While fifth place in the National 6-stage road relay championship may have been the frustrating common denominator of our many near medal attempts over the 14 years since the club re branded as Bristol and West, our experience in the English cross-country relay championships, albeit more inconsistent, has been much better rewarded, finishing third on no less than three occasions. Like the 6-stage road relay, however, it is an event that the club has never won in its long history. This mind you is perhaps less surprising as with only four runners involved the leading clubs' usual superiority is more easily challenged. A natural consequence of this is that it is nearly always one of the most exciting events of the year with the top ten of the 200 plus teams in contention frequently finishing within the same minute. Evidence of this is that the fastest overall time we have recorded was ten years ago in 2007 when we had to be satisfied with only seventh place - close as it was to the medals and our highest position up to that date - when all our four runners were separated by only a few seconds, headed by the 15:14 clocking of ROBBIE BUGDEN, whose talent and humour we still miss so much following his tragic parachute accident. It was two years later when we made the medal podium for the first time in the club's history after a sensational last lap by TOM RUSSELL snatched the bronze medals almost on the line. His time that day of 15:08 remains our fastest apart from the legendary ROB WHALLEY'S 14:49 in 2005 when we could still finish only ninth. It was another four years before we finished in the frame again, only to be denied the bronze medals due to OWAIN JONES' name being left off our entry due to a computer glitch that meant we were never able to review our list of runners. We appealed, but it fell on deaf ears. Undeterred OWAIN led the way the following year with our best time that day of 15:14, but in another close finish we had to settle for forth place. Then to continue the jinx two years ago we seemed certain of another set of medals when STEVE MITCHELL took over with a clear lead on the anchor leg, but looking more like a beaten up boxer with his face badly swollen due to a tooth abscess, his s literally gave way in the closing stages and we ended up only 6th Yet how fortunes can change and last year ,very much against the odds as we went into the race without any real medal hopes, especially after having to bring in JACK MILLAR as a late replacement along with a half fit RICH PETERS, we exceeded all expectations. Inspired by a cracking 15:12 run by WILL CHRISTOFI, with admirable back up from Owain and Jack, Rich managed to snatch the bronze medals behind Aldershot and Tonbridge. So can we at last go one or two better this weekend? On the face of it there seems to be no reason why not, for though Rich is still out of commission and TOM MERSON unavailable due to a recent job switch, our chosen quartet looks as good as we have ever fielded and certainly stronger than last year's, with captain Owain able to demote himself to the B team. Both JARLATH MCKENNA and DAN STUDLEY have produced outstanding performances recently. Jarlath surprised everyone, including himself, by finishing an unofficial seventh in the opening UK Cross Challenge race at Cardiff that was held in conjunction with the Gwent league. Not only was he only just behind GB international Ieuan Thomas, but within half a minute of Graham Rush who is arguably one of the leading distance runners in the country at the moment. Dan for his part made a spectacular 10 mile debut in the Great South Run at Portsmouth, not only making the top ten of the huge field in ninth place, but also dipping under the magic 50 minute barrier at his first attempt at the distance in an impressive 50:41. Meanwhile STEVE MITCHELL, who will relish a return to the 5k distance at Mansfield, enjoyed an easy training workout behind Jarlath in the Gwent League, finishing in the top ten ahead of club mates MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI and OWAIN JONES, while JACK MILLAR has followed up his ground-breaking run in the 6-stage by finishing a close second in the annual Oxford Cuppers cross-country event that is the first trial for the annual Oxbridge match in early December. Strong as our team looks, the opposition is as tough as ever, headed by our two conquerors last year Aldershot and Tonbridge, who were again too good for us in the recent 6-stage. Likewise the new kids on the block Lincoln Wellington, who also beat us in the 6-stage and have gone on to win the Northern cross relay championship. While those three teams are certain to be in the shake-up, both Morpeth, the pride of the North East, and Highgate, who had a battle royal the year before last, are also likely to figure. So it's a formidable challenge. Anyway let's give it our best shot and dedicate our effort to Robbie Bugden, who led the team ten years ago. If we clock as fast an overall time as the boys did that day, we won't be far away! The following are the two teams in proposed running order: A - STEVE MITCHELL, JACK MILLAR, JARLATH MCKENNA, DAN STUDLEY. B - JOSH MOODY, MILES CHANDLER, HARRY LANE, OWAIN JONES. There is a minibus leaving the Water Tower on the Downs at 9.30am. Please let Chris or me know if you want a place. We know that most of you will be making your own way.