The Men’s and Women’s senior teams travelled to Sutton Park for the second time in three weeks looking for a top ten finish for the men and a top five finish for the women and good performances from all three women’s teams.
The first race of the day was the Women’s and Team Manager Keith Brackstone was busy shuffling the pack after a late withdrawal by Rebekah Randell meant a replacement need to be drafted into the ‘A’ team. Here a mention must be made of Sian Davies who gave up a Cardiff Park Run on the morning of the race and made the long journey to Sutton Park to ensure we fielded three full teams. The usual selection dilemma saw the Team Manager (TM) agonising over whether to promote Ellie Wimshurst or Katie Knowles to the ‘A’ Team. Both were coming back from a recent lay off and how does one compare a Gwent League win with a fast leg in the Manchester University cross-country relays for two under-20 cross-country internationals. Ellie got the nod, mainly in recognition of her Midland Road Relay run.
As ever the first leg was really competitive and Sophie Morris from Windsor, Slough and Eton attacked the hill with gusto and soon opened a clear lead – but even experienced internationals can over-egg the early part of the course as Sophie was reeled in by Ava Hutchinson of Cardiff with the day’s fifth fastest time of 14:29. Having taken all sorts of cold medication just to get her to the start Hannah Alderson was determined to give a good account of herself running in her first National competition in club colours. In an extremely competitve first lap Hannah finished seventh in 14:58 to run 11 seconds quicker than her Midland clocking. On the second leg Ellie Wimshurst ran a solid 15:35 to lose just one place as a 15:03 by Louise Small clocking put clear daylight between Aldershot and the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Jane Potter moved Charnwood up from 18th to 5th. Imogen Ainsworth again showed that she performs better on surfaces other than the track as a 14:53 clocking lifted the Team up to fourth and tantalisingly close to the medals. With Aldershot away and clear thanks to the fastest leg of the day from Charlotte Purdue (13:55), Charnwood also clear thanks to the second fastest leg of the day from Gemma Steele (14:08) it was a case of could Kate Goodhead close 43 seconds on Shaftesbury Barnet. Kate set off like a woman on a mission and with about 4 minutes running left was still 10 seconds down before responding to the TM’s impassioned plea to get him out of a hole and turning the 10 second deficit into a 10 second advantage as she secured the bronze for a team that worked really hard for the medal.
Behind the ‘A’ team Nikki Brookland (15:48), Vicky Tester (16:05), an inspired Katie Knowles (who looked to be returning to the form that gained her junior international vests as she moved up from 21st to 11th with a 14:53 clocking) and an impressive run from Charlie Coffey up from 11th to 7th with a 15:33 leg all ran well for a ‘B’ team that put most club’s ‘A’ teams to the sword.
Summarising at the end of the race the commentator noted Bristol finishing 2 teams in the top 10 and referred to it as “a show of strength in depth”. This was underlined by the ‘C’ Team finishing 34th of the 69th teams (Westbury ‘A’ were 30th) with Camilla Briggs running 15:54, Sian Davies 17:03, Erica Golland (a welcome return from injury) 18:05 and an anchour leg of 17:15 from Clare Stevinson.
All-in-all a great day for the ladies with Kate Goodhead eighth fastest stage of the day, Imo and Katie Knowles 16th equal fastest of the day and Hannah Alderson 18th fastest (and third fastest junior behind Charlotte Purdue and Beth Potter – not bad company there).
The Senior men got off to a better start than the women – with John Wills producing his customary solid first lap to come home in fifth position in 17:23 as Tsegai Tewelde led the race home as part of the Shettleston Eritrean contingent in 17:10 (sixth fastest of the day). Steve Mitchell (off 2 weeks training following a 4-week rest after an arduous winter 2009 and summer 2010) coped well with being so close to the front clocking 18:08 as he kept the Team in the top 10 coming home eighth. Martin Palmer produced a solid leg to match Steve also clocking 18:08 as the club slipped out of the top ten into twelfth place. A typical gutsy run from Tom Merson of 18:11 saw the club edge back towards the top ten as Tom came in eleventh. Harry Webb set off in what were the worst conditions of the day as Sutton Park saw a quick shower followed by a squall that had spectators diving for cover under trees. Harry ploughed on regardless to clock 18:40 as the Team dropped one place back to twelfth spot. Tom Russell was seen as anchor man extrordinaire (after last year’s National Cross-Country relay exploits) but the quality of the race for the top ten was shown as he was out of the blocks following James Wilkinson for Leeds, Bruce Raeside for Notts and James Thie for Cardiff and this was just the battle to get into the top ten! Tom produced the club’s second sub-18 clocking with 17:57 but this was only good enough to pass Derby as Cardiff (tenth), Leeds (ninth) and Notts (eighth) finished in front of us.
The men’s race was a very competitive affair with Settleston early leaders before Phil Nicholls took Tipton into the lead on Leg 5 and finally Matt Janes moved Bedford into the lead for the first time when it mattered – on the last leg.