Brecon Gwent League – Saturday 8th February 2014

Just when you thought conditions couldn’t get worse along comes the Gwent League at Brecon and tops Pontypool, Killerton Park and Leamington Spa for underfoot and weather conditions. Once again the end of the men’s race was like a casualty clearing station and several of the men were helped to the showers in the early stages of hypothermia. Yours truly was so cold he struggled to put dry kit on to such an extent that by the time he achieved it that was also soaked and he drove back to Bristol in wet kit and couldn’t get warm despite setting the in-car heating to 28 degrees.

Alison Hurford sent this report for the under-11 and under-13 boys who turned out to race at Brecon with a covering message of a huge well done! Due to the miserable weather conditions there was only one way to keep warm you just had to go fast from the start and every lad went off with great intent in the initial stages. During the under-11 race Beck just ran out of steam early on and felt he just could not continue. However I felt it was very sporting that he was prepared to have a go, being so young in the age group. If his brothers are anything to go on, I am sure his turn will come. Otto ran very bravely in third position for a while until the cold got the better of him allowing Aidan and Caleb to go past in the second half of the race. Aidan ran really well in his first ever Gwent league and this result bodes well for next year when he will still be a novice boy.

Caleb again ran a very well paced race pulling through at the end. Their finishing positions were Aidan Oscroft in seventh place, Caleb Owen thirteenth and Otto Kingston seventeenth. 

The weather started to worsen as the five under-13 boys took to the line. Robert went off like a rocket and this enabled him to become more involved in the race therefore finishing much further up the field than usual. Keep this up Robert.

Stan and Nathan were well positioned throughout the race and never far apart. It is great to see training partners working so well together under race conditions. With one more Gwent to go they should finish in the top 10 overall.

The poor conditions seemed to suit Dan and this was his best run for a while keeping ahead of Harry who also looked much happier than his recent run at the Midland cross-country.

Overall everybody gave that bit extra and Ali thanks the parents for all their help on the day. She is looking forward to a fitting finale at Blaise Castle Estate on Saturday 1st March 2014.

Individual placings were Stan Harding-Hill in eleventh, Nathan Merchant in fifteenth place, Daniel Marshall in thirty-fourth, Harry Feehily in thirty-seventh and

Robert Kiekuth in fortieth place.

The Senior Ladies were out in force and like the under-13 Boys set off with intent; my favourite moment of the afternoon (there were a couple despite the weather) was hearing the commentator as the field appeared with not one or two or three Bristol & West vests in the front but four and with two more in the first eight it was a true show of strength. As ever the ladies were there in numbers as well – and as Senior Women’s Team Manager I take great delight in seeing the team spirit amongst such an enthusiastic group of athletes. Kate Goodhead ran out the eventual winner with a late surge as Jessie Sanzo – the long time leader – finished second. Behind those two Helen Sharpe ran her usual gutsy race to finish third with Charlotte Green looking very strong in fourth getting the better of Emma D’Alton (Westbury Harriers) who finished fifth. A tired Anna Burton finished sixth but is in the middle of a tough block of training and racing set by her coach and will run better at the National after a bit of tapering. That isn’t to belittle her performance which for someone only just into their second year in the sport was outstanding. In eighth place it was great to see Debbie Niccol racing again after a lay off through injury. I believe she is off travelling shortly which is a shame as she is a great team member to have – even if being based in London these days does restrict her appearances in local events. As soon as the results are on the Gwent League web-site I will finalise details on the blog but unofficial results from Chris Elson are as follows: Clare Jolliffe fifteenth, Julia Belyavin eighteenth, Ellen Harrison thirtieth, Sarah Everitt thirty-first, Tracy Allan forty-third, Becky James forty-seventh, Hayley Bennett forty-ninth, Becci Colquhoun fifty-fifth, Alison Hurford sixty-first, Emma Withers sixty-forth, Chris Burren eighty-second and Emma Jolliffe eighty-forth. It was great having so many athletes to cheer on and as well as taking the ‘A’ team on the day – well no one will beat 16 points for 5 scorers – there must be a host of age group winners with great runs from Jessie Sanzo (F35), Clare Jolliffe (F45) and Tracy Allan (F50). At least one of our front finishers was not given a disc so we anticipate that the final positions might change slightly.

In the younger age groups we had no under-11 girls – something we must look to rectify but the under-13 girls did us proud and it was great to see Nancy Dineen and Katie Jones well to the fore throughout the race with Nancy just getting the better of Katie in their private battle to the finish. Behind them there was excellent backing from Olivia Crofts and Emily Moore and I am sure they will have finished well up the team results when they are announced.

In the under-15 boys there were great runs from Hugh Sadler and Anton Mills and they were ably supported by Jack Flowers, Otis Harding-Hill, Billy Cochrane and Kyle Haynes – more details to follow. Again it was a very solid team performance and should have done their overall league standing no harm at all.

In the under-15 girls Hannah Dyer was the sole representative from the club and that late in the programme the course was almost beyond description. How the officials kept going is almost beyond me and they certainly merit special thanks for sticking to their task. In the older age group Maria Jones produced another good run and the extra work with Dave Taylor is certainly paying off.

The final race of the day saw another Bristol & West victory as Welshman Owain Jones made light work of the conditions to cruise home to a resounding win. Illness and injury had depleted the team but as ever Chris Elson had numbers out and Owain was the first of fifteen club finishers: the others being: Kit Grierson another new joiner from the University who had an excellent debut in eighteenth place. Danny Randell seemed to relish the conditions (it takes all sorts) in finishing twenty-ninth. There was then some great packing as Jarlath McKenna (thirty-second), Matt Krelle (thirty-eighth), Mark Edwards (fifty-first), Andy Malloy (fifty-second),Tom Watkins (sixtieth), Charlie Pantlin (sixty-eighth), Mark Burley (sixty-ninth), Tristan Daniels (eighty-eighth), Will Windell (one hundred and nineteenth), Peter Mountain (one hundred and thirty-sixth), Daryl Beggs (one hundred and forty-first) and H-P Kiekuth (205th) brought the club home. By the end most were in the early stages of exhaustion and/or hypothermia and for many it was the second time in a fortnight they had seen conditions that Chris Elson and I have rarely experienced in our combined 109 years in the sport!

Chris and I have had some emails and Facebook comments thanking us (and Dave Taylor, Dave Bedwell and Ali Hurford) for our support – I must say that I felt immensely proud to be a part of Bristol & West at Brecon; everyone gave 100%, many athletes ran their races and then supported club mates in other races and without exception verbal encouragement led to almost every club runner gaining that extra place or two in the final stages of the races – a tribute to athletes fitness and fortitude and the coaching preparation. Alison Mentioned the parents of the under-11 and under-13 boys but the same was true across boys and girls of all age groups with the parents being truly amazing and supportive.

Surely Blaise Castle on Saturday 1st March 2014 can’t be as wet – can it?

Keith Brackstone reports with input from Ali Hurford.