BEN Fish has been crowned Lancashire cross country champion for the fifth time but admitted it was a big surprise.

The Blackburn Harrier was first home in a time of 32 minutes 18 seconds to clinch the title at Witton Park to win for the first time in seven years.

“I didn’t expect that to be honest,” said Fish. “It was a big surprise, a bit of a shock. I wasn’t happy with my performances at the Ribble Valley 10k the previous week so I was thinking a top 10 place would be good.

“So to win it was great, a nice way to start the year.”

Fish, who won his first title 13 years ago, also helped the Harriers to the men’s senior team title - one of a number of prizes the host club picked up.

Clubmate, Tim Raynes, who led the way in the early stages, finished in third place in a time of 33mins 01secs - the top two split by Salford’s Gary Priestley (32mins 57secs) - while ‘counters’ Karl Billington (11th, 34mins 48secs), Chris Davies (13th, 34mins 58secs) - who was first men’s vet - Ben Costello (14th, 35mins 13secs) and Joshua Holgate (17th, 35mins 37secs) made up the winning Harriers team.

“I can’t remember the last time we took the team title,” added Fish. “It was a great day for the club.”

Rossendale Harriers Matthew Mackay and Robert Webb were the only other East Lancs runners to break in to the top 10.

Mackay was eighth in 34mins 12secs with Webb 10th in 34mins 42secs, individual efforts that helped Rossendale clinch second place in the team award - Connor Richardson (16th, 35mins 21secs), Matthew Harris (20th, 36mins 01secs), Jonathan Cleaver (26th, 36mins 38secs) and Marcus Preedy (29th, 36mins 46secs) all playing their part.

Blackburn Harriers also won the boys under 11s individual and team titles, the under 17s boys team prize while Victoria Mousley was the ladies vets winner.

In the under 11s boys event, Samuel Aspey was first home, completing the junior course in 6mins 25mins with Matthew Haxton, fifth in 6mins 36mins with Theo Robinson (10th, 6mins 48secs) and Liam Bennison (13th, 6mins 52secs) part of the winning team.

In the boys under 17s race, Matthew Ramsden and Sam Hodkinson were second and third respectively to help the Harriers take the team title.

Lancaster and Morecambe AC’s Matthew Knowles was first in 17mins 43secs with Ramsden second in 17mins 57secs and Hodkinson third in 18mins 10secs. Jamie Teare, 19th in 20mins 55secs, completed the team.

Mousley won the Ladies V35 title as she clocked 27mins 47secs to finish in 10th place overall while fellow Harrier, Lindsay Davies was first LV45 (12th, 30mins 46secs).

In the ladies race, Ribble Valley Harriers’ Eleanor Bolton was crowned champion with a time of 23mins 34secs – 13 seconds ahead of Rachael Franklin of Manx Harriers while Emily Japp of Blackpool Wyre and Fylde completed the top three.

Blackburn Harriers Annabel Ralph was fifth (26mins 09secs) while Chorley Athletic and Tri Club member Finty Royle was ninth in 27mins 47secs.

Sarah Ridehalgh of Accrington RR finished just outside the top 10 in 11th place in 27mins 53secs and was first LV40 - a result that helped the club take the veteran team prize along with Catherine Derbyshire (6th, 29mins 11secs) and Debbie Gowans (7th, 29mins 25secs).

Chorley Athletic and Tri Club had a good day in the junior races winning two individual and three team titles.

In the under 13s, the girls did the ‘double’, Libby Rickerby first home in 11mins 28secs with Lola Robertson (10th), Martha Singleton (22nd) and Alice Lamb (24th) all part of the winning team.

In the same age group, Trawden dominated the boys event with Stanley Stephenson (10mins 34secs) beating club mate Harry Smith to the title by just two seconds.

Ben Stratton was fourth in 10mins 38secs and Tristan Fitzpatrick (9th) completed the winning team.

In the under 15s, Josh Geary was Chorley’s second individual champion in 12mins 29 while Katie Mathison (2nd), Maisie Burns (5th), Megan Leigh (9th) and Lauren Waddington (15th) made up the winning girls team.