Saturday 6th November 2010 saw the club heading for Berry Hill Park at Mansfield for the National cross-country relays. As ever Mike Down and Keith Brackstone had added to their grey hairs trying to get teams to the start line and the best prospects seemed to be in the Junior Women’s and Men’s under-17 events and so it proved.
New-comer Annika Jarman began her Bristol and West career on the opening leg of the under-20 women’s race and soon showed that training with Ellie Wimshurst and coach Nick Rose is having a beneficial affect as she clocked 9:01.85 to come home in seventh place and well in touch with the leaders. Ellie Wimshurst clocked 8:59.75 as she took the club into bronze medal position and handed over to Hannah Alderson, who soon set about closing a 30 second gap on Melissa Courtney of Shaftesbury Barnet. Hannah gave it 100% and was rewarded by passing her opponent to bring the club home second with a one and a half second advantage over the bronze medalists. A great performance by this trio with Hannah posting the fourth fastest leg of the day in her age group. Winners were Aldershot, Farnham & District whose anchor leg was an 8:30 clocking from Charlotte Purdue for fastest lap in this age group.
In the women’s under-17 age group the club failed to close in a team but Olivia Sadler ran 9:02.65 for ninth fastest time of the day – a time that stands up well to comparison with the times posted by the older age group. However, one of the runs of the day must have been Jessica Judd’s 8:11 clocking (19 seconds quiiker than Charlotee Purdue’s time over the same course).
Similarly in the under-15 women’s race we failed to finish a team but another Sadler – this time Miranda – set a fast lap with her 7:12.6 clocking – the sixth fastest of the day in her age group.
In the next to last event of the day the Senior Women were seen as top-5 finishers with medal potential. Imogen Ainsworth finished fifteenth on a very competitive first leg in 10:36.9. Imo was disappointed with her leg but was one of four athletes who found that they still had Tuesday’s track race in their legs. Katie Knowles set about catching the athletes lined up in front of her and a 10:12.75 clocking saw her lift the team up to fourth with the tenth fastest lap of the day. Rebekah Randell set off hard to close the gap on Birmingham University’s Sarah Treacy and at one stage had the gap down to 8 seconds before the Birmingham athlete pulled away over the final 800 metres to bring the University home in third place. The senior ladies were left in fourth place just outside the medals.
Earlier in the afternoon the under-17 Men had experienced a similar fate. Zak Tobias ran 9:35.85 to finish sixteenth but again the first leg was hugely competitive. Rhys Park then lifted the team to eighth place with a 9:22.65 clocking. Hobie Martin really attacked the course and pulled the team up to fourth and was closing on Tom Purnell before the Stroud man pulled away again in the last 800 metres. The team were 13 seconds off a medal but Zak and Hobie will be back in this age group next year and could well be challenging for major honours with Luke Jacobs.
The final race of the day was the senior men’s race and Steve Mitchell was another to have a bad day at the office. Having led for the first half of the first lap in 2009 Steve Mitchell hoped a more sedate start in 2010 would see him finish in the top 10 but a fierce first lap saw him come home in 32nd place (140 teams eventually closed in). Steve’s time of 15:57.7 was 30 seconds slower than in 2009. Robbie Bugden made a welcome return in club colours and showed that he is recovering fiitness as a 15:37.15 lap lifted the club into eighteenth place. A position that Dan Woolford maintained with a solid 16:14.5 third lap. Mike Willsmore ran a well judged race with a 16:08.8 last lap that saw him gain 3 places and, importantly, pip Wells City Harriers on the line as the club finished first club from the South-West in fifteenth place. Steve Francis gained some useful experience at this level running the first lap as the only member of a ‘B’ team.