Gwent League Survey

21 Feb

Message below from the Gwent League, all club members are encouraged to offer their thoughts on this wide ranging survey about the Gwent League XC events:

At the 2019 Gwent League AGM we made the decision to survey the member clubs on race distances. We’re also taking this opportunity to seek your views on the running of the league in general.

The attached survey was distributed by hand at the Chepstow fixture and will also be distributed at the final fixture of the season at Swansea on Sunday March 1st. It’s also available here on the Gwent League.

I’d be grateful if you could distribute this to your members as we’d like as large a response as possible. We’re asking for feedback from all age groups so if your club has a junior section please include them in the distribution.

The deadline for surveys being returned is midnight on Sunday, March 15th 2020.

 

MIKE DOWN’S NATIONAL CROSS PREVIEW

21 Feb

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS – ARE WE READY TO SEIZE IT?

The major fascination of all competitive sport is its unpredictability, no more so than in an event like our men’s National cross country championship, which this year has attracted entries from more than 390 clubs to what looks sure to be a really testing course at Wollaton Park given the unusually wet winter we have been experiencing.

While known current form can narrow down the main contenders for the individual medals, the outcome of the team championship depends more than anything on which of the major clubs involved succeed in getting all their leading runners to the start. Our record in this respect over the last two years has been pretty good, taking the silver medals against the odds at Parliament Hill two years ago – the club’s best ever performance if the championship – and likewise the bronze medals at Harewood House, Leeds last year. Nor should one underestimate the significance of those achievements, for though we were founder members of the English Cross Country Union in 1884, we had only medalled once before, taking the bronze medals in 2008 – and that too came since the rebranding of the club as Bristol and West in 2004. The fact remains that we have never won the senior men`s team championship in the 136 years of its existence!

Rumours abound about who is running, and who not, but from our point of view we look set to be fielding our strongest ever team, with only HARRY ALLEN, JACK BANCROFT and BEN WESTHENRY, all of whom are never at their best on yielding ground, missing from what would be a full strength line-up. Our top finisher last year in 18th place marathon international PETE LE GRICE heads the team again with our two cross country internationals JACK MILLAR, who has been in the form of his life this winter, and WILL CHRISTOFI, who it will not be forgotten made the top ten two years ago.

The back-up to these three is led by our new Tri-Counties champion and South West silver medallist FELIX MCGRATH and KURT TAYLOR, the bronze medallist in both those races behind Felix, along with our two other outstanding West country runners CALLUM JONES and ANDY CHAMBERS. Callum underlined his class at Armagh last week, and despite the intensity of his training being compromised this winter by a chronic groin strain, he has been making up for it with a big mileage which could pay dividends over the demanding 12K championship distance, while as for Andy he has opted for a warm weather training period in Spain to complete his preparation for the race and feels he is going as well as he ever has.

While our scoring six should come from those seven, all of whom apart from perhaps Pete, Callum and Kurt will relish the likely  gruelling underfoot conditions that seem inevitable after the rain of the last few weeks, there will be strong support behind from the team’s most improved runner this season ANDY WATT, who only just missed making the top ten in the Midland championship, along with the experience of team captain OWAIN JONES and JARLATH MCKENNA, both of whom were key members of our 2018 and 2019 medal-winning teams, as well as JOSH MOODY, who surprised everyone, including himself, by making the top 100 last year and scoring for the bronze medal-winning team. It is even conceivable that we could have as many as ten runners in that coveted top 100 of the huge field of up to 2500 runners, which would make us serious contenders for the subsidiary nine to count classification, while others who might contribute to that extra challenge include our two other Midland bronze medallists JED BARTLETT and GRAHAM BREEN, recent recruit JOE CONNORS, OLLY SHEPPARD, MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI and PETE BAINS.

Despite rumours that last year’s individual silver medallist EMILE CAIRESS and track international PHILIP SESEMANN are not expected to line up for LEEDS, last year’s all-conquering cross and road relay champions will still start firm favourites, such is their remarkable strength in depth, along with the runaway 2018 winners and runners-up last year TONBRIDGE, plus the three recently crowned new area champions ALDERSHOT (South), SALE (North) and BIRCHFIELD (Midlands). Led by Ethiopian pair OMAR AHMED and KHALID ABDULLAH, the individual Midland gold and bronze medallists, Birchfield are reported to be targeting the race this year, while the dark horses could well be BEDFORD, who like us rarely aim for the area championship and have been boosted by the recent signing of AARON SCOTT from Lincoln.

To have any hope of taking the team title you invariably need to have your six counters in the top 50. Leeds’ winning total last year for instance was a remarkable 110pts, Tonbridge the year before 131pts, an average of plus or minus 20th, but this year a score of around 150pts may well be more than good enough, but that’s still an average of 25th. Nevertheless a total of 180-200pts looks well within our reach and should put us well in contention for medals of one colour or another. This race has been our target all winter guys. The opportunity is there, and remember if we don`t take it another club will!

Mike Down.

Facilities: Whitehall Horizontal Jump Pits

19 Feb

As many of you know the horizontal jump pits were fouled by animals over the Christmas period. The sand was treated very quickly in line with ROSPA guidance and in agreement with a number of our coaches, has been in use for a number of weeks now.

The even better news is that our landlords have ordered the delivery of replacement sand to refill both jump pits.

Arrangements are also being made for track repairs as well as a deep clean of the track at some point during March. We will advise dates and any consequences on training when we have them.

MIKE DOWN’S NATIONAL CROSS COUNTDOWN NO4

19 Feb

THE VAPOUR FLIES AT ARMAGH

Many of our first team runners took time out from their National preparations to make the annual pilgrimage to Armagh for the UK’s top 5K road race. What is it about this race that year after year smashes its own record-breaking times? One answer is the weather. How could a winter evening in February sandwiched between Storms Chiara and Dennis once again produce perfect racing conditions? Maybe it’s the Brexit effect this year, or could it just be the latest reaction to the notorious Nike Vapourflies? Whatever the explanation the annual pb paper chase once again defied all logic, with no less than 21 men breaking 14mins and nearer 140 15mins and what’s more not an African among them!

Only four of our 12 who made the trip – HARRY ALLEN, JACK BANCROFT, KURT TAYLOR and MIKE WILSMORE – failed to fly faster than ever before albeit only by a few seconds, and all of them had had their preparations compromised in some way by injury problems or illness. Harry’s training has been hampered by an ankle problem, Jack by chronic achilles tendinitis, Kurt by a bout of flu and Mike by on-going foot issues.

As expected our top track and cross runners on paper – CALLUM JONES and JACK MILLAR – duly led the way, both clocking substantial new PBs of 14:20, Callum despite having his training this winter periodically affected by a groin injury (osteitis pubis). Even so their times were only good enough for a place just inside the top 50! Harry (14:35), Jack B (14:41), Kurt (14:47) were next to finish, closely followed by our BTC associate ALEX CROSSLAND (14:47), JOSH MOODY (14:49), and Mike (15:00).

The rest of the squad all ran faster than ever before, while both JOE CONNORS (15:19) and ADAM WILSON (15:34) apparently might have gone even quicker had they not set 2K PBs en route! Sandwiched between them JED BARTLETT (15:27) shaved a few more seconds off his previous best, as did OLLY SHEPPARD (15:37) and PETE BAINS (15:47). To put it all in perspective Pete’s time could win most local parkruns, and even possibly our own Pomphrey 5K, yet it was only fast enough here for 217th position!

My own prediction is that the Vapour will fly even faster next year as the shoe companies continue to vie with one another to produce the perfect “springboard”, be it by further juxtaposition of carbon fibre plates or varying composition of foam. However for all of you it’s now back to the real world of a windswept Aztec West on Tuesday evening. At least a good old slice of British mud should produce an even playing-field at Wollatton Park on Saturday, on more of which I will report later in the week.

Competition Roundup – 13-FEB-2020

Competition Roundup – 13-FEB-2020
13 Feb

Gwent League, Pomphrey 5k and more!

A lot has happened in the last week, including the Gwent League XC match organised by B&W at Chepstow, in case you missed any here they all are:

Chepstow Gwent League XC reports:

Mike Down’s National XC Countdown No.3

Pomphrey Hill 5k series positions after 4 races are now available here

Mike Strange has been hard at work compiling the latest addition to the club’s All Time Ranking lists, located here and now include the Womens 1500m!

Chepstow Gwent League Cross-Country – a view from the field

13 Feb

Steve Grant reports

Bristol & West has not hosted a Gwent League Cross-Country race day for a long time and we managed to convince the League to fund a more salubrious venue to
make our return. They very much regarded this type of venue as a new departure and were willing to support it as a trial. We need to wait and see what the League made of the event and its finances. They have a wide ranging questionnaire on their website so if you liked or didn’t like Chepstow, let them know as well sharing your views on other issues such chip timing and gender equality of race distances – https://www.gwent-league.org.uk/

We started investigating venues back in March and settled on Chepstow Racecourse after a viability check on a truly horrendous wet and windy day and a follow up visit to do the detailed course layout on a blistering hot day. That’s British weather for you.

All the exciting stuff of further negotiations with the League, identification and selection of the paramedics, preparation of course information and maps, risk
assessment and scheduling of our on-course marshals eventually got us to the race weekend.

The course was set up on Friday after a trip to Cardiff to get the mats to cover the roads. The first surprise was that the inner rail of the racecourse had been moved near the Start area requiring a course modification and the loss of another interesting up and down. Most other things were as expected but deciding to set the course up on Friday rather than Saturday morning had already paid off. With every stake Bristol & West owns used somewhere on the course, we were ready and hoped the wind wouldn’t give us a wrecked course in the morning. On race day the overnight and daytime weather was being kind and with the marshals deployed, the U11’s got the races going. You have to love the enthusiasm of this age group and with decent size fields they give us all some encouragement
about the future of the sport.

All was going well until we realised the ‘link lap’ could have been better laid out. After a quick redistribution of our on-course marshals, “ assertive vocal stakes and tape” were deployed to clear the path for runners doing multiple laps. It wasn’t perfect but it worked, and is about the only significant area we need to modify if there is a next time, but it is an easy fix.

The races were clicking past with plenty of opportunity for the marshals to cheer on our red and white vests and the good representations from the other Bristol clubs despite the South-West schools event being held on the same day. There was lots of watch checking going on in the younger age groups so maybe our  coaches could have a word.

The SW & Masters race looked like a B&W takeover from the front of the field to about 1/3 rd of the way down, and the fantastic results back that up. Marshals have to be ready for all eventualities and a very hot and distressed Newport runner stripped off just to the point of decency, thrust her second layer top into our Marshals arms saying something like “too hot,.. can’t .run , too warm” and then she was off putting her vest back on as she ran. What a great competitive attitude.

The biggest test of any course is the race with the largest field, in this case it was the SM & Masters race and it was a proper spectacle to behold. As the leaders approached the middle of the course, you could still see a solid trail of moving men on the far hill about 800m away. One of the paramedic teams couldn’t get over the number of runners and the level of effort that was being expelled, and they are well used to attending sporting events.

After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the clear up, and it is then that you realise how big the course is. With a small band of helpers and the ability to get cars on the
course, we got there but not quite quick enough to get the last of us off site before they locked the gates. It’s only funny now because we chanced over someone who had keys after about 30 minutes.

On to the roll of honour for making this event happen:

  • The very special on-the day volunteers in alphabetical order– Neil Barratt, Matt Burden, Tom Burgess, Tanya Chowdery and children, Sian Davis, Chris Elson, Ellen Harrison, Nicky Hodges, Bill Hull, Tariq Kurd, Sarah McNamara, Rosey Mushens and Paul Owen
  • The very very special on-the-day volunteers who had no reason to be at Chepstow other than to help out – Mike Lewin, Nick Roberts and Fliss Russell
  • The event preparation and course layout team – Keith Brackstone, Roger Brockelsby, Steve Grant and Owain Jones

MIKE DOWN’S NATIONAL CROSS COUNTDOWN NO3

13 Feb

IT’S WOLLATON PARK VIA ARMAGH PAPER CHASE!

With the first of our big winter targets now just ten days away and counting, it’s time to reprise what our runners have been up to since the Midland cross championships. Our Tri-Counties champion and South West silver medallist FELIX MCGRATH, who missed the Midland event due to a holiday in the States, returned to action with a reassuring effort in the popular Alsager 5M. Despite racing almost straight off the plane he was well satisfied at holding five minute mile pace all the way to finish a creditable 13th in 25:02.

On the same day further south marathon man PETE LE GRICE also returned to competition in the Chichester 10K. Unfortunately he suffered a minor problem with his breathing, albeit nothing like as devastating as he had experienced in the Frankfurt marathon back in October. The net result was that he had to be satisfied with a time of only 30:59, though he is unworried about this latest episode and has already begun his training build-up to the London marathon.

Meanwhile not so far from Chichester at Sherborne in Dorset JOHNNY SUTTLE failed by less than half a minute to win the Blackmore Vale Lions Half marathon, finishing a close third in 75:08.That weekend also saw the welcome return to action of JACK BANCROFT, who has been sidelined with a chronic achilles problem since the autumn, and hopefully just in time for the spring road relays he clocked an encouraging 15:23 just ahead of JOSH MOOODY at the Cardiff Parkrun.

Moving on to last weekend congratulations are due to JACK MILLAR, who had led our team home  in 4th place at the Midland championships. As a result of his performance there as well as as his two earlier top ten finishes in UK Cross Challenge races at Cardiff and Milton Keynes, he was selected for the six man England team that contested the latest Belgium Cross Cup race. It was Jack’s first international selection on the continent and he more than did himself justice by finishing third Briton in 11th place.

Jack was not our only runner in European action at the weekend, as ANDY CHAMBERS, who has been honing his fitness for the National on a warm weather training trip to Spain, saw off the challenge of a Finnish track champion to win a local 8K race in an impressive time of 24:36, and that too despite losing some ten seconds through taking a wrong turn near the finish.

Main focus on the home front at the weekend was the club’s promotion of the latest Gwent League race at Chepstow racecourse. JOHNNY SUTTLE, who is a glutton for punishment and another of our runners in heavy marathon training, led Chris Elson’s team to another overall victory in 6th place. He was chased all the way by our evergreen vet GRAHAM BREEN in 9th place, while behind our leading pair OLLY SHEPPARD produced his best run of the winter in 12th place, with ROB FARLEY 21st, ANDY COOKE 22nd, MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI 27th and PETE BAINS 30th, all in the top 30 of the huge field to confirm our superiority.

Attention now switches temporarily back to the road this week and the annual pilgrimage to Ireland for the Armagh international 5K. Not only is it one of the year’s PB havens, but if you want to make the year’s top 50 5K times, it`s a race you simply can’t afford to miss – a veritable Vapourfly paper chase! Our BTC training group needed no inviting, with a near full strength squad making the trek across the Irish Sea. At the last count our prospective line-up included HARRY ALLEN, PETE BAINS, JED BARTLETT, CALLUM JONES, JACK MILLAR, JOSH MOODY, OLLY SHEPPARD, KURT TAYLOR, ADAM WILSON and MIKE WILSMORE.

Kurt travels despite having only just shaken off a nasty bout of flu, but unfortunately FELIX MCGRATH, who has been nursing a heavy cold since the weekend, has wisely decided to pull out to concentrate on making a full recovery before next week’s d-day. Another of our National runners missing will be ANDY WATT, who though managing a hip strain did complete a gruelling midweek grass session successfully with our cross captain OWAIN JONES.

An Armagh review will follow in next week’s final countdown to the National.

Gwent League #4 – Chepstow: u11 and u15 girls

12 Feb

U11 girlsSimon Jones reports
It was a fantastic day out for the under 11 girls at a surprisingly sunny Chepstow racecourse; a fantastic venue for a Gwent League match!  It is superb to report that we had 6 girls running; our highest in cross country for a long time.  Gabi came in a brilliant 7th, running herself into joint 6th on the league for the season, closely followed by Holly a second behind in 10th, now 10th overall in the league.  Mairi made her debut in a brilliant 22nd, with Phoebe running solidly into 25th, and Amira in 29th.  Primrose  finished in 66th; another fine debut in a field of 116.  As a team, the girls improved their score from match 3 by 10 points finishing 3rd on the day and going into the final match in 5th overall, with an outside chance of 3rd place.  The future of Bristol and West is bright!

U15 girls – Paul Owen reports
On a glorious sunny day at Chepstow races I had the pleasure of being honorary team manager today and reuniting with girls I recently coached.  We had 3 girls left from an Avon Schools depleted team. However proving the strength in depth we had Fleur Hayden with a really solid and consistent run coming in 5th showing that she is back to her best (or very near) next up was Molly Thomas also showing a return to form with 9th place working really hard throughout. 3rd in was Sophi Hayes in 15th who ran incredibly given she’d been suffering hip pain throughout. I am confident this performance has ensured that the team are in a great position for the final race to secure a silver medal. Sadly no 4th team member. Great efforts from the girls today who did themselves and their coach proud.

Feedback was generally that it was a good venue. I liked the ease of the car park and close proximity. Good facilities. Tent area with good view on to the course. If the weather had been awful then there was plenty of shelter in the stands where people could watch the end parts of the race.

Gwent League #4 – Chepstow: u11 and u13 boys

12 Feb

U11 & U13 boys run to form over good going at Chepstow race course.

Ali Hurford reports…
This was a new venue & clerk of the course did an excellent job & although perhaps we did not quite live up to the sport of kings there was some very competitive racing from the colours of Bristol & West.

The u11 boys were as usual raring to go and eager to maintain the bronze team position. So it was no surprise when dark horse Tom White (6) made a long run for home resulting in his best ever position. Oisin O’Halloran (10) continued his impressive season & along with Eddie Bent (29) who still has another season in this age group, the team result was looking promising. Our final score was Rufus Hull (49) who gave nothing away in the closing stages. Our final finisher was Alfie England (82) who continues to improve & held his own in a large field of 109 finishers.

The u13 lads likewise did not disappoint & once their racing plates were well secured it was going to be a case of horses for courses. So it was no surprise to see our front runner Zac Cox (7) eating up the track just ahead of Ronnie Wilmott (8) who made up some impressive places in the last 50m beating the Swansea athlete by a short head. Harry Harvey (23) just got the better of Joey Taylor (27) over the last few metres & these two training partners definitely bring out the best of each other in a racing situation.

Unlucky not to make the scoring team Vijay Bakrania (33) ran his most positive race to date but closing in very fast was Dan Jarrold (43) who is certainly coming into form at the right time. Barney Thomas (63) is still learning the ropes & along with Walter Davies (65) should progress well next season if they can Summer well.

Felix Pearson (72) has been training well & perhaps this was just not his day. I am sure he will up his game at the final fixture.

Overall this was an encouraging result for the squad. We were not at full strength due to the numerous other activities on offer this weekend ie South west schools xc, music lessons & not everybody passed the vet. So with a bit of luck we can be at full strength going in to the final race & maintain the bronze position which is so well deserved.

Gwent League #4 – Chepstow: u15 and u17 boys

12 Feb

Emma Withers reports…
With several of our team away at the South West Schools in Bournemouth we needed a good turnout to keep our team ranked positions and the u15 and u17 boys did not disappoint.  14 boys turned out for the Bristol and West hosted Gwent League at Chepstow.

Leading our u15 boys home, Amos Kingston had his best run to date, enjoying the undulating course and realising that with a little more effort in training that he could be a top 10 contender.  Finishing in 12th position, (13.53).  Misha Evans made a determined effort, particularly on the tough uphill home stretch, finishing in 22nd place (14.37).  Joseph Hull, went out with gusto, but perhaps a little too fast, was third home for B&W in 33rd place (15.13) and completing the first team, Ollie Robertson Kurd, a little distracted by his watch, showing he has a lot more to give in these competitions, 37th (15.32).  Leading our second team in, a battle between team mates Ismail Rashid and Tomek Czerepinski, gave an entertaining finish with Ismail only just pipping Tomek over the line, 40th (15.49) and 42nd place (15.53) respectively.   Zac Roe who had already completed football training that morning, in 49th position (16.38) and our most consistent runner, Joe McNamara, completed the second team in 57th position, (18.04).  Our 9th runner, Fred Cummins, was unable to complete the course due to painful knees, but did a sterling job cheering and encouraging his team mates around. 

The u15 squad

The u15 boys have moved up to 5th position overall. 

The u17 boys had a long wait until 2.10pm and plenty of time to study the course.  Starting out strongly Jay Akbar, glad that there was no mud this week, glided around and finished in 14th place, (18.13).  The battle for 2nd in the team between good friends, Otto Kingston and James Casling, made for another exciting finish, with James putting in his fast sprint on the hilly home stretch.  The hills were on Otto’s side this time and he maintained his lead, 26th place (19.34), James in 27th place (19.38).  Jacob Roe,  hot on their heels, finishing only 2 seconds behind in 38th place (19.40).   A debut run for newcomer Dylan Peters showed a fantastic start to cross country competition, in 40th place (20.12).   Dylan said he enjoyed it and we hope he will be back for our last fixture in Swansea.

The u17 boys were very pleased to hold their 2nd position overall. 

The u17s – currently 2nd!

Massive thank you to Steve Grant, Keith Brackstone and Roger Brocklesby for setting up the course and providing us with a great cross country run and brilliant facilities.  No complaints from the junior boys, particularly as the teenagers got an unusual and much appreciated lie in!!