The South West Cross Country Champs are often seen as a difficult fixture, given the close nature of the race to the festive period, but this didn’t deter BWAC from being out in force – particularly in the senior men’s race.
Harry Allen reports on the men, and Keith Brackstone on the women.
The South West Inter-County Cross Country Championships were blessed with fantastic conditions this year; mild, calm and firm underfoot. Despite the undulating course, which included two steep climbs in each of the three laps, the senior men looked forward to a fast race.
Owain Jones and Jack Millar led out the team, maintaining a quick but considerate pace (in awareness of the upcoming inclines). At the first climb, a nasty 350m 8% obstacle, the field began to spread. If any were feeling regretful of Christmas indulgences, it was surely at this point. Fortunately, a cacophony of support from the Senior Women and coaches Chris Elson, Keith Brackstone and Mike Down kept the boys focussed.
As the race developed, Owain Jones moved comfortably into the lead, using the kind of pacing experience one could only expect from the former Welsh XC Champion. However, with Cheltenham’s lead man Phil Wylie giving chase, Owain had no chance to relax. With Mike Down’s warning “he’s gaining on you” in Owain’s ears, he made a final push for the line and held off the chase to win in 29.38. This was 1:20 quicker than his performance last year and a superb result for man and team. Not far behind, Jack Millar finished 4th in 30.01, showing an impressive return to form befitting of the international XC star.
Inspired by the performances up ahead, Harry Allen, Andy Watt and Josh Moody rallied together and began their own race for the coveted Bristol and West scoring positions. It was only on the final two climbs that Harry pulled away finishing in 7th (30.26), with Josh close behind in 9th (30.30) and Andy in 12th (30.51).
These 5 placings allowed the A team to dominate the team competition with 33 points, 142 points clear ahead of Team Bath AC in 2nd. This was a well-deserved result following the hard work that the boys had put in under Mike Down’s tutelage. The B team also put on an impressive display, highlighting the club’s strength in depth. They would have scored 239 points, which is 131 points better than the official 4th placed club. Special mention to Joe Ballard, who was close behind the A team in 16th (31.18) and newcomer Alberto Beltran, who despite admittedly starting off too fast, relished in the experience. Congratulations also to David Eagon (49th, 33:06), Peter Bains (56th, 33.40), Scott Watkins (79th, 35.14), Darren Garman (80th, 35.18), Anthony Roper (85th, 35.37), Jack Longstaff (91st, 36.02), Brad Pontin (92nd, 36.03), Neil Turney (95th, 36.27), and Daniel Tetheradge (113th, 38.12).
Owain was not the only crowned Bristol athlete, as Jonathan Goodland finished as the v60 champion in 38.38!
As always, thanks are made to Team Managers Mike Down and Chris Elson.
The men now look forward to the Midland and National Championships and hope to improve on last year’s results.
The men’s outstanding performance in the Senior Team competition added to the pressure on the Ladies Team with Team Manager and Coach looking to repeat the previous year’s team win at Aldon Hill in the South-West Cross-Country Championships. A pre-race brief saw the team asked to start steadily with the Team Manager wondering after the first kilometre whether the team had taken him too literally as Natalie Griffiths and Catie O’Donoghue were our lead runners but both were outside the top 10. Behind them Ellen Harrison was probably just outside the top 20 with Sarah Everitt our fourth placed runner with newcomers Katrina Entwistle and Sorrell Walsh well in the top half of the field. With many athletes running in County rather than club colours it was difficult to work out where the team lay but with Heidi Tregenza of Cornwall AC forging ahead and Emma Stepto from the same club well placed they looked the likeliest contenders for the team win.
Into the second half of the first lap and through the hilly section Natalie moved through into seventh place Catie just outside the top ten in a competitive group. Behind them Ellen and Katrina were also making inroads as was Sorrell while Sarah was finding the hills tough going. With ninety-one competitors the race was far more competitive than at the same venue in the previous year and it was clear that any positions the ladies could take on the second lap would be vital. Several of the men’s team were on the course giving vital encouragement and the team manager was doing his best to provide information as to what was needed. Up the final hill and Natalie moved through into sixth place (21:15) to lead the team home, despite a heavy cold during the week. Catie O’Donoghue finished strongly and just failed to make the top 10 finishing eleventh in 21:39 just two seconds outside the top ten. Ellen Harrison finished twentieth in 21:54 moving through the field strongly and generally using Becky Pierce of Team Bath as her marker throughout (Becky finished eighteenth just 4 seconds in front of Ellen). Katrina in her second race for the club (and first ever championship cross-country) finished twenty-fifth in 22:23 and looks like being a great addition to an already strong ladies squad. Behind her Sarah Everitt finished thirty-sixth in 23:10 which placed her sixth in an exceptionally high quality F45 category. Sorrell Walsh ran strongly throughout to finish thirty-ninth in 23:39. Sorrell has had a bit of a break from group sessions since leaving Victoria Park in East London when she moved to Bristol but regular sessions with the club will see her building on a very solid first run for the club.
The final ladies team result was 1. Bristol & West – 62 points, 2 . Cornwall Athletic Club – 79 points, 3. Avon Valley Runners – 128 points.
Team Manager, Keith Brackstone, is hoping that the club can build on this with a strong team performance in the Midland Counties Championships on Saturday 26th January 2019 at Newbold Comyn, Leamington.
Full results will follow. You can also read Kevin Fahey’s report of the senior ladies’ efforts on the Easy Runner blog here.