We went to Saturday’s Midland cross-country championships with our expectations of success in the senior championships severely dampened by the absence of six of our first choice team members: Rob Whalley, Phil Wylie and Jon Wills among the men and Kate Goodhead, Rebekah Randell and Charley Coffey-Wills the women.
Medals looked a remote possibility and our reputation as the Midlands’ leading club appeared under the cosh, but while the missing stars proved too big a handicap for our men to fully overcome in what turned out to be one of the most loaded fields for years – better still than last year’s which we felt had been the best for some time – our women took full advantage of their rivals’ weakness to underline our strength in depth by scoring an overwhelming triumph against the odds. It ended our perennial rivals Charnwood’s seven year stranglehold on the title since we won it in 2002. Ironically too it was only our own second ever success in the event since it was first contested in 1933, though we have been second to Charnwood countless times since that first victory.
As for the men, though up against it our sparse squad, spurred U23 internationals Robbie Bugden and Tom Russell, certainly did not capitulate and ended up a fighting 4th behind our usual major rivals Coventry, Tipton and Notts. Moreover when the men’s and women’s results are combined we can still justifiably claim the number one spot, as well as providing both the individual silver medallists in Robbie Bugden and Claire Hallissey and 4th place finishers Tom Russell and Imogen Ainsworth.
If further evidence were required of our claim to the Midlands’ top club, our talented younger athletes supplied it in spades! The U20 junior men, led by Rich Peters who only just missed the individual bronze medal himself, took the silver medals behind Leicestershire club Owls, while Emily Merrick was the silver medallist in the corresponding U20 women’s event.
For their part the U17 women dominated the combined U17/U20 race, with Annabel Gummow outclassing all-comers to take the individual title, while their male counterparts took the individual bronze through Rhys Park, who is only at the bottom of the age group, and ended up a creditable 5th in the team standings, and to complete the success story the U15 boys only just missed out on the bronze medals in 4th place in their event in which young Zak Tobias ran the race of his life to land the individual bronze medal
A full analysis and evaluation of our performances will follow later in the PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK column.
Meanwhile Keith and I, as well I am sure as young athletes team manager Dave Taylor, would like to congratulate all those who made such a big effort on behalf of the club to keep us right up there in the hot seat!