MIKE DOWN’S SOUTH WEST CROSS REVIEW

MIKE DOWN’S SOUTH WEST CROSS REVIEW
07 Jan

CHAMPS AGAIN IT’S SMASH ‘N GRAB ON ALDON HILL!

One can only say well done guys (and gals) for once again doing the club proud in the South West cross country championships at Aldon Hill, Yeovil. However you look at the results – four in the first six, including the individual silver and bronze medals for FELIX MCGRATH and KURT TAYLOR, our five counters all in the top ten, and the score of our second five finishers bettered only by the overall silver medallists Cornwall AC – this was as good a smash ‘n grab raid as we have made on these championships in recent years.

Felix McGrath and Kurt Taylor, 2nd and 3rd in the SW XC behind Jake Smith

When one considers too that arguably our four top cross country runners PETE LE GRICE, JACK MILLAR, WILL CHRISTOFI and ANDY CHAMBERS were not in our line-up, the results here was another outstanding display of the team’s growing strength in depth as we launch another assault on the country’s major winter cross and road championships.

Call it the taming of Aldon Hill if you like, though a pound to a penny more than a few runners’ sore limbs on Monday morning would agree to a score draw! Not Felix however, for when it comes to horses for courses our good doctor knows how to pick ’em. He gave us a first glimpse of how to speed up and down slopes when winning the Tri-Counties title at Bath University last month, but the leg-sapping ramp and fast downhill stretch though the Aldon Hill valley that had to be encountered four times in less than half an hour provided an altogether stronger dose of his fell running expertise.  The inscrutable expression on his face each time he appeared to breeze up the brutal climb while others’ legs were clearly screaming for mercy suggests that he has vaccinated himself against such moments of fleeting torture!

In the circumstances it was predictable that it was Felix who led the chase of the fierce early pace set by experienced Wiltshire hardman ED KNUDSEN, who himself was soon joined by the pre-race favourite Cardiff’s international road runner JAKE SMITH on the preliminary hilly loop before the main lap was re-joined that had to be covered four times. At this point Kurt, BEN WESTHENRY and ANDY WATT were grouped together no more than 10m down on Felix., with HARRY ALLEN duly making sure we already had our scoring quintet well to the fore.

Knudsen, apparently unaware of Smith’s pedigree, perhaps unwisely tried to keep forcing the pace on the second lap, but by the third time round Smith had duly made his class tell forging ahead on his own, while Felix with Kurt still in his slipstream, began to close the gap on Knudsen, with Andy and Ben now well clear of the rest in 5th and 6th positions respectively.

Not much actually changed from there to the finish, other than that Knudsen, having looked as if he was weakening third time up the hill with Felix and Kurt by then in relatively close attendance, seemed to find an extra gear on the last long run along the valley in a final effort to drop our pair before the final decisive climb. But though he managed to open a small gap on his two rivals, Felix soon reeled him in up the long drag with Kurt struggling desperately to limit the damage before the long run down to the finish. Off the crest of the climb Felix, as unperturbed as ever by the ascent, wasted no time in stealing the initiative on the Wiltshire man and went headfirst for home to secure the silver medal. Kurt meanwhile, having agonisingly limited his loss on the two of them to no more than 20 metres at the top of the ramp, used his superior natural speed on the final 500m run-in to overhaul Knudsen within sight of the line and finish just two seconds down on his clubmate and take the bronze medal in what was undoubtedly the best cross country race of his career to date.

1st club team at the South West XC champs!

Behind our leading pair Andy and Ben were never in danger of losing their top six positions, with Andy once again underlining the remarkable progress he has made during the past six months and Ben proving indisputably that he is on the way back after more than two years in the wilderness created by his chronic shin problem. Harry meanwhile, despite his well advertised dislike not only of cross country but even more so of hills, did all that was necessary to close our score in 10th place not that far ahead of team captain OWAIN JONES and JED BARTLETT, who had progressively worked their way through the chasing pack to provide ideal back up in 11th and 13th positions respectively. Owain, who was actually defending the title he won last year, was happy enough to have got round as well as he did after missing so much training last year due to a niggling knee injury, while Jed again demonstrated the continued improvement he has made over the last 12 months. Further back DAVE EAGON in 30th, PETE BAINS 45th and ROB FARLEY 68th completed our second five with a score that would have been good enough for the bronze medals.

Interestingly the team results produced the unusual stat that our club team, thanks to Ben who was representing Dorset, ended up with a lower score than the winner of the accompanying inter county championship Avon, of which we provided all six counters. Finally though we failed to produce the individual winner, we did have a champion on the day in JON GOODLAND, who took the V60 gold, while stalwart trouper TONY ROPER added the bronze in the V50 category.

Jon Goodland takes the M60 title.

So begins the countdown to next month’s National cross country championships, the first stepstone for which looks to be Chepstow’s Speedway 10K on Sunday week that on the face of it promises to be the club’s unofficial club championship! The Midland cross championships follow two weeks later, for which anyone wanting to run who hasn’t already told us  –  and that includes the National as well – should let Chris know urgently as the entries close midweek.

PS News of a fine run by ANDY CHAMBERS, who must surely must be the fittest unfit man in the club. Having declined to enter the South west champs on the grounds that he was not fit enough to do himself justice, Andy proved what he might achieve when fully fit by pushing former clubmate TOM MERSON (24:22) all the way in Exeter’s inaugural CityRuns New Year 5 mile road race to smash his previous best by more than half a minute with a time of 24:33 that takes him to the top of the club rankings for the distance.

Mike Down.

Bristol and West South West XC results

Ladies

5 635 Isabelle Talbot Price Bristol & West AC Avon SW 22.04
6 582 Natalie Griffiths Bristol & West AC Avon SW 22.12
7 580 Annabel Granger Bristol & West AC Avon F45 22.19
18 614 Catie O’Donoghue Bristol & West AC Avon SW 23.10
22 578 Elaina Gard Bristol & West AC Avon SW 23.30
31 570 Sarah Everitt Bristol & West AC Avon F45 24.20
50 558 Emma Clarke Bristol & West AC Avon SW 26.09
56 594 Georgina Holt Bristol & West AC Avon SW 27.38

 

Men

2 774 Felix McGrath Bristol & West AC Avon SM 27.30
3 819 Kurt Taylor Bristol & West AC Avon SM 27.32
5 828 Andy Watt Bristol & West AC Avon SM 27.54
6 831 Benedict Westhenry Bristol & West AC Dorset SM 28.01
10 685 Harry Allen Bristol & West AC Avon SM 28.41
11 763 Owain Jones Bristol & West AC Avon SM 28.47
13 693 Jed Bartlett Bristol & West AC Avon SM 28.51
30 729 David Eagon Bristol & West AC Avon SM 29.37
45 691 Peter Bains Bristol & West AC Avon SM 30.32
68 734 Robert Farley Bristol & West AC Gloucestershire SM 31.55
74 686 Aled Anderson Bristol & West AC Not SW SM 32.11
76 697 Samuel Bentley Bristol & West AC Avon SM 32.17
88 805 Anthony Roper Bristol & West AC Somerset M50 33.25
122 738 Jonathan Goodland Bristol & West AC Avon M60 36.05
124 768 Nathan Lomax Cooke Bristol & West AC Avon SM 36.31

 

Juniors

4 266 Megan Hornung Bristol & West AC Avon U15G 14.38
15 279 Amy Nicholls Bristol & West AC Avon U15G 15.59
23 262 Fleur Hayden Bristol & West AC Avon U15G 16.35
42 353 Jay Hunt Bristol & West AC Avon U15B 18.29
50 351 Joseph Hull Bristol & West AC Avon U15B 19.17