Three Individual and Two Team Medals at National Cross-Country

It was a day of mixed fortunes at the 2012 National Cross-Country held at a bright and sunny (and remarkable dry (in parts)) Parliament Hill on Saturday 2012. Highlights must be the three individual and two team medals but there was more to be pleased about with one or two real break-through runs.

First the medals and Annabel Gummow in the Junior Women’s Race is the type of athlete I would put my mortgage on to medal. Despite a fall that saw her covered with mud on her right side she got up to chase long term rival Emelia Gorecka of Aldershot, Farnham & District and was disappointed to finish 18 seconds adrift of the winner – such is the level of her ambition. Emelia’s winning time was 21:02 with Annabel running 21:20. Annabel you did us proud and it is a shame that a club with three other athletes with international honours in the age group couldn’t find 2 more for what could have been a medal winning team.

Staying with the juniors and Charlie Maclean was up the first hill at a pace that saw him 20 metres clear at the top. Many would have folded after being caught by a group of eight but Charlie is made of sterner stuff and dug in to hold the group. In the second lap the group split and Charlie moved clear of all but Jonny Hay (Aldershot, Farnham & District) and Harvey Dixon (Aldershot, Farnham & District). As Jonny moved clear effortlessly to win in 31:50, there was a real battle for the medals and a fast finish saw Harvey prevail (just) in 32:11 to Charlie’s 32:12. This performance was a real testament to his work with Tom Watson over the past year. Early on with four in twenty there was real hope that team medals would be forthcoming as Dan Studley, Rhys Park and Nathan Young set out with real intent. Dan and Rhys battled throughout and sixteenth for Dan (32:58) and eighteenth for Rhys (33:08) were runs worthy of a team medal. However, the National is unforgiving and Nathan failed to finish and despite a valiant effort from Matt Deacon battling for every place to finish one hundred and ninth in 37:12 the team finished fourth just outside the medals.

Our third individual medal was the result of another battling performance, this time in the under-17 men’s race. Hobie Martin winning bronze in 19:46 only four seconds away from the win as the first six finished within 10 seconds. Behind him Will Christofi had what can only be described as a breakthrough race to finish tenth in 20:02 (only 20 seconds behind the winner). Still a relative newcomer to the sport of cross-country running Will ran with a maturity beyond his racing experience and worked his way sensibly through the field. Afterwards Mike Down was heard to advise him that he has a big future in the sport if he can build on this result – an assessment that those watching him race yesterday all endorse. Behind Zak Tobias was thirtieth in 20:31, another result that shows that his performances have gone off the boil a bit in recent weeks. I am sure he and Coach Dave Bedwell are looking to turn things around. After an under-par performance in the South-West Schools Kieran Young produced a run that was more like his Midland Counties performance with fifty-seventh in 21:09. Behind him Luke Jacobs finished ninetieth in 21:28 and is another young athlete who will be looking to recapture the form he showed early in the cross-country season when he starts racing on the track and road. The scoring four totalled exactly 100 points, which was good enough for third team place behind Aldershot, Farnham & District (54 points) and Tonbridge (61 points). Realistically third place was probably our expectation in this team race.

The senior women have a great record of producing team medals in the National cross-country and Parliament Hill was no exception. At Leeds it was Dorchie Lee who pulled it out of the bag. This year it was Debbie Niccol. Rebekah Randell put an indifferent winter well and truly behind her as she battled throughout for a top ten finish but had to settle for eleventh in 29:05. Rebekah was delighted with her highest ever National finish – and like some seemed to like the challenge of the uphill section with reasonably good under-foot conditions for most of the course. Lucy Macalister started off in front of Rebekah and was in the top 10 for the first two miles – if ever there was a case of when the going gets tough the tough dig in it was Lucy who battled to stay in the top 20 and finished nineteenth in 29.38. Giving 100% can’t possible describe the amount of self-inflicted pain that result took. Third scorer was Steph Barnes in forty-eighth place in 31:03 and after finishing twenty-second at the same venue three years earlier Steph and Coach Keith Brackstone will review her training to get Steph’s performances back to where they should be for an athlete of her ability and potential. And so back to Debbie. At the end of the race she apologised for letting the team down but her’s was another battling performance. Three-quarters of the way round the first lap she was clearly finding the race hard but she stayed with it to finish eighty-first in 32:02. Behind Debbie, Clare Stevinson also ran a great race working her way through the field from start to finish cracking the top 100 and finishing ninety-fifth in 32:37.  At the end of the day the team scored 159 points and were only 3 behind winners Hallamshire Harriers to win the silver medals. It was such a surprise that only two of the four athletes were there for the presentation.

Other familiar faces in the senior women’s race were former club members Suzie Richards (now Herne Hill Harriers – fifty-fifth in 31:28) and Charlie Wills (now with Leeds – sixty-eighth in 31:42) – great to see some past club stalwarts still racing well. Also finishing in one-hundredth position was Caitlin Lloyd of Bristol University in 32:34.

Back to great individual races and that describes Annasley Park’s twentieth position of the 195 finishers in 19:35 in the under-17 women’s race – the first race of the day. Sorry to Annasley that she had no support from other club athletes in the race and also little support on the course as a combination of factors saw the very late arrival of the club minibus.

Going into the event and Coach Alison Hurford had high hopes for her under-13 boy’s team. However, racing your first National is challenging even as a senior athlete and with the exception of Billy Cochrane most of the under-13s seemed to be overcome by the sheer volume of numbers. Billy finished ninety-first in 12:09 and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience as he led the team home. Behind him Tom Krause in 12:36, Anton Mills (205 in 12:58) and Kieron Dunkley (214 in 13:01) completed the scoring team which finished nineteenth. Kyle Haynes finished 314th in 13:59 in a field of 373. To get an idea of the sheer volume of runners 62 runners finished in the 25 seconds between Tom and Kieron! Alison has done a great job with this group and let’s hope they have the resilience to bounce back and secure the team win at the Gwent League. Even yesterday with a couple of non-finishers they made the top half as thirty-nine teams closed in.

In the under-15 boys race Olli Hines and Corey Haynes were out two competing athletes with Corey finishing 325th in 19:46. Olli isn’t on the provisional results due to a chip issue (he didn’t have it at the start!) If we are lucky he will be added to the results when they review the finishing video footage.

The last race of the day was the senior men and the withdrawal of Tom Russell meant that the team started with an under-strength team and this situation worsened when Rob Bugden fell during the race and jarred his back. Phil Wylie went into the race fit but lacking race preparation and so to make the top 20 (twentieth in 37:38) was a great result. John Wills’ fifty-eighth place in 38:56 was his best National ever – not bad as he was initially only going to watch Charlie. As a road specialist the dry conditions suited him and afterwards he felt he might have made the top fifty had he gone out a little harder. Another steady starter was Owain Jones, whose knee and achilles injuries have seriously curtailed his training and racing, who worked his way through to one-hundred and twenty-first (40:14) and may well have been higher still had he not got ‘stuck in traffic’ a couple of times as he worked his way through. 

Dan Woolford was another athlete who showed a welcome return to form, like Owain, Dan is a true club supporter, and one hundred and thirty-fifth in 40:30 represents an improvement on recent performances. Shaun Antell made the long drive up from Devon and found that 41:41 minutes of running on the country is tougher than 10 miles on the road and was disappointed with 212th place. Not so Danny Randell who was pleased with his 302nd in 43:04. Steve Francis picked a tough one for his second race back after a lay off and contrived to lose a shoe twice on the driest Parliament Hill course for years; nevertheless he stuck with it for 392nd in 44:07.

The Team Manager’s prize for commitment to the cause goes to Mike Jacobs who finished the race more like a prize fighter than a runner as he hit the floor more times than Frank Bruno in his career. Mike rejected all offers of help to cross the line unaided in 413th in 44:26 – Mike had been going really well and was not far behind Danny Randell before his legs literally gave out on him in the last 500 metres. The last man home for the club on the afternoon was Rob Whitham (539th in 46.01) bring all the club finishers home in the top third of a field of 1,688 finishers – which meant that- as ever the start was a true spectacle. The Senior Men were fourteenth team in both the six-to-score and ninth-to-score races.

Full results can be found at:

http://www.englishcrosscountry.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=71&Itemid=78