1 ANDY CHAMBERS – I make no apology for giving Andy top billing this week following his surprise second place behind Bideford’s Mark Jenkin in the latest Westward league cross-country event held in Plymouth. Knowing just what this lad has suffered through injury problems since he joined us nearly three years ago, including two hip operations and countless physio sessions, one might have expected him to have thrown the towel in long ago. Yet such is his passion for the sport and determination to prove himself that he has never even contemplated giving up. Now it seems he may at last be in a position to reap the reward for his dedication. After a confidence-boosting sally in the South West cross-country relays, he decided to venture onto a bigger stage for the first time for three years in the Westward League race. He admits he was as shocked as anyone to find himself near the front of the race, and feels that if he had started less conservatively he could have finished much closer to the winner. Hopefully this is a new lease of life for his running career and he can target a place in our National cross team in the New Year.
2 ROBBIE BUGDEN – Following a comfortable runout and victory in the midweek Midland Police and Services League, Robbie gave us a morale-restoring performance in the National cross relay championships at Mansfield. After Steve Mitchell, who appeared to be suffering the after-effects of his strength-sapping 3,000m victory at the opening of the Stoke Gifford stadium, had failed to give us the start he had hoped on the opening leg (15:57), Robbie pulled us back into the mix by gaining 14 places with our best time for the undulating two lap course of 15:35.
3=MIKE WILSMORE and DAN WOOLFORD – Mike and Dan were brought into our National cross relay team at the 11th hour to replace the two Toms – last year’s hero Tom Russell (chest infection) and Tom Merson (sprained ankle) – and both did us proud. Though Dan not surprisingly was unable to stave off the challenge of Wells international Frank Tickner on the second leg, he stiil maintained Robbie’s 18th finishing position with a creditable time of 16:14. However this left Mike with the unenviable task of trying to restore South West bragging rights on the last leg. Though he was clearly edging closer to Wells’ marathon international Adrian Marriot, he was still some 40m down when they turned the last corner into the short finishing straight, but undaunted he switched into 800m mode to produce an action replay of his recent strorming finish in the South West relay, closed the gap by the crest of the hill and caught the Somerset champions almost on the line. Phew! It brought a sigh of relief from our team managers. Oddly enough it was also an echo of Tom Russell’s heart-stopping finishing effort that gave us the bronze medals last year, albeit this time only for 15th position. Still to put that in perspective there was a huge field of 134 teams, and our depleted team was still the 4th best Midland club.
1 CLAIRE HALLISSEY – Claire made the impressive marathon debut we had all hoped for and even anticipated by clocking 2:36:13 for 18th place among the world class field that contested the New York marathon. It lifted her straight up to third place in the UK rankings behind Mara Yamauchi, who was less than five minutes ahead of her in 13th place, and Susan Partridge. It amounts to a very promising start in her bid to earn a place in the British team for the London Olympice in 2012. I had predicted she was already capable of around 2:32, and considering the winner’s time on the tough NY course was only 2:28 plus for a runner who would normally clock say between 2:23 and 2:25, it looks as if she is already capable of something in the low 2:30s. Her time anyway is a new club record – marginally faster than both Lucy Mcallister and Amy Chalk’s best times. What a team they could form in next year’s London marathon!
2 KATIE KNOWLES – As Robbie was to do later in the afternoon, Katie performed a similar task for our women’s team in the National cross relays after Imogen Ainsworth, like Steve Mitchell later, had struggled to reproduce her recent fine form following her equally hard fought 3000m victory a the opening of the Stoke Gifford stadium the previous Tuesday. Moving through from 15th at the changeover to 4th her time of 10:12 was the 10th fastest overall.
3 REBEKAH RANDELL – Taking over from Katie, Rebekah made a brave effort on the anchor leg to get us up among the medals, yet despite making an early impression on Birmingham student international Sarah Treacy, she eventually ran out of distance and had to settle for the bridesmaid’s position of 4th in a time just nine seconds slower than Katie’s of 10:21. We could not quite match the bronze medals we won in the recent National road relays, though the team that pipped us was a University conglomerate rather than a true club team. No comment!
1 HOBIE MARTIN – Hobie took over on the anchor leg of the U17 event at the National cross relays and ran his heart out in a vain pursuit of Midland relay championship gold medallist Tom Purnell (9:08) as the pair of them caught all bar the two favourites Tonbridge and Aldershot. Hobie’s split of 9:14 was 11th fastest overall and a notable performance for someone at the bottom of the age group.
2 RHYS PARK – It was Rhys who put Hobie and the U17 team in with a medal chance as he moved up from 16th to 8th on the second leg with a time less than ten secs slower than Hobie’s at 9:22.
3 ZAK TOBIAS – Young Zak was assigned the responsibility of providing Rhys and Hobie with the platform from which to mount a medal challenge, but unfortunately he found himself at the back of the start pen due to a shoelace problem and then suffered traffic blocks as he tried to make up ground on the leading pack. The net result was that he could only manage 16th place of the 84 teams with a relatively modest time of 9:35.
1 HANNAH ALDERSON – Hannah produced her best performance yet for the club when she passed South West rival Melissa Courtney on the final run-in to anchor our U20 team to the silver medals in the National cross relay champs behind the hot favourites and defending champions Aldershot. Her time of 8:44 for the 2.5 mile lap was the 4th fastest of the event.
2=ANNIKA JARMAN and OLIVIA SADLER – Recent signing Annika underlined what an asset she is going to be to the U20 team by bringing them home as high up as 7th on the opening stage in the National cross relay. Her time too was a more than respectable 9:01, which was only two secs slower than her junior international clubmate Ellie Wimshurst. As for Olivia she was a one man band in the U17 race, but an impressive one at that, clocking only a second slower than Annika with the 9th fastest time of the event.
3=ELLIE WIMSHURST and ANNABELGUMMOW – Both Ellie and Annabel are targeting Liverpool’s European cross trials at the end of the month, Annabel for her part continued her preparations with a repeat runaway victory at the Westward League, while Ellie, though perhaps not back to her best, still managed the 10th fastest time of the day by dipping just inside 9 mins to put Hannah in the bronze medal position at the final takeover in the National cross relay.
1 STEVE GOSS – Steve made a spectacular debut for us with a surprise victory in Bath’s popular Victoria Park road race, and could clearly provide the vital cog in the jigsaw that was missing when we failed so narrowly to regain the National Masters road relay title last May.
2 HEATH BAMPTON – Heath was the lead veteran in 11th place at the latest Oxford Mail League race at Ascott-under-Wychwood, finishing within a minute of a top three position.
3 NO OTHER NOMINEE
1 AMY CHALK – Amy continued her comeback by matching Steve Goss’ victory in the Victoria Park road race, beating her nearest rival Jenny Carter of the host club by just over a minute. More significantly perhaps her winning time of 23:12 was less than two minutes slower than Steve’s 21:27 for the tough hilly 4M course.
2 NIKKI BROOKLAND – Nikki must have given recent Commonwealth Games marathon runner Holly Rush something of a scare when she chased her all the way in the Over the Hills 12K at Bradford-in-Avon, ending up just 21 seconds in arrears after nearly 50 minutes of racing.
3 CAMILLA BRIGGS – Camilla rounded off her preparations for the Home Countries cross-country international in Dublin by finishing a comfortable third in the Lordshill 10M at Southampton behind World cross representative Louise Damen and fellow vet international Kath Bailey. – her time 62:49.
MIKE DOWN (14-11-10)