1 TOM RUSSELL – Tom made a spectacular start to the New Year by beating all bar budding international star Andy Vernon in the annual Cardiff Cross Challenge, which this year was restored to the McCains UK Cross Challenge series. Once again he underlined his ability to wind up the pace in the closing stages by pulling away from a top class quartet with whom he had battled all the way, including ex clubmate Kevin Heywood. He must have been particularly pleased to have taken the scalp of one of Britain’s outstanding cross-country runners of recent years Peter Riley, who had to be satisfied with third place. Tom also led the South West team to the inter-area title ahead of Wales and the North for the third consecutive year.
2 CLAIRE HALLISSEY – Claire shrugged off the knee injury that has hampered her recent training to make a welcome return to competition by finishing an encouraging 5th in the accompanying women’s race at the Cardiff Cross Challenge that was won by old rival Hatti Dean from Irish international Ava Hutchinson, who had beaten Claire before in the Gwent League race at Bath in November.
3 ROBBIE BUGDEN – Robbie continued his gradual return to the international form he had shown before his year long induction to the RAF by holding the group chasing Andy Vernon in the Cardiff Cross till well into the second half of the race, and though then left detached on his own he never let up to finish a satisfied 8th only some three-quarters of a minute behind Tom.
Although not quite making the top three performances , a special mention is due to both DAN WOOLFORD and JENNY JAGGER, who both made encouraging debuts at this level. Dan, in his first senior outing in this class, only just failed to score for the winning South West team in 26th place right on the heels of fourth scorer Bideford’s Mark Jenkin in the men’s race, while Jenny underlined the progress she has made since joining us by only just failing to make the top 20 with 21st position in the women’s event.
1 ANNABEL GUMMOW – Annabel may strictly not qualify as an U20 junior yet, but she can hardly be ignored when she takes on all the top girls in that age group and leaves them for dead! Still only 16, she won by more than 20 seconds from Claire Pring of Norwich and Aldershot rival Ruth Haynes. It must have gone a long way to make up for her disappointment at having to drop out of the European trial race at Liverpool after twisting her ankle.
2= MATT PETERS and VANESSA BRANN – I make no apology for bracketing these two fine efforts by runners who may not be used to making the headlines. Matty finished only just over a minute behind big brother Richard in 15th place in the U20 race, while Vanessa likewise was only a similar distance behind her training partner Emily Merrick in the corresponding women’s event. Their performances suggest that they may have a very important part to play in the forthcoming Midland and National team championships.
3= RICH PETERS and EMILY MERRICK – Fence-sitting again, but both Rich and Emily too produced solid performances at Cardiff. Rich ended up 6th in a high class junior men’s race won by Euro Trials winner Richard Goodman and was only 11 seconds behind Matt Withey, who will start as one of the favourites for next week’s Midland champs, while Emily was less than 40 seconds behind a podium place in a creditable 9th position in the corresponding women’s race. She too will be looking forward to making her mark in the Midland champs.
1 MICK O’DOHERTY – Though giving his main rival the best part of ten years, Mick underlined what a force he is going to be as a V50 – a landmark he reaches in February – by giving Clevedon’s veteran international Julian Emery a bit of a scare in the Masters race at Cardiff. In what turned out to be a two horse race Mick finished only three seconds down on his younger rival to serve due notice on the country’s top V50 runners that he will soon be making his presence felt in the older age group.
2 PHIL PARRY – Phil eschewed the vets race to mix it with the seniors again and fill in for the South West team. While still some way short of his best and forced to run much of the race on his own, he still made the top 30 just over a minute down on Dan Woolford.
3 ALISON HURFORD – Ali was our only representative in the mixed Masters race, but proved she is getting fitter by the week by taking a more than respectable third place only just over a minute down on the women’s winner Ann Nixon from the Forest of Dean.