National Cross-Country Relays – Outstanding Individual runs but where is everybody?

Just a week after the Bristol McCain Challenge the current theme of the 2012 winter was apparent again as Development Adviser Keith Brackstone led just 8 athletes to Berry Hill in Mansfield. It does appear as if there is a theme of club athletes wishing to avoid challenging races. However, there were some great positives to high-light rather than dwell on the negatives.

Alison Hurford had her under-13s firing on all cylinders last year and it is clear she intends this winter to be the same. She elected to enter one team of under-13 boys and despite losing Hugh Sadler, her trio performed really well with newcomers Kyle Haynes and Reuben Wilmshurst getting their first taste of competition at this level. Reuben brought the team home in 29th place in 7.46 in a field of over 80 teams, Anton Mills ran 7.55 to lift the team two places into twenty-seventh and Kyle ran 8.06 as he lost a single place to bring the team home twenty-eighth out of the 80 teams who closed in. Well done boys – a great performance on your debut at this level – and Ali well done on your work as both coach and team manager (and also baker of excellent cakes).

The senior ladies have a great record in this event and an excellent team on paper vanished as the competition closed in on us but hats off to the trio who went and all gave 100%. Debbie Niccol is returning after a short break for injury and was unhappy with her eighteenth place in 10.44 but from what I saw at several vantage points around the course she gave it 100% and used her track speed to good effect at the end of her leg. Julia Belyavin offered to come to make up a ‘B’ team only to be thrust into the ‘A’ team limelight at the last minute. Julia was another athlete to give it 100% clocking 12.02 to bring the team home in twenty –eighth place. Charlotte Green and the other ladies had targeted a top-30 finish and an 11.40 clocking saw Charlotte catch one athlete to lift the team to twenty-seventh overall. A great effort from three club stalwarts who really enjoyed the day.

The Senior Men’s Relay had been an event where a medal was a possibility had we got our strongest team out. By race day it was a case of the magnificent two giving it a real go as both Steve Mitchell and Charlie Maclean were looking for a hard run-out as part of their preparation for the European Cross-Country trial race in the Liverpool McCain race in three weeks time. It was clear from their pre-race demeanour that the lack of a full team wasn’t going to stop them from giving it a real go.

Steve, fresh from a very strong performance at the Bristol McCain race the previous Sunday, saw the 5k distance, the pretty firm conditions and the dry afternoon very much to his liking and set off with the leaders on the first of the 2.5k laps that make up each leg in the Senior Men’s race. Well into the first lap the lead group was down to six which by the end of the lap had become a lead group of three with a chasing group of three. It was clear that Steve was digging in hard up the hill on the second lap to keep in contact hoping that his track speed would see him finish strongly on the mainly downhill finish. So it proved as he handed over to Charlie in fourth place (his 15.32 was eleventh fastest lap of the day). Charlie then set off with excellent pace judgement that saw him move through the field until he was only bested by the Belgrave athlete with half a mile to run. However, like Steve, Charlie had something in reserve for the run in and eased past the Belgrave man to finish the second leg with Bristol & West in the lead but with no one to hand over to. Charlie clocked 15.38 to finish well up in the top 20 times. A great confidence boost to both and a real testament to some gutsy running and excellent pace judgement.

A really massive vote of thanks to Steve and Charlie who kept the club flying and have shown that we have medal winning (and possibly gold medal) potential in the club if the team can focus on going for medals in National Championships. Come on the rest of you mark the 2013 race in your diaries now! It certainly was inspirational for Ali’s young lads to see two of the club’s finest performing at their best – now let’s get a team that represents the club’s potential out to give the youngsters something to get really excited about.