A BEXLEY school running team braved muddy conditions, cold and rain in Yorkshire to compete in the national cross-country finals.

From more than 400 schools just 24 made it through to the finals in Leeds and the team from Beths Grammar School, Hartford Road, Bexley, were among them.

It is the third year in succession Beths have qualified for the finals.

Team manager Paul Hills said: "Making these finals three years running is a fantastic achievement which has relied on good team spirit and training, not just only gifted individuals."

In 2003 the team finished 15th, while last year they came 22nd and this year they performed their best yet, reaching 11th overall.

Performance of the day belonged to Sam Risby, 13, who finished fourth out of 144 runners. Having led the race for most of the way Sam, from Thamesmead, was pipped by just four seconds.

Next was Jack Austin, 13, in 43rd, followed by 13-year-old George Stollery in 62nd and Ross Braden, 12, in 83rd. Such was the level of competition Jack and Ross were separated by only 18 seconds.

Tom Russell, 12, and James Davis, 13, found he going toughest of all finishing 99th and 126th respectively.

The Beths runners, plus another 90 from the school, also dominated the Bexley Schools Championships winning all three age groups.

In the Year 7 race, ages 11-12, Beths provided the first three finishers in 11-year-old Sean O'Sullivan, Bradley Dack, 12, and Matt Horan, 11, leaving them clear team winners by more than 40 points.

In the Year 8/9 race for ages 12-14, Beths had six of the first 10 finishers with Sam Risby coming top; Ross Braden taking fourth; 14-year-old Michael Cook in fifth; Jack Austin in sixth; Matt Gan, 13, in eighth and Tom Russell in 10th.

They beat the other schools by 70 points and, as an added bonus, the Beths B-team took third.

In the 14 and over group Beths had six runners in the top 11. Luis Crane, 15, took second; Josh Lawless, 15, was third; 14-year-old Charlie Booth was fourth; Kai Cocklin, 14, took seventh; Stephen Carter, 15, was ninth and 15-year-old Calum Fraser was 11th. They were convincing team winners.