The mudlarks have had their say, and while this year several of our runners could have done with a bit more mud, our bronze medal performance in the National at Leeds was still a fitting reward to a very successful cross country season that included defence of both the South West and Gwent League titles as well as another set of bronze medals in the Midland championships that we had not contested seriously for the previous five years.
The immediate challenge now is to at least match or preferably better that record in the forthcoming road relay season. We start this weekend in the Midland 12stage championship with you could say little to gain and everything to lose, having won the title for the past three years. It is a remarkable fact, and surely something to be proud of, that since the event was first staged at Sutton Park in 1977 we had only finished third twice in 1978 and 1989 before our rebirth as Bristol and West in 2003. Since then however we have medalled no less than 11 times as follows: 2005 2nd; 2006 1st; 2010 3rd; 2011 2nd; 2012 1st; 2013 cancelled; 2014 3rd; 2015 2nd; 2016 1st; 2017 1st; 2018 1st.
It is a formidable record, but no pressure guys it creates its own albatross as we are there to be shot at, and you can be sure that our closest rivals and Midland cross conquerors Notts and Birchfield will be determined to exploit any weakness in our team. Even so Chris and I are confident that our current crop of runners are more than up for the challenge despite the fact that we will not have the services of our star trio DAN STUDLEY, PETE LE GRICE and MIKE WILSMORE. The reason for our confidence is the growing strength in depth of our current squad, all of whom have been sharpening their form since the National cross.
The last two races of the cross country season saw the ever trimmer JOSHBOARD MOODY amazed to find himself coming home third in the final Gwent League race at Blaise Castle, with MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI 5th and JED BARTLETT 9th also featuring in the top ten. Then the weekend before last WILL CHRISTOFI more than made amends for his failure to meet his own expectations at the National with a top 20 finish in the Inter-Counties championship race that incorporated the World Cross trial. His 16th place underlined the form he had been showing in his training, while only ten places back fellow Oxford grad student JACK MILLAR also bettered his National position in 26th place, as did a still no more than half fit team captain OWAIN JONES and a cold free ANDY WATT in 87th and 108th positions respectively.
Meanwhile back on the road DAN STUDLEY has been busy. He led the way by breaking 64 mins for the first time in the Barcelona half marathon and was the first Briton to finish in 63:57. He followed this up by only narrowly missing another sub 30min clocking as he left the opposition for dead in the Bourton 10K in 30:06, but then failed to match his own expectations in last weekend’s Reading half. Hampered by a recurring toe problem in the latter stages he had to settle for 8th place in 65:24. Behind him however MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI again underlined his ability over longer distances by smashing his previous best with a time of 68: 37 for 22nd place.
Dan in fact was upstaged on the day by club mate PETE LE GRICE who in turn broke 65mins for the first time in the Bath half and surprised himself by ending up on the podium with another huge pb of 64:55 for third place behind established internationals Chris Thompson (63:10) and Nick Goolab (64:24). Just as happy little more than a couple of minutes down in 8th place HARRY ALLEN also shattered his previous best by a similar margin with a time of 67:47.
Back over 10K the previous weekend KURT TAYLOR was only five seconds outside his personal best on a very windy day with a time of 31:37 in the Trafford 10K, while behind him JED BARTLETT was very pleased to set a new pb of 32:40 despite the adverse conditions to prove what an asset he is going to be to the club. Like Kurt the conditions foiled ADAM WILSON’S target, but he too was not far short of his best with a time of 33:46.
So back to Saturday’s Midland championship. A successful defence of the title would seriously boost our chances for next month’s National 12stage, for as previously indicated Dan, Pete and international 1500m runner Mike Wilsmore, who reports he is contemplating a move up to 5000m on the track this summer, are still to come into the first team. Bearing that in mind Saturday’s race will inevitably act as a trial on the short legs for the National two weeks later.
It will also give our two newcomers to the squad CALLUM JONES, who makes his debut for the club, and JED BARTLETT a chance to familiarise themselves with the short stage, the configuration of which has found out many when doing it for the first time. There is a significant difference to it from the old course, with the extended early loop meaning you have run a mile before hitting the long uphill drag that has always been a critical part of the stage. Unfortunately the other comparatively recent change to lump the four long stages together at the beginning of the event tends to turn the race into a procession, with the leading clubs predictably separating from the bulk of the field before the short stages even start. The net result for those in front is that the short stages often resolve into a series of time trials with huge gaps frequently developing. Consequently the running order is generally of little tactical significance.
Everything as always will depend on whether our chief rivals get their top teams out, but if last year is anything to go by it could still be a very close race as we only just held off Birchfield Harriers by 20 seconds or so. What’s more they have two impressive Ethiopians in their line-up as well as several improving youngsters now, so we cannot afford any slip ups. Our closest rivals in recent years Notts AC are sure to have a say in the outcome too, with internationals DOUGGIE MUSSON and JOHNNY THEWLIS both down to run on the long legs.
Chris too is hoping for a top ten performance from the B team, which on paper looks to be the strongest we have ever fielded, while for the first time he has managed to put together a C team which I can assure you is a feat in its own right and for which he deserves great credit.
Finally a reminder that the coach is leaving the water tower on the Downs at 8.45am, and anyone still wanting transport should contact Chris urgently.
BRISTOL & WEST TEAMS (in provisional running order):
A – LONG STAGES: HARRY ALLEN; ANDY WATT; JARLATH MCKENNA; WILL CHRISTOFI.
SHORT STAGES: OWAIN JONES; RICH PETERS; KURT TAYLOR; MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI; JOSH MOODY; JED BARTLETT; CALLUM JONES; JACK MILLAR.
B – 1 PETE BAINS, 2 GRAHAM BREEN, 3 HENRY COCHRANE 4 DAVE EAGON 5 STEVE GOSS, 6 ADAM WILSON, 7 BILLY COCHRANE, 8 ROBBIE STEWART, 9 SAM COTTRELL, 10 NICK ROBERTS, 11 MILES CHANDLER, 12 OTIS MONDIR
C – 1 ANDREW DRAKE, 2 DARREN GARMEN, 3 NEIL TURNEY 4 ANTHONY HALL, 5 KIERAN BATTY, 6 DANIEL HURLEY, 7 MATT BOND , 8 BRAD PONTIN, 9 SAM BENTLEY, 10 TIM WHITE, 11 HENRY SLY 12 SEAN LEE
Travelling reserves: Dave Bedwell, Nicko Brooke.
Non travelling: Reserves James Dryda, Jack Longstaff, Nathan-Lomax-Cooke, Tom Newman, Mark Taylor, Shon Evans, Greg Chant, Ciaran McQuade
Mark Edwards, Dean Smith