Mud glorious mud: junior boys at the National XC

Muddy legs
26 Feb

Our u13, u15 and u17 boys were out in force last weekend. Many thanks to team managers Ali and Emma for all their efforts supporting the lads!

U13 boys: Ali Hurford reports…

Having fond memories of three years ago when the u13 lads finished in a very creditable twelfth position  I was looking forward to another exciting day in Wollaton Park.

Arriving on site with plenty of time after an uneventful journey the fun began. Much to the boys amusement our car clearly did not like the mud so with the help of Zac, Joey & Ronnie pushing we eventually managed to park.

After warming up around the course it was clearly going to be a case of when the going gets tough the tough get going. This was the first national event for most of the group & they were clearly excited to be on the start line with around 400 other eager boys. This must be the most difficult race for the starter to control & also extremely competitive.

Once the race had finished I had hoped for some down time but this was not to be as I needed to find Zac who due to illness earlier in the week had to pull up, Walter lost both his spikes in the mud & Ben had mislaid his wallet and wished to buy a hoodie.

The day did improve once Zac left the first aid tent and ate his picnic, Ben found his wallet in the car and Walter thought he had rescued  his spikes but unfortunately I have now discovered he does not have a matching pair.

Going into the race I had predicted a team position of around 22nd which would have been possible if Zac had been 100% fit but these things happen, so hopefully he will be fully recovered for the final Gwent league where he is in a top 10 position.

The best race of the day came from Alex Auton Green (126) who is young in the age group so will be top 100 next year. Ronnie Wilmott (160) used this race well as a warm up for the intercounties later in March. Joey Taylor (238) has really committed to the winter season & will certainly improve next year along with Vijay Bakrania (273) who closed the scoring team in.

Ben Pocock (324) continues to chip away at each race & is all smiles at the end so clearly enjoys the challenge. Max Finning (351) was certainly aqua-plaining around the course & I admired his run into the finish looking for the best ground. Walter Davies ( 367) showed real grit after losing both
spikes halfway round he continued to finish showing such determination.

384 boys finished & we were 29th out of 42 teams. Next year I very much hope to be further up the leaderboard & already many of the group have saved the date when we will descend on Hampstead Heath.

u15 and u17 boys: Emma Withers reports…

The road to the National XC champs in Nottingham had a bumpy start.  With a half hour delay in Bristol our arrival at Wollaton Park was less than easy.  Hampered by storm Dennis the previous week, the long queue saw us disembark before the car park with 7 u15 boys and run to the start of the race, this was not how we had planned the day.  With the help of one of our Senior Ladies, spikes were tied tightly, numbers pinned, chip timing secured, warm up (dynamic stretching) whilst we waited at the crossing point, we went into the pens with a whole 3 minutes to spare and a few more grey hairs for me. The boys took it all in their stride and dealt admirably with the exceptionally wet and muddy conditions underfoot.  Sinking into a very large puddle just a few 100 metres in, took its toll on Fred Cummins, who took the decision that it was too strenuous on his knees and enough was enough.  Ishmael Bradley continued with his good form and fresh from the South West Schools in Bournemouth, leading the boys home in 204th position (20.03). Nick Pestell, who appeared at the finish covered head to toe in mud, was next in 246thposition, (20.38).  Joseph Hull, managed to remain upright, 326th position (22.39) and completing the team, with a steady return to form and over taking several competitors in the last 100m, Tomek Czerepinski, position 332 (22.53).  Ollie Robertson Kurd, with support from Dad, Tariq, looked relatively clean at the finish, his height being an advantage with the mud splashing from other runners, position 351 (24.08) and completing the Bristol and West u15 team, Alex Robertson, who had been quite nervous at the start, took the advice to not worry about anyone else and just keeping going, finished in position 362 (27.05).

Our three u17 boys headed out at 12.05, having viewed the course in all its glory before warming up.  Ollie Harper made steady work through the pack and should be delighted with his top 100 finish (helpfully counted through by the spectator next to me!), position 96 (25.48) and glad to be injury free this year and not needing the services of the medical tent as he had done in Leeds last year.  Jay Akbar, who was clearly not enjoying the mud and water, fought through to 245th position (29.26), with no smiles at the end but very relieved to have made it to the finish line.  Otto Kingston, started off well, but pulled up on the downhill stretch and limped to the finish line to cheer the others through.

After cheering the Senior Ladies around we made our way back to the coach and headed back to Bristol with half of Wollaton Park stuck to our shoes and legs.  Our last fixture is the Gwent League in Swansea on Sunday, lets hope the weather in Wales is kinder, fingers crossed! 

MIKE DOWN`S NATIONAL CROSS REVIEW

26 Feb

CLOSER – BUT STILL NOT, CLOSE ENOUGH!

To make the podium for the third year running in what is surely one of the most competitive team championships in British sport is no mean achievement and rightly cause for celebration. Yet there was a sense that our bronze medals in this year`s National championship race  were something of a consolation prize, for unlike our success in the previous two years. This year for the first time we arrived at the event with our strongest ever team and a realistic, if outside, chance of challenging for the overall title. Such was the tangible nervous tension beforehand  that one sensed our runners would have considered it a failure if we had not medalled.

The senior men’s squad

While that may be so, there is no disputing that we have closed the gap in our title quest, finishing just 54pts down on winners Tonbridge who regained the title they had won at Parliament Hill two year ago, when very much against the odds we had taken the silver medals but with a deficit three times that much. What`s more this time we were only 20pts behind the favourites and holders Leeds City, who beat us by more than 200pts last year. Even more significantly in the subsidiary 9 to count classification only Tonbridge beat us and our score was nearly 200 pts lower than we totalled in third place last year.

Perhaps these stats help explain any disappointment felt, for to have taken the title our six scorers would have each only had to finish some ten places higher, and apart from JACK MILLAR  for whom that would have meant winning the race(!),  our other counters PETE LE GRICE, CALLUM JONES, KURT TAYLOR and ANDY CHAMBERS would probably have all been expecting to do at least that, depending of course on the prevailing conditions, and so too our team captain OWAIN JONES on his past record in the race, while to be honest in terms of performance on the day only Jack, possibly Callum, Owain  (due to his enforced lack of training) and JED BARTLETT exceeded our pre-race expectations. All this surmise merely highlights how close we are getting to the ultimate goal, for we have now built a squad that is capable of challenging the best in Britain every time we turn out. As for this year we have kept our bronze medal position and retained the trophy going to the top Midland club, comfortably avenging our defeat by Birchfield and Notts in the Midland championship, as well as the engraved plinth awarded to the leading team among the ten founder member clubs of the organising English Cross Country Association.

The race itself was a genuine traditional cross country test –  a mix of rolling fields, gravelled tracks, water ditches, and above all stretches of squelching mud that after all the previous races had turned into a gruelling slurry underfoot – conditions that we felt would favour most of those expected to score, in particular JACK MILLAR, ANDY CHAMBERS, WILL CHRISTOFI and FELIX MCGRATH, as well as OWAIN JONES and JED BARTLETT. Of those as events transpired only Jack, Owain and Jed were able to capitalise, with the others not coping as expected, with Will the first to admit that his limited training time this season due to job commitments left him underprepared for such an arduous course.

Jack had planned his whole winter since finishing at Oxford University in the summer to peak for the major tests of the cross season. After a couple of impressive early season performances in UK cross challenge races at Cardiff and Milton Keynes, a ten week altitude training trip to Kenya provided the groundwork to achieve his goals. His confidence duly boosted by a best ever 4thplace in the recent Midland championship and subsequent selection for an England team in the latest Belgian cross cup race, where he finished in 11th place, he underlined his ambition from the start by wasting no time in following the early leaders of the huge near 2000 strong field. Relishing the underfoot conditions that he had been praying for, he was always in the top 20 , and while others faltered on the final large lap of the 12K course he never showed any sign of weakening to end up in a career defining 10th place.

It was just the start we needed, but PETE LE GRICE, who had led the team home in 18th place last year, knew he was not in such good shape and ill prepared for a race  on such testing ground as he has only recently started his long build up for the London marathon, which is his priority this year. Consequently despite a determined start that saw him only just outside the top 20 after the first small lap, he soon found his level in the mid thirties and that`s where he stayed to eventually end up in 33rd place.

Behind Pete CALLUM JONES proved  a real revelation. He had only finally decided to race on the day – he was there as part of the Saucony team that sponsored the championships – as the intensity of his training has been limited this winter by a chronic groin strain. However in the testing conditions the big mileage he has managed to get in as compensation, certainly appears to have payed off. He was never far behind his fellow Cornishman and held on grimly to finisnh just ten places back in 43rd place.

ANDY CHAMBERS, like Jack, was expected to take advantage of the tough conditions, but after settling initially around the top 50 and expecting to move forward in the second half of the race, like FELIX MCGRATH further back he failed to capitalise on the sort of soft ground that he normally enjoys and actually fell back in the closing stages  to be caught by teammates KURT TAYLOR and OWAIN JONES, who had both measured their efforts to finish the last 2K strongly, with Kurt, who coped with the mud better than he had anticipated, eventually passing Andy on the run-in to finish  a creditable 69th. Andy was right behind in 70th and Owain only two places further back our final scorer as he had been last year in 72nd position. No one, not even Owain himself, had anticipated he would be scoring this year due to his training being chronically hampered by a niggling knee problem, but he once again ran a true team captain`s race to close our score at 297pts, some 20 better than last year. As for Andy, his failure to move through in the second half of the race may have been due to incubating a cold that he woke up with on Sunday morning.

Had Owain not produced the goods on the day, we would not have medalled as we had to wait till just outside the top hundred before ANDY WATT, who has been struggling with a hip injury for the past month, came home a reasonable 104th, chased all the way by JED BARTLETT, who lapped up the slogfest conditions to cap the steady progress he has made this winter and finish an impressive 110th. This left JOSH MOODY  to complete our nine man challenge. Despite conditions that hardly suited him, big Josh characteristically measured his effort meticulously to work his way through the masses and finish strongly in 122nd place.

Josh was followed closely in 128th position by our Tri-Counties champion FELIX MCGRATH, who has been recovering from a cold and admitted he never got to grip with the conditions that normally he would have no problem with as an international mountain runner. The same unexpectedly applied too to WILL CHRISTOFI, who failed to improve on his Midland effort in 148thplace, while the evergreen JARLATH MCKENNA, who by his own admission is not fully race fit after a busy last six months moving house, still managed to finish 165th and give us 12 runners in the top 10% of the field, which we have never approached before. Clearly Felix, Will and Jarlath have all suffered this year too by having to do all their training on their own and not raced as often as they would not only have liked but perhaps needed due to their work commitments. But having said that everyone has a disappointing day at the office occasionally, especially in a sport like ours that offers competition 52 weekends of the year and we look forward to seeing them all back in action at the spring road relays.

Pick of our other runners was our supervet GRAHAM BREEN, who finished 250th, with LUKE ROBERTS 310th and PETE BAINS 387TH. But to put those positions in perspective Pete had clocked a personal best 5K of 15:47 in Armagh the previous week. Such is the standard of the National.

Back to the team standings. As expected Tonbridge and Leeds  maintained their stranglehold on the top two positions, with Tonbridge (243pts) regaining the title  they had surrendered to Leeds (277)  last year, and to continue the action replay nature of the result, our repeat third place was again at the expense of the luckless Bedford team by the same margin of just five points, with Highgate only another seven points back in 5th and Southern champions Aldershot (348) completing the top six. The other area champions our Midland conquerors Birchfield (511) and Northern winners Sale (583) could only finish 9th and 10th respectively.

Perhaps the most encouraging result from our point of view was that whereas our championship score was only 20 points better than last year, in the nine to count standings, as mentioned earlier, it was nearly 200 points lower and bettered only by Tonbridge to underline the team`s ever growing strength in depth. It was further proof too of the success of the  model that led to our rebranding of the club in 2004, with three of our medallists having their roots in the West country. I like to think that the South West now has a club firmly established at the top table of our sport.  It`s surely only a matter of time before we bring back that elusive National title to the region, and while there`s no denying that opportunity had knocked this year, the door is still ajar and we will soon get another chance to open it wider at the legendary 12 stage road relay championship.  We did win that exactly 40 years ago. It`s surely about time we won it again!

 

 

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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.