Once again Bristol & West Athletic Club ran out Senior Mens’ Team Champions at the South-West cross-country at Bicton Park. It was another case of quality and not quantity prevailing as Mike Down and Keith Brackstone struggled to get sufficient athletes to the start line to give the club the opportunity of winning the club titles at the South-West Inter-Counties cross-country at Bicton Park on Sunday 9th January 2011. In the end the women just failed to get enough toes to the start line (see below).
Like many teams the club was hit by illness and injuries – but there was also a lack of a common club aim to take these team titles – which is essential if the club is to maintain credibility with its sponsors. It was to the great credit of several athletes who competed when not 100% fit to help the Club try to lift both Senior Team titles.
In the Men’s Race Robbie Bugden was prepared to risk an injured ankle on a course that is far from easy under foot and was rewarded with a fine Individual second place behind guest Kairn Stone running in a Newham and Essex Beagles vest. Robbie led for the first third of the race before Kairn’s strength told on the two large laps. However, Robbie chased hard to finish in 26.35, 11 seconds behind the winner as the pair of them pulled over 40 seconds clear of the field. Tom Merson still recovering from a heavy cold (and despite locking himself out of his house with his kit still inside shortly before the start) ran with typical gutsy determination to back Robbie as he finished sixth in the race in 27.28. University cross-country captain Steve Francis again ran to his new found form to finish eleventh in 27.53. Behind him, the scoring 5 were completed by Alec Woods in sixteenth place and third V40 in 28.25. Finally, Heath Bampton confused both Mike and Keith running in a Wiltshire vest when finishing nineteenth in 28.56.
The scoring team were backed up by Matt Deacon (the only under-20 from the club) forty-third (and ninth under-20) in 30.51, Mark Scrutton fifty-second and fourth V50 in 31.48 (Mark was another who was far from fully fit) and Dave Bedwell fifty-eighth and fifth V50 in 32.50. With 54 points the club were well clear of Wells City Harriers with 108 points and Westbury Harriers 190 points. In the Inter-Counties event Avon, with 83 points, finished a close third behind runners-up Somerset with 78 points and winners Devon with 71 points.
In the Senior Womens’ Race Imogen Ainsworth (Bristol & West) and Laura Parker (Wells City Harriers) soon struck out on their own and forced the pace for over a lap before Laura (20.58) pulled away for a clear victory despite tiring at the end as UK Marathon Runner Holly Rush finished strongly to clinch second (21.05). Imogen – suffering badly from tight legs even before the start – kept going to take bronze in 21.11. Behind the individual medalists first Nikki Brookland and then Hannah Alderson came with late charges; Hannah who dropped to sixth fought back to fifth (21.19) and only a second off fourth place as she won the under-20 title. Nikki who at one stage got up to fifth was – like Imo – troubled with sore legs and eased off up the final hill to finish seventh (and V35 winner) in 21.28. With three in seven Bristol & West started strongly in the team but then relied on Viv McConnell – who has recently rejoined the club from Clevedon as second claim initially – in twentieth place (and sixth V45) to round off the scoring four. With 35 points the club would have comfortably won from Wells City Harriers with 63 points and Tavistock AC with 72 points. However, a subsequent ruling after the results had been published declared that Viv would have to run non-scoring and therefore the club did not close in – leaving the ladies with a what might have been feeling. The official county team result currently shows Devon winning with 63 points but as Avon’s Womens’ Team scored only 24 points the result is obviously in need of revision.
In the younger age groups there was a distinct lack of club participation except for the under-17 boys where Hobie Martin (18.51) and Zak Tobias (19.05) scored a clear one-two – both well clear of Benedict Westhenry of Weymouth St Pauls (19.22) in what was one of the strongest individual fields of the day. With Adam Speake eighth in 19.55 and Kieran Young eleventh in 20.24 my scoring has Bristol & West scoring 22 points – so again it is a surprise to see the current race results showing North Devon AC as the only club team closing in with 52 points.
Lewis Nightingale and Oscar Holdsworth both competed in the under-15 boys with Oscar (running for Truro School) finishing in a creditable sixth place in 13.22 only 8 seconds off the silver medal position in a race that saw 12 seconds cover second to seventh places. Behind Oscar, Lewis finished in twentieth place in 14.14.