Cofton Park, Birmingham again played host to the Inter-Counties which, as in recent years, included the trials to select the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for the World Cross-Country to be held in Spain in two weeks time. The course was a good test with several drags (but nothing to compare with hill at Alton Towers or Leamington Spa) and the recent dry weather saw kinder underfoot conditions than either the regional or national championships – although there were still a couple of places where the soft conditions meant that lost shoes remained a risk.
Once again Annabel Gummow (Cornwall) was the star of the show for Bristol & West as she chased Emelia Gorecka (20.34) hard all the way in the under-20 women’s race to secure a fine silver medal and, hopefully, a place in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team for the World Cross. Annabel’s time was 20.42. Behind there was a very good run from Hannah Alderson (Avon & Somerset) who was never quite on terms with a break-away group of six but who ran strongly throughout (despite a mid-race nose bleed) to finish eighth in 22.10 – a run that will probably see her selected for the Home Countries International. Also in the women’s under-20 race was Vanessa Brann (Gloucestershire) who finished 64th of the 128 finishers in 25.13.
In the under-17 girls race there was a great result for Olivia Sadler – finally reproducing on the country the sort of form she shows on the track – as she finished just outside the medals in fifth place with a time of 19.54. Behind her Naomi Speake (Avon & Somerset) in fortieth place (20.53) showed that she is returning to the sort of form she showed in the road relays in the Autumn and Victoria Kenney (Avon & Somerset) finished 55th in 21.13 again battling to the line in what was a very competitive field of 260 finishers.
In the under-15 girls race Annasley Park (Gloucestershire) finished forty-second in 16.52 exactly one minute outside the medals in a field of 291 finishers.
It was disappointing to see that in a club with such a tradition of women’s distance running there wasn’t a single Bristol & West athlete in the senior women’s race.
In the under-17 men’s race Hobie Martin (19.28) (Cornwall) looked strong throughout and ran well to finish sixth, whilst not far behind Rhys Park (Gloucestershire) (eleventh in 19.37) spent the whole race battling to make the top ten – a feat he narrowly missed. Behind these two, Zak Tobias and Luke Jacobs (both Avon & Somerset) had their usual race long battle with Zak’s slightly more cautious start paying dividends as he finished 29th in 20.03. Luke finished 51st but was only 19 seconds behind (20.22) and Adam Speake (Avon & Somerset) in 20.55 was 108th. Again this race showed how competitive the Inter-Counties fields are with 52 seconds covering 29th to 108th places. There were 285 finishers in this race.
Matt Deacon (Avon & Somerset) was the sole club representative in the under-20 men’s race and as ever stuck to his task throughout to finish 115th of 175 finishers in 29.58. As did Oscar Holdsworth (Cornwall) in the under-15 boy’s race as he finished 176th in 17.09 in the day’s largest field of 298 finishers.
The final race of the afternoon saw an exciting Senior Men’s race where four club athletes competed in a field of 292 finishers. First club man home was Tom Merson (Devon) in 64th place in 38.23. Behind him Steve Francis (Avon & Somerset) in his first national event at senior level ‘got the distance’ to finish strongly over the 12k as he came home 124th in 39.41. Andy Chambers (Avon & Somerset) was another who stuck at it finishing 135th in 39.55, whilst Owain Jones (Avon & Somerset) lack of training due to recent achilles problems was clearly evident – indeed the problem is still current which impeded Owain early on so that it wasn’t until the last of the four 3k laps that he actually started moving with any fluency – pulling up to 153rd in 40.17.
Many thanks to Mike Down, Dave Taylor, Keith Brackstone and Dave Bedwell for taking on Team Management roles for various age groups for the county teams – as ever it was a case of potential not being achieved – surely if the two counties got their strongest runners out in the two Senior age groups they would have a real chance of winning or at the least collecting team medals.