WHAT a difference a year makes – that is the story of Naryani Costa-Jafrate’s superb victory at the Wiltshire Schools Cross Country Championships.

The 14-year-old Malmesbury School student, who is also a member of Chippenham Harriers, was clearly intent on improving upon her sixth place on her debut in the junior girls’ race a year ago but could hardly have dreamt of how the race eventually turned out at Sheldon School.

Costa-Jafrate not only proved she has improved over the past 12 months but also that she has developed a champion’s mentality as she ran away from her rivals to win by 14 seconds.

That show of strength earned Costa-Jafrate her first county schools’ title – though she has already picked up a silver and bronze on the track - and is easily the best win of her young career to date and one that suggests she should be among the contenders for the South West Schools’ Championships in Bournemouth next month.

Leading the chase behind her was Kingdown School’s talented and occasional runner Mim Gray while a special mention to Warminster School’s Matilda Nickell in fourth.

A year ago, Nickell placed 15th in the minor girls’ race and on Saturday failed by just one agonising second to snatch the bronze medal from Sophie Makin of South Wilts Grammar.

As with Costa-Jafrate, it will be interesting to see her progress over the coming year; maybe she can take that as inspiration for her own future success.

There was an equally inspiring tale behind the junior boys’ results. Fifth twelve months ago, Devizes School’s Josh Burns showed he has been working hard in the intervening months as he raced away from his rivals to win his first county title.

There was a hint that Burns was a runner to watch just a few weeks ago when he placed a solid 12th at the South West Inter-Counties Championships over a tough course near Yeovil, and that experience clearly stood him in good stead on the flatter terrain around Sheldon School.

Burns enjoyed a comfortable 21-second gap over Bishop Wordsworth’s William Tavener at the finish with Marlborough College student Philip Monaghan third.

Sheldon School’s fiercely competitive Harry Maxwell, who has been racing so well this winter, would have loved to have made the podium on his home turf but fourth place as a first year junior is another step forward, Twin Josh was eighth.

Another local gold medal winner was rookie Francis Abijo of the Royal Wootton Bassett School as he edged out the fancied Bishop Wordsworth pair.

In the senior boys’ race, it was no surprise to see Malmesbury School’s Ollie Campbell among the frontrunners.

The 2019 inter boys’ champion is an assured competitor and should take great encouragement from his bronze, only beaten by a very good pair of runners from Bishop Wordsworth School in reigning champion Danny Poynting and Toby Brawn, whom Campbell actually beat 12 months ago.

St Mary’s School, Calne, had a strong presence in the senior girls’ race with Laura Smyth-Osbourne winning silver and team-mate Susanna Hirst bronze. Hum Hunt-Davis and Fenella Challinor in fifth and seventh respectively ensured the St Mary’s girls’ delivered an emphatic win for the North Wilts team.