Mike Down and Keith Brackstone made their annual pilgrimage to the Cardiff Cross Challenge on Sunday 19th January 2014 as South-West Regional Team Managers (along with Dave Varney from Cornwall). The Avon Schools cross-country on the Saturday and the up-coming Midland Championships (25th January 2014) meant that competitors from the club were limited. Charlotte Green and Helen Sharpe were both late call ups for the South-West Senior Women’s Team and the stand-out club run was Charlotte Green as ‘Our Char’ ran a sensible race settling in the late teens on the first of two short laps and then started working through having been eighteenth at the start of the second small lap. Her mid-race lapse of concentration seems to be behind her as she coped with running in a void for most of that lap before starting to work through the field on her final (long) lap. Up to sixteenth with 200 metres to go she turned on the after-burners and a real finishing-straight charge saw her move up to thirteenth (and second scorer for the South-West) in the last 150 metres. Twelve seconds off a top-10 place I am sure even stronger performances will come when Charlotte believes she can perform at that level and spread her effort a bit more evenly. I am sure coach Dave Taylor will be working on this with her. Charlotte’s finishing time was 27:53. It’s a shame that she will limit herself to the Midland Cross-Country and the Brecon leg of the Gwent League but her Indoor exploits on the track will certainly give us something to talk about.
Behind her Helen Sharpe ran her usual race pushing a relentless pace regardless of the underfoot conditions. She was rewarded with a top 20 finish as she clocked 28:27. Not a bad performance from an athlete who was doing it as a ‘run out’ having run a hill session on the Downs the previous day. Helen – who has missed some training with a hamstring niggle – is determined to get back into better shape before the Midlands – it looks as if the kill or cure approach is working at the moment – but don’t overdo it in the next 5 days Helen.
Emma D’Alton of Westbury Harriers led the South-West team home in ninth place in 27:36 – a great run from someone who is well known for her preference of the road. It was also good to see Emma Journeaux (also from Westbury Harriers) who trains with Chris Elson’s group finish twentieth in 28:54 one place behind Helen Sharpe.
Charlotte Purdue was a runaway winner clocking 25:09 to finish 59 seconds clear of runner-up Laura Whittle (Kenney) (26:08) who had a race long tussle with Andrea Whitcombe (26:10).
In the Men’s race Owain Jones was slightly disappointed with his run as he finished eleventh in 34:59 in a race won by Adam Hickey in 33:05. Owain ran his usual sensible race working his way through the field but was probably coming from just a little too far back. Gaps opened up quite early on and it offered Owain very little to chase within catching distance although he closed Luke Gunn of Derby down to 8 seconds by the end. In fourteenth place Andy Chambers (35:21) showed another glimpse of his potential and Mike Down continues to speculate as to what Andy might do if he ever stays injury free long enough to put together a few months of consistent training. A surprise runner was track specialist Steve Mitchell who was representing Cardiff Met in the Welsh University Championships – Steve finished fifteenth in 35:29 and was clearly not enjoying the underfoot conditions (Steve sorry to say but given the recent rain the course could have been much worse). His post race quote of ‘After BUCS Cross-Country in 2014 I will only ever run the cross-country relays in the future’ summed up his take on the day and cross-country in general. We look forward to his track and road exploits with anticipation though.
Down the field Steve Goss made the long journey up from Devon worthwhile as his thirty-ninth place (39:34) gave him the win in the V45 category. Rob Witham almost crept under the radar but was spotted on the results finishing forty-ninth in 43:13 racing for Cardiff University.
With 53 in the senior women’s race and 71 in the Senior Men’s race the fields – as at the Bristol Cross-Challenge – were disappointing and one wonders whether the series of 5 races will continue beyond the current season. The fact that the race incorporated the Welsh Universities Championships didn’t add much to the field as Cardiff University and Cardiff Metropolitan University were the only two Universities to field athletes.
One thing worth note was the amazing sunshine after weeks of rain – sun-glasses were definitely the order of the day if you had any.
Keith Brackstone reports.