Pride of place at the Midland Cross-Country Championships in Wollaton Park, Nottingham on an unseasonably bright and dry Saturday must go to the club’s under-20 runners although Alison Hurford’s under-13 Boys also performed incredibly well and their team spirit was unsurpassed in the first race of the day. A fourth place in the Midland Road Relays for their age group and some good sessions since led Ali to believe that a team medal was possible. Hugh Sadler is becoming more consistent and his twelfth place (11.02) at Wollaton Park confirmed this. With a year to go in the age group could he be battling for individual medals next year? Behind him the packing and battling for places was tremendous with Anton Mills (11.23) relishing the dry conditions finishing twenty-first. Behind him Billy Cochrane (twenty-fifth in 11.26) and George Green (thirty-second in 11.39) made up the scoring team and commiserations go to Tom Krause (thirty-third in 11.40) who ran well throughout but just missed a team medal by one second. With Kyle Haynes (sixtieth in 12.13) and Kieron Dunkley (eighty-third in 12.48) also finishing it was great to see seven young athletes competing in this age group and obviously enjoying the experience
In the Under-20 Men’s race Charlie MacLean was soon to the fore and ran out a clear winner in 24.49 – the only athlete under 25 minutes. At one stage we were treated to the sight of Bristol & West with 4 in 8 but Rhys Park faded to finish fifteenth in 26.32 but Rhys has another two years in this age group. Closer behind Charlie were Nathan Young and Dan Studley who both produced great runs – Nathan’s was his best performance in many years and having been a precocious talent early on in his career it is great to see him stick with the sport during a few lean years to finish fifth in 25.37 and collect a team gold. Similarly Dan Studley did not show what he was capable of during his teenage years but his recent form has been a revelation and sixth place in 25.42 must rank as his best cross-country result to date. In an age group where many clubs struggle to put out a scoring four it was great to see Luke Grenfell-Shaw finish twenty-third in 27.22 and Matt Deacon forty-ninth in 29.29. If performances were based solely on commitment and application then Matt Deacon would surely finish far closer to the front – hopefully he will be satisfied to have been a part of two teams that medalled – as his work with Ali’s under-13 boys is invaluable – I am not sure where he finds the time to study Chemistry at Bristol University.
In an age group that is equally as strong as the Under-20s it was disappointing to see the club fail to close in a team in the Under-17 men. Perhaps if they speak to their Under-20 counterparts they might realise what a great opportunity they missed. Zak Tobias produced a performance of grit and determination – when half way through a race the lead group whittles down to four there will always be someone who loses out and on this occasion it was Zak who was fourth in 19.54 just 3 seconds behind Team Bath’s Alex Carter. I lost count of the number of times Zak dropped a few yards adrift of the lead trio only to dig into his reserves and get back on terms. Will Paulson’s 1,500 speed always gave the Stroud man the potential to win in a close race but Zak should take heart and a championship medal must be close at hand. If Nathan Young produced a cracking performance then younger brother Kieran’s can’t be ranked far behind as he made the top 10 with a 20.37 clocking. (Nathan put it all down to training with him but in my view a sensible race plan – he moved his way through the field – and grit and determination on the climbs were great features.) Lewis Nightingale finished sixtieth in 22.29 and, as always, gave 100%.
Ali Hurford’s group now includes several under-15s so it was disappointing that only Corey Haynes ran in the under-15 race where he finished eighty-third in 15.50 in his first exposure to that level of competition.
In the Senior Men’s race – the last event of the afternoon – it was clear that we would not have a complete team as only five started and the number of finishers reduced to four when Dan Woolford failed to finish. On the plus side both Robbie Bugden (eighth in 38.00) and Tom Russell (tenth in 38.24) showed that they are starting to recapture their true form – but fully fit both would normally be challenging for medals. Still with four weeks until the National and six weeks to the Inter-Counties both have the chance to improve. Mike Jacobs finished seventy-fifth in 42.41, which put him well up in the V45 age category, and Rob Whitham (44.33) one hundred and fourteenth in a field of 412 finishers.
In the under-13 girls Eloise Browne (12.43) was the club’s sole representative finishing forty-ninth out of 128 – a very encouraging result in her second race for the club. Eloise battled to the end making up a couple of places in the last few hundred metres and Mum Mandy spent the day getting acclimatised to cross-country racing (thankfully for January the conditions were very mild).
In the under-15 age group Jo Taylor was first club athlete home: sixteenth in 16.00. Rose Evan-Baker finished twenty-ninth in 16.31 and Jessica Monk thirty-sixth in 16.51. Another club newcomer, Ellie Evans, finished eighty-seventh in 18.53) out of 102 finishers.
Miranda Sadler ran well for fifth position (18.48) in the under-17 age group – the relatively firm under-foot conditions suiting her. Behind her Annasley Park ran a well judged race to work her way through the field to finish eighth in 18.59 – just 11 seconds behind Miranda.
In the same race Hannah Alderson (18.02) was competing in the Under-20 category and her fourth place in the race saw her take the silver medal in the Under-20 category – an improvement of one place on her individual bronze from last year. Hannah will now turn her attention to indoor track competition at the British Universities in Sheffield.
In the Senior Women there was something of a master class from our old rivals Charnwood who finished three in the first four. Rebekah Randell continued on the come-back trail and followed last week’s twelfth place in the McCain race in Antrim with sixth in the Midland Championships in 28.42 – having worked through from fourteenth at the end of the first lap. Behind her F35 category runner Clare Stevinson showed that despite her injuries she is rarely unfit as she worked through to twenty-fourth in 31.45. In thirty-ninth position Charlotte Green (32.43) worked hard throughout and Coach Chris Elson will be delighted with her performance. Keith Brackstone was particularly impressed with the way in which she attacked the climbs – and there were four on each long lap.
Again the club had a large number of athletes who said they were available and then 22 didn’t turn out on the day. The Club Committee will review how entries are made for regional and national cross-country championships as the cost to the club for these entries was over £130 which could have been better spent elsewhere.
But to return to the positives – a nice sunny day, a good team win in the under-20 Men and silver in the Under-13 boys and a fine gold medal for Charlie Maclean and silver for Hannah Alderson.