We all I am sure acknowledge that our outstanding performance in the recent Midland championships is going to be a tough act to follow on the bigger National stage on Saturday.
Last year our senior and U20 teams all finished in the top six of the 200 plus clubs at Alton Towers, and the target is obviously to match or better that. The senior men were the stars that day surpassing all expectations by taking the bronze medals, and after our silvers in the Midlands at Mansfield hopes have been high that we could again challenge for the medals at Parliament Hill.
However unfortunately you are only as good as the team in your last race in our sport, and our squad has been decimated by a variety of circumstances. The net result is that we will be without Tom Russell, Phil Wylie, Jon Wills and Oli Mott of the six who scored at Mansfield. Tom of course has an all-important assignment in in his native Scottish championships at Falkirk, while our two international duathletes phil and Oli have had to opt for Sunday’s Bourton 10K as they have been told by the British duathlon selectors that if they want to be considered for the forthcoming European championships, they must post a fast 10K time. Cross-country performances I am afraid are not on their radar!
Meanwhile Jon is attending a wedding in Ireland and Phil Parry, who was in last year’s team, is on a training week in Portugal, while to possibly add insult to injury, even Rob Whalley is facing a late fitness test after injuring a calf muscle running in the snow last week and has not run for five days. At least our ;likely top man Kevin Heywood is fit and raring to go, but it is going to need a massive effort from the rest of the team to keep us anywhere near the top ten.
This means that as so often in the past we shall again be looking to our ladies for a share of the spoils both at senior and U20 level. The good news is that Amy Chalk, who was one of the stalwart members of the quartet that won in both 2004 and 2005, is back to lead the team for the first time this winter, and with a near full strength back-up icluding Kate Goodhead, Claire Hallissey, Imogen Ainsworth, Steph Barnes, Helen Fines, Nikki Brookland and Susie Richards, they must have every chance of bettering last year’s 5th place.
The U20s probably have an even stronger chance of medals, with Midland champion Katie Knowles leading the way, supported by Emily Merrick, Kokob Mehari, and Kirsty Hamilton.
The U20 men’s team has held up much better than the seniors and is at virtual full strength led by Steve Gallienne and Rich Peters, with Dan Woolford, Harry Webb, Sean Hazell and Rob Whitham in support. Again, they will be hoping for a top six finish, while the U17 bronze medalists in the Midlands Nathan Young, Rob Galt, Matt Peters and Matt Deacon could also make the top ten. The U15 boys too will be out to make up for their disappointing performance in the Midlands, and led by young Gwent League champion Rhys Park and Adam Speake they could well surprise some of the more fancied squads.
Individually too there are high hopes for our promising U17 Midland champion Eleanor Wimshurst and young Annalys Park in the U13 race. Anyway best of luck to you all from us team managers, and I know we won’t be unhappy if we end up as hoarse as we were after the Midlands! Believe in yourselves and where possible use each other as in these big fields you can pull each other through. Remember nothing is impossible!