Fifth Leg of the Gwent League Brings Out the Best in Everyone

It must be spring because the winter was disappointing – hard to get teams out, no really great individual or team results – except for the South-West cross-country championships in early January 2013 – and then suddenly the sun is out for the fifth Gwent League race at Brecon’s Penlan Leisure Centre on Saturday 2nd March 2013 and athletes are appearing and really enjoying grass-roots club athletics.

The Ladies had been geeing each other up – which makes the team managers’ jobs easier – and there was a real focus on the job in hand – which was over-turning a Westbury lead of 24 points to see if the club could pull off the overall season team win like a rabbit out of a hat. ‘Great packing’ had been a feature of the four races so far but what we had wanted in earlier races was a couple up the front and early leaders Kate Goodhead (eventual third place) and Rebekah Randell (eventual winner) made sure this was going to happen in the final race. Anna Burton (seventh) and Grace France (ninth) – two recruits from the University – were providing excellent back-up and Georgie Salmon (fifteenth) was starting to show glimpses of her former self. Chief Whip Charlotte Green (seventeenth) has had a pretty hard first winter in terms of the competitions she has done but was always up for this one and probably spent as much time as overall Team Manager Chris Elson and Senior Women’s Manager Keith Brackstone working to mobilise the troops.

The Gwent League usually puts the senior results on its web-site on Sunday from a Saturday race with the junior results going up the following week so we won’t know just yet whether we have done enough and Westbury certainly weren’t going to give up the title they won last year without a fight.

The senior ladies were there in quality and numbers and there wasn’t a single bad race from anyone as Viv McConnell (nineteenth), Clare Jolliffe (27th), Sarah Everitt (28th), Tracy Allan (42nd), Aimee Davies (45th), Henrietta Anstey (50th), Emma Bowers (58th), Hayley Bennett (78th), Chris Burren (101st) and Marie Lakin (117th) contirbuted fine individual races.  A great turnout with 16 there plus Annabel Granger racing the Newport Half, Jessie Sanzo, Marie Kirton and Julia Belyavin racing the Bath Half this weekend, Jenny Jagger saving herself for next week’s Milton Keynes Half and Helen Sharpe and Sophie Morris (Lovell) still to come. Apparently Hannah Alderson and Katie Knowles are back in training and in May Imogen Ainsworth returns from her 2 years in America – now that’s what I call a potential endurance squad!

The Senior Men were almost as strong numerically and in quality with 15 runners present and Coach Tom Watson watching on as Charlie MacLean (Third) and Zack Tobias (eleventh) returned to racing. Between them Dan Studley (also coached by Tom) finished fourth having been in the leading group of four for the best part of two and a half of the three laps. Steve Smith showed what a good acquisition he is with a very solid thirty-third position. Peter Gandon was just outside the top fifty in 52nd place with Paul Jefferson 58th after a mid-race fall as he took a sharp corner. Neil Williams finished 60th just in front of Andy Malloy who worked his way through the field to finish 61st. Dave Bedwell pulled out a bit of that track speed from his younger days to take a couple of places in the last 400 metres as he finished 67th. Jack Loveday and Yani Berdeni were never far apart and finished 70th and 71st with Mark Grace making the top 100 in 94th place. Colin Traer finished 101st (like Chris Burren in the Ladies race) and again didn’t miss out on a top 100 spot through lack of effort. Peter Mountain (121st) and Gary Jennings (142nd) completed the day for the club.

Earlier in the day there were Under-17/Under-20 Men’s and women’s races and the club had one individual in each race. First Kieron Young was a clear third in the Junior Men’s race and then Tor Kenney was a clear winner (we think over 11/2 minutes clear) in the equivalent ladies race.

Details of the Juniors will be posted later but there were great performances in the under-15, under-13 and under-11 boys with Nicola Pearce doing a great job as stand-in Team Manager in Ali Hurford’s absence (nice touch with the cakes Nicola) – still I did miss a bit of home-made Bakewell Tart (OK –we are usually spoilt). Dave Taylor was there with a group of under-13 girls and details of their positions will follow.

There was great enthusiasm all round from everyone who was there today (with some really supportive parents who were able to see that cross-country isn’t always mud, rain and snow) – let’s carry this through into next year’s Gwent League. (In the senior age groups Chris and I are already plotting next year and I am sure that the Junior Team Managers will be doing likewise).

One final comment – thanks to Westbury Ladies – I know that the Ladies from both clubs are great friends and there has been a great rivalry throughout the season with both clubs doing their utmost to get their strongest teams out and battling for every point to the last – takes me back to the 1980s when a similar rivalry existed between the two club’s senior men’s teams. Bring on the winter 2013/2014 when I am sure the friendly rivalry will be renewed.

Keith Brackstone Reports