A bunch of happy athletes and two happy Team Managers returned from Bicton Park as the club finally kick started its winter season at senior level. The failures to finish senior men’s teams at the National Cross-Country Relays and the Tri-County cross-country before Christmas were consigned to history as the club targeted both senior team titles at the South-West Cross-Country Championships and achieved both.
First up were the senior men and Tom Merson, Andy Chambers and Shaun Antell set off with the lead group as Owain Jones made a more cautious start. Just like Owain some of the more mature hands on the team also started steadily and finished strongly. After a small and a medium size lap Tom Merson had built a lead which he was stretching over Rowan Preece of Taunton running in the hooped colours of Somerset. However, the late charge by Owain saw an eventual Bristol 1 – 2 as first Tom (26.59) and then Owain (27.03) crossed the line. Maybe the result would have been reversed had Owain started faster but the club was happy to see a one-two no matter who won and it was certainly pleasing to see club stalwart Tom Merson take his first major title – and right on his doorstep. Andy Chambers battled to stay close to the leaders throughout and finished seventh in 27.56. Fourth in for the club in fifteenth place was Daniel Edmund who was a revelation. This 800 metre runner was having his first cross-country for the club (it might have even been his first ever cross-country) and ran superbly to finish fifteenth having been as high as tenth at one point in the race. His time of 28.19 was only 7 seconds off eleventh.
Kieran Young (29.03) had a fine race to finish twenty-third (and sixth under-20) as he just got the better of Phil Parry (24th in 29.05). Phil turns 50 very soon (sorry Phil) so what price some national vet medals in the very near future. The same applies to Alec Woods who like Phil turns 50 soon and Alec was twenty-sixth in 29.07 – one of several athletes who ran finely judged races to work through the field lap after lap. Shaun Antell is obviously more at home on the road and paid for his fast early pace as he finished twenty-seventh in 29.11. Eight finishers in 27 and five in 23 was never going to be beaten and so it proved. With five to score the club took team honours with 48 points in front of Taunton AC (86) and Exeter Harriers (110).
Not content with that, Senior Men’s Team Manager Mike Down also had his eyes on the Mob Match title with 12 to score. With eight in already the team were well placed and when Steve Goss (38th in 30.09) and Mick O’Doherty (40th in 30.18) made it 10 in the first 40 it was clear that the win was in the bag. At this point Chris Elson’s group kicked in and with Andy Cooke (51st in 31.14) and Scott Watkins (57th in 31.38) making the top sixty a very low score for 12 was on the cards and so it proved as the club took the new silver salver with a score of 311 in front of Wells City Harriers (672 points) and Exmouth Harriers (1,003).
Backing up the scorers were Giles Dawnay (73rd in 32.55), Dave Bedwell 80th in 33.42 and Mark Scrutton (82nd in 333.57) as the club provided fifteen of the 130 race finishers. In addition Phil Parry (M40) and Mick O’Doherty (M50) took individual honours in their age categories.
A late withdrawal meant that the Senior Women’s Team Manager couldn’t hope to emulate Mike’s team’s feat but nevertheless a buoyant women’s team were out so show their mettle. Led by strong performances from Jenny Jagger, Marie Kirton, Julia Belyavin and Viv McConnell the team did not disappoint. Jenny Jagger heeded advice to start steady and ran a finely judged race to move through to fourth place and third senior in 25.48. Marie Kirton ran the race in the tenth to fifteenth bracket and came home fourteenth in 27.30. Just ten seconds and one place behind Julia Belyavin produced her best race for the club finishing fifteenth in 27.40 (Julia puts her improved form down to lots of miles as she builds up for London Marathon 2013). The scoring four was completed by Viv McConnell who was seventeenth in 27.50 – what can you say about Viv who continues to defy the years and was clearly the best F55 on the day. Charlotte Green defied a cold to finish thirty-second in 28.52. Sarah Everitt was thirty-ninth in 29.23 (and third F45) and final runner was Kim Whitlock (forty-first in 29.40). The team total of 50 saw the team take the South-West title with 50 points in front of Taunton AC (53 points) and Cornwall AC (77 points). The mob match (8 to score) was won by Exmouth Harriers with 456 points – shame after 7 finishers our score was 162 and last place would have scored 70 points!
With Dave Bedwell and Dave Taylor saving their athletes for up-coming schools races it was left to Ali’s Army to fly the flag in the younger age groups as Alison Hurford sent a team of four under-13 boys to see if they could bring home team medals. All four ran really well but what can you say about Team Bath who did an England Women’s job on the race having all their scorers in before anyone else crossed the line? A team total of 10 points is unassailable. Behind Team Bath Ali’s boys did the club proud. Hugh Sadler led the team throughout finishing sixth in 11.07 (only 8 seconds outside a medal). It was nip and tuck between Anton Mills and Henry Adams throughout the race and there was little between them at the finish as Anton finished thirteenth in11.42 and Henry15th in 11.47. Rubin Wilmshurst finished fastest of the quartet in eighteenth place in 11.48 as he almost caught his team mates on the line in a close finish. Four in eighteen was enough to give the team 52 points and silver medals behind Team Bath, well clear of bronze medalists Newquay & Par (91 points) . Well done lads – great team spirit and good performances under pressure as illness on the day meant we lost two athletes who would have provided good back-up.
Finally a couple of mentions first Corey Haynes who was the club’s sole representative in the Boy’s under-15 race – a steady start but a great finish. Lastly, former club member Nathan Young had one of his best races as a senior in the colours of Well’s City Harriers as he finished third – now a clean sweep of senior medals (wouldn’t that have been nice).
Overall there was a great team spirit and lets hope we can carry this into the Midland Counties on Saturday 26th January 2013 at Stafford Common and the last two Gwent League fixtures at Bath and then Brecon.