After three fourth places and a complete soaking, the perfect end to a perfect day at the National Cross-Country Relays at Berry Hill, Mansfield was when the Senior Men’s anchor leg runner Rob Bugden set off without his timing chip and therefore eluded the results. So we won’t officially finish fourteenth unless an eagle-eyed official made a note of Robbie’s finish manually.
Early on in the day – and before the heavens opened – the under-17 ladies team ran well up to form as Annesley Park (9.27.9 in eighteenth place), Miranda Sadler (9.27.6 moving up to seventh) and Victoria Kenney (9.20.3) finished sixth.
The second race to feature the club was the under-20 men where the club hoped that a medal might be on the cards. New comer Dan Studley – in his first race for the club – found the first leg pretty swift as he ran 9.17.9 to come home in seventeenth in a tightly bunched field. Rhys Park set about using his long stride to great effect as he pulled the team back into contention with a 9.12.85 clocking for seventh. Despite running the second fastest leg of the day (8.48.45) Charlie Maclean could only get the team tantalisingly close to a medal as 27.19 overall left the team 9 seconds shy of third place and 13 seconds off the silver. Local neighbours Stroud secured a fine win in 26.49. It is really pleasing to record that in an age group where many clubs struggle to field teams the club also closed in a full ‘B’ team as Adam Speake (9.49.5 for forty-fifth), Matt Deacon (10.24.9 for fifty-first) and Sam Bedwell (9.59.4) finished fortieth.
Next up were the under-17 men and again a medal chance was realistic following their fine win in the road relays. As with the under-20s the first leg saw too much work to be made up as Zak Tobias ran 9.45.7 which could only secure twenty-third place. Luke Jacobs set off with intent and pushed hard to give Hobie every chance as Luke clocked 9.34.35 to pull up to sixth. Hobie made inroads early on to get up to fourth place but could never quite get on terms with a medal position: his 9.13.75 clocking was fifth fastest of the day but left him 5 seconds behind Bracknell (28.28.75) who took the bronze behind Aldershot (28.11.55) and Tonbridge (28.06.30). Lewis Nightingale ran the first leg for an incomplete ‘B’ team and fell early on before coming home seventy-sixth in 10.45.
The under-13 boys ran well as Hugh Sadler (7.33.3) gave them twenty-first position at the end of the first lap with a really competitive run. Tom Krause (8.07.9) brought the team home in thirty-second place at the end of the second lap – a position George Green consolidated with an 8.09.9 clocking on the final leg.
The under-15 girls team were an inexperienced trio but Jo Taylor (8.09.9) brought the team home in forty-second after the first leg. Jess Monk lifted the team seven places to thirty-fifth with an 8.29.3 clocking on the second lap and Ellie Evans competing in her first ever club race (and in a National Championship to boot) couldn’t have had a tougher debut as she fought hard to finish in fifty-sixth in a time of 9.20.3.
The Senior Women enjoyed the best start of the day when Steph Barnes worked through the field well to come home eighth in 10.35. Kate Goodhead then charged through the field like a woman possessed to take the lead from Aldershot with 500 metres to go to the changeover – her time of 10.28 was the ninth fastest of the day. Despite a brave effort Rebekah Randell was passed by Emma Pallent, Gemma Steele and then Hannah Walker as Aldershot, Charnwood and Birchfield moved through to take the medals. Gemma Steele ran the fastest leg of the day to take our old rivals Charnwood (31.05) into the gold medal position, with Aldershot second in 31.16 and Birchfield third in 31.32. Our final time was 31.39 for fourth. Charlie Wills (11.34.25) and Paula Gowing (11.28.10) ran well and were placed twenty fifth at the end of the second leg – it is a shame we couldn’t find another athlete to complete the team.
And so to the Senior Men. When the Team Managers walked the course at 10.15 a.m. the verdict was ‘as dry as we have seen it’ – after an afternoon of rain and races by 2.40 pm parts of the course resembled the Somme. So it was no real surprise when road specialist Jon Wills came home forty-fourth in 16.58.4. Steve (‘I thought I might as well give it a go’) Mitchell set out at a pace that seemed to inicate that he still thought he was racing 1,500 metres on the track as he moved up to just outside the top 20 on the first of his two 2.5k loops. His second loop was not as impressive but he still handed over in 21st place – a gain of 23 places (his time 16.34.4). Tom Merson also dug in to pull back a few places as he moved the team up to eighteenth with a 17.04.7 clocking before handing over to the chip-less Robbie – the rest – as they say – is history. Robbie self-timed at around 16.50. Running a lone leg for the ‘B’ Team Dan Woolford showed a return to form as he finished just behind Jon with a 16.58 clocking in forty-eighth place.
Full results are available at http://www.englishcrosscountry.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=69&Itemid=76.