The COVID-effected winter Athletics season has closed on a high at the 2020 NSW Cross Country Championships in Wollongong with many promising performances by local runners ahead of a return to the track.
The Opens had one of the best fields ever assembled and the 123rd men's open State cross country championship didn't disappoint, with just nine seconds separating the medallists, all of whom have competed for Australia.
The fast-early pace was pushed by dual Olympian Ben St Lawrence who previously ran with the St George club in the days when Alby Thomas ruled the roads.
"I didn't intend to go to the front, but when I ended up there and was feeling quite good early on, I thought we might as well make this honest," St Lawrence said.
Penshurst's dual Commonwealth Games steeplechaser James Nipperess (Sydney Uni) and World Uni Games representative Ed Goddard (UTN) joined with St Lawrence to split the pack with 3 km left with Nipperess kicking away with 200m remaining to claim the title.
Nipperess said it was a real tactical run and he had some unfinished business from last summer.
"Since March when the nationals were cancelled, I've done a very good block of mileage, the best in my life.
"I've got to keep consistent and keep rolling. Over 30 weeks of consistent aerobic work.
"I respected the conditions and the class of my fellow athletes."
The juniors were also impressive ahead of the track season with, Sylvania's Imogen Stewart from the Illawong/Revesby club sprinting from the gun as she clocked a very impressive 13:07 to take the win in the under-16 4km event.
"I felt confident going into the race and was able to go from the gun," Stewart said.
"I'd had a consistent six-week block of training."
After a low-key, extended year, which included the COVID period, the year nine student is eager to resume racing on the track.
In the U13 3km race, Imogen's brother Kobe Stewart also had a win in a time of 9:41.
It was also the final event for Para Athletes and a delayed Paralympics was an opportunity for the Sutherland clubs Kyle McIntosh to continue his improvement under coach Lindsay Watson.
He won his second cross country title of the year in Wollongong, winning the open Para men's 3km event in 9.36.
Not to be outshone by younger athletes St Georges Master runner Frank Scorzelli took the 70's 6 km title in a good time of 28:29.