1= STEVE MITCHELL and PHIL WYLIE – It would be invidious to try and discriminate between Steve’s Tri-Counties triumph and Phil’s winning comeback in the latest Gloucestershire League race. Both were impressive performances, Steve outclassing the opposition to win his first Avon cross-country title over the testing Bath University course with something to spare and Phil doing likewise at Gloucester to finish nearly 200m ahead of runner-up Cheltenham’s star man Dave Roper. Steve’s success underlines the progress he is making now that he has graduated and is focussing full-time on his running. With this background work in the bank expect him to surprise some of his middle distance rivals when he turns his attention to the indoor season. Phil too must have been pleased with his comeback after suffering an horrendous crash on his bike at the end of the summer duathlon season that left him with multiple fractures.
2 DAN WOOLFORD – Dan shrugged off a repeat of the stitch that left him doubled up in pain in the previous week’s Gwent League race to take the Wiltshire senior title for the first time by finishing 4th overall behind Steve, the new Somerset champion Luke Scott and Ben Morley in the Tri-Counties championship at Bath. Fortunately the pain he had to endure was not as intense as he had suffered at Blaise Castle the previous week and he was able to live with it though it obviously cost him 3rd place to Morley and any chance of challenging Scott in the closing stages.
3= STEVE FRANCIS and ANDY CHAMBERS – These two are bracketed together for similar reasons to Steve and Phil, Steve proving his huge improvement in last week’s Gwent League was no flash in the pan as he finished 5th overall to take the Avon bronze medal, and Andy continuing his comeback from three years in the injury wilderness to finish a very creditable 7th and 4th of the Avon runners. The two of them actually ran together for much of the race before Andy’s lack of training eventually took its toll in the last mile when he was also caught by the Somerset silver medallist Elliot Haimes.
1 IMOGEN AINSWORTH – Imo made a fine start to her international career when she helped the Great Britain team to a convincing victory in the U23 race at the European cross-country championships. She had not been expected to make the scoring four in the six-strong team, but still played her part by finishing just inside the top half of the select field.
She did not get the best of starts as she was at the back of the GB pen being the sixth ranked member of the team, while very few of the other countries had full line-ups which consequently left her well in the rear.on the opening lap of the super fast Almond Blossom course. However, undaunted, she improved 25 places from 54th at that point to finish a very creditable 29th.
2 NIKKI BROOKLAND – Nikki made a stunning return to competition to take the Avon gold medal in the Tri-Counties championship, while finishing a relatively close third overall behind internationals Laura Parker and Holly Rush, who as expected took the Somerset and Wiltshire titles respectively. In this sort of form and with a little more racing behind her she could play a vital role in the B&W team’s performances in the major cross-country championships after Christmas.
3 ALICE HECTOR – After switching her allegiance from Somerset, where she was the former champion, to her new Avon base, Alice proved that like Nikki she too could be a valuable member of our team for the coming championship races by chasing her clubmate all the way to finish 5th overall and take the Avon bronze medal.
1 MATT PETERS – Matty eschewed a certain medal in the U20 junior championship to give himself a tougher test in the longer senior event and improved on his previous week’s solid Gwent league performance by finishing 8th overall to take 5th place in the Avon standings. With a flourish at the end he finished not that far behind Andy Chambers and just ahead of Avon Valley’s prolific road race winner Tom Fisher.
2= RHYS PARK and ZAK TOBIAS – More fence-sitting here, but both Rhys and Zak produced specacular efforts in their respective races, Rhys in winning the latest Glolucestershire League U17 race and Zak in taking the Tri-Counties U17 title at Bath. Rhys was challenged all the way by highly rated Severn athlete Kieran Hale, but just got home to take another valuable scalp, while although Zak could hardly be expected to match strides with U20 champion Greg Halliwell, he finished closer to him than he had in the previous week’s Gwent League event as well as avenging his defeat by Taunton’s Somerset champion Blair Brown in the Blaise Castle race.
3= NATHAN YOUNG and MATT DEACON – Nathan is gradually working his way back to fitness, and though by his own admission lacking pace did more than enough to take the Somerset U20 gold medal, while Matt stuck it out well to win the Avon U20 silver behind convincing winner Greg Halliwell.
1 ANNABEL GUMMOW – Annabel stepped up a gear from the trial race at Liverpool to make the top ten in the European U20 cross-country championship. It was a brilliant effort considering she is still only 16 and her 10th place earned her 4th scoring position in the triumphant gold medal-winning GB team. She now only needs to maintain this sort of form to make the World championship team again next year and even perhaps gain a place in the coveted top 20.
2 OLIVIA SADLER – As expected Olivia had no trouble in taking the Avon U17 gold medal, but was perhaps a little surprised not to match Bath’s impressive overall race winner Imogen Wolsey, who took the corresponding Wiltshire title.
3= BILLIE WILLIAMS and VANESSA BRANN – Billie’s wait for recognition was deservedly rewarded when she finished 7th overall and took the bronze medal in the Avon U17 championship, while Vanessa came back from a long lay off to finish top U20 junior in the latest Gloucestershire League race.
1 ALEC WOODS – Alec felt he had not reproduced his true form in the Tri-Counties championship, but he still did enough to hold off the challenge of Bath rival Dave Coales for the Avon V40 title, while finishing a more than respectable 14th overall and 7th in the Avon championship.
2 JON GOODLAND – Little did Jon realise before the start that he was to play a vital role in the Avon team championship, for though we had five athletes in the top 8 of the overall race, Dan Woolford could not count as he was entered in the Wiltshire event, and with only Alec as back-up, we feared the worst until Jon thankfully hove into sight to make sure we didn’t go home with egg on our faces. Nor was it the first time he has saved our bacon since he joined us first claim as he has come to the rescue of our V40 team before in the Masters National road relay championships. At least he was again rewarded here for his efforts with an unexpected Avon team gold.
3 NO OTHER PERFORMANCES TO HAND
1 SIAN DAVIES – Sian maintained her recent return to something like her true form by backing up Nikki and Alice in 11th place overall – and 8th Avon runner – to ensure we retained the county team title as well as finishing much closer than she had anticipated to Bath’s former international Jo Thompson, who pipped her for the V45 gold medal.
2 ALISON HURFORD – Like Sian Ali too more than held her own with many of the younger runners finishing as high as 17th overall as well as ranking third of all the V45 competitors across the three counties behind Jo and Sian.
3 CLARE JOLLIFFE – Clare made what was a rare appearance this winter, and though clearly in need of the race stuck it out well to end up 24th overall, which was just inside the top half of the 50 finishers.
MIKE DOWN (16-12-10)