1 TOM RUSSELL – Tom’s best ever finish in one of the major National cross-country championships went a long way to compensating for our failure to field a representative team due to the long list of non-availability that I highlighted at some length in my previous report on the National. His 6th place finish will have gone some way to making up for his own disappointment at missing the previous weekend’s Scottish championships due to a minor injury problem, for on the form he demonstrated at Leeds Alistair Hay would have had a much tougher task on his hands to retain his title. What’s more it will have given Tom confidence for the World championship trials on Saturday week, though he admitted that he was startled at the speed with which the leaders made their break at Leeds and is well aware that he will have to improve that much more again if he is to get close to making the World team. But for now it’s great to see him unlocking the rich potential that he has always promised.
2 STEVE MITCHELL – Though not our first finisher in the prestigious Armagh international 5K – that honour prdictably fell to Jon Wills, who however was nurdsing a cold and had to be satisfied with a modest time for him of 14:35 – Speedy Steve underlined the race fitness that he has been honing recently on the boards by smashing his previous best for the distance on the road with his first sub 15 minute clocking of 14:41.
3 STEVE McGUIGAN – He may not be as fast as Speedy Steve, but Steady Steve is gradually getting speedier, and he too clocked easily his fastest ever 5K in Armagh with a time of 15:16, finishing only five seconds down on Craig Peters, who ran close to 14:30 lin this race last year but was not expecting much as he has not been in full training this winter.
1= CLAIRE HALLISSEY, REBEKAH RANDELL and IMOGEN AINSWORTH = After long deliberation I found it impossible to split our lead trio, who all produced by far their best performances ever in the National to preserve our proud medal-winning record. Claire’s top ten finish, though way above anything she had done before in the race, was perhaps the most predictable, but Rebekah in finishing 14th once again underlined the potential that we know she possesses, but still perhaps does not fully acknowledge herself, while Imo’s continued progress this season – she gained more than 10 places on what was perhaps her best ever run in last year’s race in only just failing
to make the top 20 – could so easily go unnoticed in the wake of the other two. Once again well done girls. Now lets see if we can do even better in the National 6-stage.
2 DORCHIE LEE-COCKERILL – It may take two to tango, but it’s four in women’s cross-country championships, and in the absence of Susie Richards, who had to withdraw late in the day with a hamstring strain, it was left to Dorchie, who had only come up for a run-out as her husband Will was also running and reporting for AW, to try and fill the yawning gap. To make matters worse she had only been able to run once or twice in the previous few weeks due to the niggling achilles tendinitis that has long plagued her career and had been preparing as best she could on the bike and cycle rollers. At least her increased leg strength helped propel her up “heartbreak hill”, but she has had two children since she last figured in one of our National medal-winning teams and admitted afterwards that she was running on experience alone! None the less she stuck it out and did well to finish in the top 100 of the 600 strong field, her final 89th position being enough to clinch the bronze medals that we were not really anticipating and that she would not have even considered to be a remote possibility befforehand. Many thanks Dorchie!
3 VICKY TESTER – Dorchie may have ended up as our crucial fourth scorer, but it could have easily been our only other runner Vicky, and sadly perhaps for her she was the one to miss out on a medal as her 113th position – an excellent effort on a tough course like this for a committed track runner – would still I think have just been good enough to clinch third place. Again our thanks are due to Vicky for helping the team out in our hour of need.
1 RICH PETERS – Rich is certainly a runner for the big occasion and once again he produced his best performance in his most important race of the winter. But for the minor injury problems that have sporadically interrupted his winter programme, he might have even been in contention for an individual medal. Nor was he that far away in 7th place just seconds behind Southern champion Johnny Hay, who was in Britain’s European Junior team in December, and ahead of the Midland champion Max Clowes, behind whom he had finished 4th in the Midland championships a month before. What was particularly encouraging for a committed 800/1500m runner was that perhaps against expectations he was running as fast as anyone on the last circuit of the 10K course.
2 EMILY MERRICK – Emily once again flew the flag alone in the U20 women’s championship in the continued absence of injured junior international pair Katie Knowles and Ellie Wimshurst. It was desperately disappointing for her as the team title was ours for the taking, but it’s only who’s there on the day that counts, and albeit inevitably somewhat demotivated she still followed up her silver medal effort in the Midland championship with a top 20 place in the National. With Katie and Ellie almost assured of top ten places on past form, the team title should have been a walk in the park!
3 CHRIS DODD – Like Rich Chris, who has only just joined us, is a specialist 800/1500m runner, and caused a welcome surprise by finishing as our second scorer in 77th place in the U20 championship just ahead of Sean Hazell and Nathan Hardee. It was his first run in such a major championship and bodes well for the future, but having said that it was a disappointing day for the junior team. Nathan Young, who fell on the steep descent, and Matt Peters, nursing a hip strain, both failed to finish, while Sean suffered a stitch that he just survived and poor Nathan H put in his finishing effort on the second lap only to discover he had another big lap
to go! Enough said on such a testing course. He did remarkably well to soldier on and finsh only just outside the top 100.
Unusually there are no Masters performances to report. No doubt most were resting up for this weekend’s Bath Half.
MIKE DOWN (3-03-10)
PS Anyone interested in running in Saturday’s Gloucester road relays please contact me asap. This will be the only chance of a trial run before the Midland 6/12 championships on March 20. Men’s teams are 4X5K and the women’s 3X5K. All are welcome.