Reading AC’s eight-man U20 team outclassed the rest of the field to win team gold team at the South of England Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill on Saturday.

The team highlighted the strength in numbers as they eased to victory by a thumping 52-point margin.

The team was led home by Blue Coat School’s Eddie Steveni, who put in his best-ever performance in the red, blue and white vest to finish 12th.

He was closely followed home by the talented tri-athlete and Manchester University student Alex Sutton, in 14th position, before Isaac Farnworth crossed the line in 19th.

Bristol University fresher Sam Rodda, son of Reading East Labour MP Matt Rodda, was the final scorer for Reading, in 24th place.

The team’s tight packing in the mid-teens accrued a stunningly-low tally of 69 points, which London Heathside and Aldershot, Farnham and District could not get close to, scoring 121 and 140 points respectively.

In fact, if the rules had permitted two teams to score for the team competition, Reading’s second team would also have medalled, such was the performance of the Reading boys around the 8km course on Hampstead Heath.

The achievement is a first for the Palmer Park-based amateur club, which has produced some of the country’s greatest athletes, notably Olympic 800m gold medallist Ann Packer, since it was established in 1881. More recently Jonathan Davies secured European Gold in cross country.

While there may have been no outstanding individual performances in the younger age group, Reading’s lads rose well to the challenge of the Parliament Hill course at the South of England Championships on Saturday, even though the teams were again hit by illness and injury.

Although the course was much drier than usual, the runners still had to contend with the testing hills, and the U13s finished 21st, the U15s 17th and the U17s 16th.

In the 4.5km U15 race Ollie Craggs ran determinedly to lead the team home in 53rd in 16.33, Laurie Baker came 84th in 16.53, Aryan Gupta 141st in 17.40 and Ben McCabe 202nd to give Reading a finishing position of 17th.

For the U13s in their 3km race, Edward Lewis was again Reading’s leading runner in 107th place in 12.50 ahead of Samuel Lindsey-Halls in 119th in 12.53.

Third to finish for Reading was George Urwin-Mann in 167th place in 13.15 ahead of Nick Haldane in 179th in 13.21, which secured Reading 21st place.

Jacob Sheikh in only his third run for Reading again showed promise with a time of 14.33 in 285th position and Elliott McCarthy persevered for 304th in 15.12 in front of Adam Tivey, who claimed 313th in 15.32 despite an injured ankle.

Ben Rollings led Reading’s U17 team home in their 6km race in 100th place in a time of 24.24. Teammate Joseph Mott finished 132nd in 25.20.

Triathlete Alfie McGlennon ran well for 176th place in 26.24, and the team was completed by Sam Kral-Waters, who kept going well after twisting his ankle to finish in 219th with 28.48, giving Reading 16th place in the team competition.

So Reading’s lads once again showed they can compete well at this level, and now look forward to the final Hampshire League fixture and the National XC in Leeds next month.

Wome and girls:

Reading's U17 women's team finished in a splendid fourth place, the U15 girls 29th and the U13 girls 33rd.

Naomi Harris had a brilliant run in the U17 women's 5km race to finish 17th in a time of 20.10, as did Hermione Walker, who was just one place and two seconds behind.

Abi Hancock also ran strongly for 46th in 21.15, while Renee and Georgia Whalley battled all the way for the fourth scoring position, coming in 59th and 62nd respectively in 21.49 and 21.55, with Reading's team total of 140 points leaving them just outside the medal positions in fourth place.

Reading's other runners showed good form too with Lara Tolson having her best run yet for 74th in 22.17 and Oonagh O'Driscoll much improved with 126th in 23.32.

For Reading's U15 girls in their 4km race, Talia Painting came home 152nd in a time of 19.30, while Katie Barnes had a much improved run for 184th place in 20.02.

Scarlet Taplin had another good run for 194th in 20.14, and the scoring team was completed by Anna Macklin in 223rd to give Reading 29th place, while Evie Warren also competed well to finish 243rd in 21.18.

Lydia Godfrey had an excellent run in the U13 girls 3km race to finish 156th in a time of 14.29, and Lola Batt had her best run this winter finishing 171st 14.29. Emma Yeadon moved through in the second half of the race to come in 212th in 15.10, just ahead of Lizzie Ryan in 216th with 15.12 to complete the scoring team, placing Reading 33rd, while Molly Barnes kept going well for 291st position in 16.48.

Reading’s athletes are now preparing for their final Hampshire League fixture and the National Cross County in Leeds next month.