Yes we could and we did!! First let me congratulate all our runners, coaches and team managers too for a memorable day to celebrate the launch of our new kit sponsorship deal with Ron Hill Sports. We ended up with medals in all the older age groups – Senior, U20 and U17 for both sexes – so making an indisputable claim to be considered the premier distance running club in the Midlands as well as the South West. There were silver medals for both our senior teams, so bettering last year’s bronze double, gold for the U20 women and bronze for the U20 men and finally bronze for the U17 men along with individual golds for both Katie Knowles (U20) and Ellie Wilmshurst (U17).
The U15 boys would have certainly medalled too, possibly even gold, and still managed 4th place despite two of our lead runners dropping out. Individually too there were many outstanding performances, with no less than 14 top ten finishers, which is virtually a third of our runners: Tom Russell, Rob Whalley and Phil Wylie (senior men), Rich Peters (U20), Nathan Young and Rob Galt (U17), Adam Speake (U15), Kate Goodhead and Claire Hallissey (senior women), Katie Knowles and Kokob Mehere (U20), Ellie Wimshurst and Vanessa Brann (U17) and Annalys Park (U13).
While Katie and Ellie stole the major individual honours with their runaway victories in the combined U20/U17 women’s race, the most exciting event of the day was undoubtedly the senior men’s championship, the result going right down to the wire, with reigning champion’s and hot favourites Notts, Tipton and ourselves all placing their six scorers in the top 25 of the huge field. It was made even more compelling and dramatic by the race commentator who was gripped by the nail-biting nature of the team race. Tom, Rob as ever , and Phil all did their bit to keep us in the hunt at the front, while though Jon Wills faltered on the last lap behind him Craig Peters and Oli Mott put in a late charge that lifted us from third to second a bare point ahead of Notts, who actually had their six counters in 22 yet had to be content with the bronze medals. We had reckoned that if we could beat Notts we would be champions, but had not allowed for Tipton’s two new signings Ryan Macleod and Ian Rawlinson. With three of the first five home they proved unbeatable, though significantly they had nothing like the depth of Notts and ourselves, with Phil Parry, Steve Mitchell, Steve McGuigan and Dan Moore all not far behind our last counter. Unfortunately we won’t have top man Tom Russell for next month’s National as he will be bidding for the Scottish title on the same weekend, but South West champion Kev Heywood, who finished a creditable 8th in the Southern championship on Saturday, is as good a replacement as one could wish for.
Meanwhile our women’s team shrugged off the late withdrawal of both Steph Barnes and Nikki Brookland on Friday to salvage the silver medals behind defending champions Charnwood, thanks to brilliant efforts from Kate Goodhead and Claire Hallissey, who is getting back to her best form in time for next month’s BUSA championship, together with solid support from Helen Fines and Susie Richards, who surpassed expectations to finish 25th. Katie Knowles and Ellie Wimshurst produced a rare double show of strength in the combined U20 and U17 race, and even though both Emily Merrick and kirsty Hamilton were unavailable, Kokob Mehere and Hannah Patmore were more than good enough to take the U20 team title.
The U20 junior men were disappointed not to finish higher than third in their race, but despite Dan Woolford being the only one of the quintet to reproduce his best form, they can still look forward to the National with the reassurance that South West champion Steve Gallienne will come in to strengthen the squad.
The U17 men’s team certainly raised their game, and it was somewhat surprising that they too were only placed third considering the sterling efforts of Nathan Young, Rob Galt, and the two Matts Peters and Deacon. Nathan, back to his best and only just outside the medals in 4th place, and Rob in 7th underlined their class, while Matty Peters had his best ever run at this level to finish on the heels of the Halliwell brothers, and though some what further back young Matt Deacon produced a storming finish to ensure we took the bragging rights over neighbours Westbury and Stroud, if not high enough to challenge winners Notts.
Yet another to come up with his best ever performance at this level was Adam Speake, who finished a very creditable 6th in the U15 boys race, but unfortunately it was in vain as young Rhys Park suffered a repeat of his recent hamstring trouble and stopped early on, while Sam Bedwell pulled up much later in the race, so robbing us of another certain set of medals as we were left frustratingly in 4th place.
The U15 girls could not overcome the absence of their two star runners Naomi Speake and Annabel Gummow, but at U13 level Annalys Park underlined her talent again by chasing the leaders all the way to finish an impressive 5th.
This is going to be a tough act to follow, but you have done us proud, so now for the National!