TONBRIDGE Athletic Club’s Chris Olley displayed his talent on the big stage when he took part in his first event for the senior Team GB squad at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country on January 13.
The prestigious contest pits Britain against teams from Europe and the United States, and is one of the highlights of the athletics calendar.
Chris explained: “Everything counts to the overall score, and there was an announcement when we lining up, we were told that we had 10 points to make up. We didn’t catch up but we kept hold of second place.”
The 21-year-old from Sevenoaks came 16th out of a field of 26 in the men’s 8km race in a time of 25min 35sec, and was involved in a thrilling sprint finish with one of his running rivals.
‘The race itself was pretty tough, it was a very high standard and the pace picked up too much so I dropped off the pack’
“It was very exciting,” said Chris, who has run for Britain at age group level before. “It was good not having too much pressure on me because I wasn’t expected to win – though there were some nerves given the nature of the occasion.
“The race itself was pretty tough, it was a very high standard and the pace picked up too much so I dropped off the pack.”
Chris is in the final year of his degree in physics at Imperial College, London, and was furiously trying to overtake a fellow student in the British team in the closing stages.
“At the end I saw Alex Teuten, the British Universitives champion, in front of me in the last 200m so I thought I could catch him. He wasn’t expecting it, given his reaction afterwards.”
The race was shown live on BBC1, and Chris revealed: “My parents sent the link around to everyone and so they all watched it. Most of them said it made them feel really tired!”
His coach at Tonbridge, Mark Hookway, said: “Chris ran very well to be the fifth of nine GB runners home, so he scored for the team.
“He was ahead of some experienced seniors and hopefully it maintains his momentum in the senior ranks, since he is still just 21 years old.”
His Tonbridge team mate Phoebe Barker also went north of the border for the multi-format event and was 15th in the Under-20 women’s race.
Next for Chris is the British Universities Cross Country Championship in Uxbridge on February 3. “It’s my last year at university so I would like to be up there challenging for a medal,” he said.
If he manages a top-six finish, he will qualify for the World University Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland in April.
After that it’s the track and field season, and Chris is hoping for a place at the European Championships in Berlin in August, either at 1500m (personal best 3min 44.22sec) or 5km (PB 14min 3.29sec). There’s just a few exams to get out of the way first, though.