Nothing is going to stop Katy-Ann McDonald’s domination of cross country competition – not even a bout of flu.
The 12-year-old Herne Hill Harrier belied her fragile state to beat all comers to claim a U15s Surrey Schools’ Cross Country Championship gold medal on Saturday.
In the week before the meeting in Reigate, Katy-Ann struggled with illness, and her coach Phillip Kissi was uncertain his protege would be able to compete.
But, after a successful January saw the youngster win the U13s McCain UK Cross Challenge Series in Antrim and crowned U13s county champion, McDonald wanted to race in Reigate to complete a fine hat-trick, and claim a place in the England Schools Championship on March 16.
Coach Kissi said: “I was going to pull her out of the race, and it was touch and go right up to the day.
“She was not feeling great, but she said ‘If I don’t finish in the first six, I’ll miss out on the England Schools, and that is my dream’, so she went for it.
“We decided she should go out hard and if the pack caught up with her, chances are she’d be in the top six, and so it proved, in some style.”
He added: “Katy-Ann said it was one of her hardest races because she was breathing heavily, but she remained in full control of the race.
“Considering her condition and what was riding on the race, I believe it was her best performance so far.”
McDonald now has the English National Championships, the Inter-Counties Championship and, of course, the ESAA English Schools Championship to prepare for.
Should the pupil of Ursuline High School in Wimbledon finish in the top eight at the English Schools in March, her cross country season will end with the SIAB Schools International Championship on March 23.
Kissi said: “Katy-Ann has a big future ahead of her. She is competing in age groups above her own and winning.
“She only started running seriously in July last year, and has achieved so much in such a small amount of time.”
Those achievements include winning the SEAA cross country relays in October, winning her first McCain UK Cross Challenge Series outing in Bristol, also in October, and following it up with a second place in Liverpool in November.
She also won the Herne Hill Harriers Open, the Hercules Wimbledon Open competition, the Woking Athletic Club’s Young Athletes Championship, as well as the Lily B Girls’ League Cup Final.