AC athlete, who finished second in the under-17 women’s race.

In the under-13 girls’ race Niamh Smith led her Basildon team to third place in the team standings in the under-13 girls race by finishing third overall.

Benfleet RC had two youngsters in the top 10 in the shape of Megan Richardson (fourth) and Sinead Clark (seventh).

In the under-13 boys, Gus Withers (Basildon) put in a dominant performance to take the victory. He was chased hard by Toby Wright (Southend ) who finished second.

Basildon have real strength in depth in this age group and claimed a comfortable team victory with Mitchell Cox (fifth), Mason Webb (ninth) and James Perkins (13th) joining Withers in the scoring team.

Southend were second in the team standings with Mitchell Lawrence (eighth), Craig Wheeler (10th) and Toby Bloomer (14th) coming in behind Wright.

Jodie Judd stepped up into the under-15 girls age group in the Essex League Cross-Country for the first time but the step up in distance didn’t bother her as she raced to victory.

Training partner Millie Smith, from Rayleigh, and Benfleet’s Victoria Hiscock were never too far behind Judd however, with Smith just outsprinting Hiscock in the final 100m to claim second.

Basildon’s Isobel Ives’ carried her late season track form onto the country with an impressive fourth place, while Natasha May (Southend, eighth) and Jemima Walker (Basildon, ninth) also made the top 10.

Tilly Aimarri (26th) and Maddie Evison (31st) helped Basildon to third placed team along with Ives and Walker.

George Elliott looked in control of the under-15 boys race throughout, but the in-form Laurence Willmore (Southend AC) kept his lead pegged back to a handful of seconds throughout.

Max Jones (Basildon) making his first step up into the under-15s on the country was sixth, Adam Jordan (Southend) ninth and Gary Cahill (Thurrock) 10th.

Basildon were second behind guest club Cambridge and Coleridge in the team standings. Christian Gray (12th), Ben Haynes (16th) and Ollie Canwell (18th) joined Jones in the scoring team.

Adam Houchell (Basildon) came from behind to outsprint Southend’s Ben Franklin for third place in the under-17 men’s race.

Franklin did have some consolation in the fact he led his team to victory with Rob Frith (fifth), Steve Hancock (seventh), Joe Ray (14th) packing well.

Benfleet’s James Hall ran well for 10th place.

Gemma Holloway (Thurrock) looked in imperious form as she ran away with the under-17/20 women’s race, which probably had the highest quality field of the day.

Given that it was a pleasant surprise for Basildon supporters that following Holloway home in second place was Alice Perkins who left some big names behind her.

Perkins’ Basildon team-mates ran strongly behind her to claim a comprehensive team victory with Kaylee Dodd (sixth), Maisie Jones (seventh) and Eleanor Johnson (eighth) all in the top 10.

Southend’s Jordan Lacey was ninth.

There was little standing in the way of Gemma Kersey (Basildon) as she won the senior women’s race by some distance.

And it was nice to see Basildon competing strongly in the team standings as they finished just behind winners Chelmsford.

Karen Goode (11th), Kirsty Tydeman (13th) and Grace Brown (31st) made up the scoring team, while former GB international sprinter Kim Wall was the next home for the club in 39th place.

Southend AC (Kerry Holland eighth, Ann Jenkinson 17th, Sarah Jeffrey 23rd and Natasha Lagden (28th) were third team.

Thurrock’s Alex Houghton was third in the senior men’s race with Basildon teenager Jack Fitsall running well for fourth and team-mate James Tydeman in sixth.