MIKE DOWN’S SOUTH WEST CROSS FINAL COUNTDOWN

02 Jan

Title not on offer!

If anyone thought the recent Weston Prom 5 and our Xmas handicap race two days later would be a call for easing up for the Christmas festivities, you would be underestimating the competitive focus of our runners, many of whom have been in action since in the build up to the first major championship of the winter season – Sunday’s South West cross championships at Aldon Hill, Yeovil.

Our new Tri-Counties champion FELIX MCGRATH (19:34) led the way at Clevedon on Boxing Day. Exploiting his well known love for running up and down hills, he stamped his authority on the annual festive 4 mile race just after halfway on the long drag up Holly Lane to the top of the course. Once clear he was never headed, yet he was never able to ease off as clubmate ANDY CHAMBERS (19:46) never gave up the chase and lost no further ground on the long run back down into the town and finish, Felix’s eventual winning margin being around 60 metres. Behind our leading pair, recent recruit JOE CONNORS (20:23) was just outsprinted for 4th place by fellow BTC member ALEX CROSSLAND (20:22), while ROB FARLEY (21:08) and SAM COTTERELL (21:10) both ran well to finish 12th and 13th
respectively in what was a huge field.

This past weekend it was KURT TAYLOR who stole the honours. Primed by what was his best ever mile rep session in near gale force conditions at Aztec West on Christmas Eve morning, he slashed no less than 80 seconds off his previous best time in the popular Ribble Valley 10K with a ground breaking effort of 30:15. Further back his track training partner JOSH MOODY proved he is regaining fitness following a troublesome groin strain that has restricted his training this autumn by also breaking new ground with a new pb of 32:04, but ADAM STOKES was presumably less happy with his time, though he has been nursing an achilles problem for the last month or so.

Meanwhile closer home, but also breaking new ground PETE BAINS chose the Cardiff Parkrun to dip under 16 mins for the first time, his new 5K pb of 15:52 well and truly earning his BTC spurs!

Sunday too saw another spate of pb’s in the Gloucester 10 mile road race. ANDY DRAKE was the pacesetter here, his 55:55 for 6th place carving a massive four minutes plus off his previous best for the distance, while not far behind him JAMIE HINTON (56:38) 8th, ALEX
WHITTAKER (57:31) 11th and GARETH HUGHES (58:55) 15th also broke new ground.

Finally with the testing climbs at Aldon Hill on Sunday in mind our home based members of the team put the old year to sleep with a gruelling mudfest workout on Horfield Common on New Year’s Eve in final preparation for what will be our 15th consecutive defence of the South West cross country title! As intimated we have never lost the men’s team race since the championships were restructured as a stand-alone event in 2005 and inevitably we are hoping to continue this domination for the 16th time on Sunday. Once again the team will be headed by our team captain and defending individual champion OWAIN JONES, but by his own
admission following an injury ravaged summer and autumn, he is anticipating a support role rather than the blazing trail he set at the front last year.

Although our two South West cross specialists PETE LE GRICE and ANDY CHAMBERS will be missing, they are replaced by two others of our South West born athletes CALLUM JONES and BEN WESTHENRY, both of whom are on the comeback trail themselves from long suffered chronic injuries, Ben having only just returned to racing after two years on the side lines.  With our two other cross specialists internationals WILL CHRISTOFI and
JACK MILLAR also unavailable, it will be left to our new Tri-Counties champion FELIX MCGRATH, who should relish the contours of the course and in form road men HARRY ALLEN, KURT TAYLOR and ANDY WATT along with Ben, Callum and Owain to provide what we trust will be a winning platform.

The main challenge is likely to come from Devon’s top team Bideford led by RONNIE RICHMOND, but the growing strength in depth of our squad should prove decisive, and with only five to count it will be interesting to see how our second five score, especially as JED
BARTLETT, JOE CONNORS, FELIX RUSBY, DAVE EAGON, ANDY COOKE and PETE BAINS will be providing impressive back up to those already named.

So it’s time to get serious guys. Let’s set a real marker down for what’s to come in 2020!

PS Anyone with transport needs please contact Kurt (BTC group) or Chris (other) who are coordinating transport arrangements.