A cold winter’s Saturday (29th January 2011) saw the Midland Cross-Country Championships held at Leamington Spa. There were some fine individual performances, some great team performances and several what ifs and what might have beens. Team Managers Mike Down and Keith Brackstone tried hard to pin athletes down to commitments to race on the day (particularly as the young athletes and seniors charges were £5 per head) – so it was especially galling to return 35 uncollected race packs at the end of the day – this is £175 the club need not have spent. As ever there were genuine reasons such as injuries and illnesses but there were also several instances where it appears that individuals just couldn’t be bothered or decided the race wasn’t really a priority.
Anyway to the well dones.
I’ll begin with big well dones to the Under-20 Women’s Team and the Under-17 Men. Ladies first – coach Nick Rose must have been delighted with Ellie Wimshurst’s return to racing after a 2-month lay off – staying a few yards off the inital charge Ellie (21.44) moved through the field to score a well earned silver medal behind Rowena Cole of Coventry Godiva (21.28). Behind her Hannah Alderson (21.57) gave it a real go and was often at the front of the field in the first half of the race before finishing fourth in the race and taking bronze medal in the under-20 category. With 3 to score and Annika Jarman running well to finish eighth in 22.56 the Club Team were clear winners scoring 13 points (2nd, 3rd and 8th).
In the under-17 men the absence of Hobie Martin seemed to spur the others on to greater individual performances as Rhys Park (3rd in 23.56), Luke Jacobs (9th in 24.16), Zak Tobias (10th in 24.35) and Adam Speake (20th in 25.21) took team gold. Rhys was always vying for the second spot and was just beaten on the run-in by Elliot Giles of Birchfield (second in 23.55). Behind him training partners Luke and Zak showed there is little to separate them as they finished close together for the second weekend in a row. Adam Speake worked hard throughout the race to secure his position and will surely show even stronger form come the National as according to Dad Wayne he is only 60% fit. Kieran Young also ran well to back up the scorers finishing 45th in 26.26.
The under-20 men couldn’t match their female counterparts and had to be content with fourth team place as Tom Curr from Stroud ran out a comfortable winner in 28.34. The club finishers were Nathan Young (21st in 31.33), Matt Peters (25th in 32.03), Andrew Woods (34th in 33.04), Matt Deacon (37th in 33.29) and Sean Hazell (41st in 33.49).
The club had no finishers in the under-13 age groups and only one boy (Lewis Nightingale 43rd in 16.26 in a race won by Alex Carter of Team Bath in 14.43) and one girl Annasley Park (eighth in 17.22 in a race also won by a Team Bath athlete – Loren Bleaken in 16.25) in the under-15 age groups. Similarly there was only one girl finisher in the under-17s race – but a seventh place from Victoria Kenney was a very encouraging performance – particularly as Tor was in the mixed under-17/under-20 race as a first year under-17. No doubt coach Dave Taylor will be very pleased with her performance and potential.
And so to the last two races of the day – the Senior Ladies and Senior Men’s races – and certainly some real what ifs and what might have beens here. In the Senior Ladies a silver medal and defeat at the hands of old rivals Charnwood is certainly a well done and there are big well dones for individual performances of third – Kate Goodhead (32.37), Rebekah Randell (fourth in 32.47), Camilla Briggs (seventeenth in 35.14), Charlie Coffey (eighteenth in 35.18), Helen Fines (22nd in 35.39), Vicky Tester (48th in 38.06), Alison Hurford (71st in 40.18) and Lisa Newing (77th in 40.31). Without exception they all gave the race 100% – Kate’s was her first Midland Senior medal and Rebekah’s run was a great return after a few months away from racing (and surely hints at another top 20 finish in the National). Camilla must surely be delighted with what must be her best ever race over the country and Charlie Coffey showed that hours walking the wards as a junior doctor made up for the missed milage due to the long hours. Helen Fines battled throughout although hampered by a cold (on a course that was shorter and flatter than she is used to (perhaps the hill at Alton Towers will be a bit more like fell running)). Vicky Tester’s was a solid performance and the biggest smile of the day award must go to Alison Hurford (whose smile was accompanied by a ‘I really enjoyed that’ quote (hmm! 40 minutes running in heavy cloying mud – takes all sorts). Last but by no means least was Lisa Newing another club member returning to racing after a break. What ifs – well if Nikki Brookland had turned up (another unexplained absence) or Alice Hector (ignoring the Team Managers for a month now) had turned up? And what might have been? What might have happened had Imogen Ainsworth not been flattened by a car door that caused her to miss 8 days running and has left her still limping – we would certainly have pushed Charnwood a lot closer. (Although Charnwood themselves had their own absences).
And finally, the last race of the day. James Walsh (38.49) the Leeds-based Midland athlete took off and flew around the course making light of the conditions (those who have watched cross-country over the last few years will have seen James relish conditions like these in the past). Behind him one-time Swindon athlete Matt O’Dowd – now racing for Notts AC – looked an odds-on runner up until Club Colleague and miler Bruce Raeside stormed the last 200 metres to get the runners-up slot and lead Notts to a comfortable team victory (62 points). As for the Club’s senior men: Robbie Bugden was leading the charge coming home seventh in 39.56. Behind him Phil Wylie (eighth in 40.06), John Wills (fourteenth in 41.21 – on his least favourite surface), Matt Crane (34th in 42.34 – showing how fast he can run without a map and compass), Dan Woolford (38th in 42.45 – a really gutsy effort from start to finish) and Steve McGuigan (another more at home on the roads) finishing 54th in 44.06. The scoring six were ably backed by Tom Kingsnorth 84th in 46.53 and Rob Witham (97th in 47.37). And so to the what ifs and what might have beens. What if Tom Russell and Tom Merson hadn’t cried off with colds, what if Andrew Chambers had actually got to the start line or Steve Francis hadn’t been saving himself for the BUCS. Then the gallant effort to finish fourth one point behind Tipton (154 points) (and all the scorers were really going for it throughout) and five points behind Coventry Godiva (150 points) just might have been a silver medal. Oh well – there’s always Olympics Year.