Blaise Gwent League XC – Senior teams

10 Dec

Chris Elson reports

Report Blaise 7.12.19

There was a 15 strong contingent at the Telford 10K, which included the Master’s selection race for the home international. A goodly number of PB’s were posted with Harry Allan 30.17, Felix McGrath 31.07, Joe Connors 31.58, Jed Bartlett 32.40, Andy Cooke (40) 33.04, Ben Maliphant 33.07, Phil Parry (4th M55) 35.48, Brad Pontin 37.47, Natalie Griffiths 37.33, Clare Jolliffe (2nd W50) 39.32, Sarah Everitt (5th W50) 40.45, Sian Davies 43.10 (7th W55), Fliss Russell (6th W60) 47.13, Christine Rose (12th W60) 52.32, Anne Dockery (2nd W70) 53.17. In addition, David Eagon, Alex Whittaker and Annabelle Grainger were 1st, 4th, & 1st women respectively at Christmas Cracker 10K. So how would B&W AC fare at Blaise? Rather well as it turned out, with a few unanticipated reinforcements and some handy debutantes. In fact the weekend’s events must rank as one the best performance by the B&W AC endurance section in terms of strength in depth in living memory!

This time the women did set a record namely A team 1st & B team 2nd! The C, D, E & F teams were all 1st in their category, out of the 76 teams finishing with the C team 9th, D team 15th, E team 25th,  and F team 54th. The W35 & W45 teams were 1st and W55 team 2nd. I think Keith is going to be pleased with these results! Individually, Kate Maltby led the field home and it was lovely to see Kate in full flow gliding away from her pursuers. Kate even said she enjoyed it! Next up was a rejuvenated Nicky Brookland who produced a cracking run in 6th and was first W45 by the proverbial mile. That left a trio of Rosie Hattersley (10th), Catie O’Donaghoe (14th), and making her club debut, Annie Carroll (15th), all running strongly to complete the A team . The B team was led home by Anna Duran-Mingo, back after injury, in 19th, followed by another debutante Hannah Steeds (23), Katerina Entwhistle (24th), Elaina Gard fighting off a cold (26th) & Naomi Aylwin (31st). That was some performance by the B team! Lucy Wallace, not at her best, was first home for the C team in 40th position, with Tanya Chowdhudry having an excellent run (43rd & 8th W40), Thea Payne making an impressive debut (46th), Emma Clarke (56th) & Nicky Hodges,  (71st & 8th W45) completing the team. Alice Doggrell, warming up for the race with a nippy Clevedon park run (somebody needs to talk to her about this), was first finisher for the D team in 73rd, with W40 Harriet Williams running well in 77th, Ruth Tredgett (90th), a notable performance from Antonia Gooder (106th & 6th W50) and an excellent one from Maggie Salter (120th & 4th W55) & no, I didn’t miss the 26 min park run. Another debutante, Kate Hoffen with a run to be proud of led the all masters E team home in 134th position (11th W50), with Rosey Mushens (139th & 7thW55), Ali Hurford, cheered on by the army, (157th & 11th W55), W45 Julie Ilogu (169th), and W45 Emma-Jane Orchard (174th). Finally the F team was composed of Harriet Middlebrough (184th), Danielle Suttle (213rd) & W45 Katie Ronald (215th) out of the 292 finishers.

In the M65 race run with the ladies Dave Bedwell was 1st & Tom Burgess 10th & they held on to their 2nd place overall.

Could the men emulate their female counterparts? They did give it a good shot! The A team were first and now have a handy cushion of 149 points over our nearest rivals, Aberdare AAC.  The B team were 4th and head the B Division by over 500 points! Notably, the C, D, E & F teams occupied the first four places in the Reserve Division with the G team in 14th out of 31 teams in the division. The M35 team were 2nd on the day and M45 5th. I’m indebted to Mike Down for his report on the A team. The Blaise race was particularly significant for the long awaited comeback of the club’s former junior international Ben Westhenry and the return from injury of Andy Chambers. These two were joined among others by Andy Watt, whose progress has been a revelation this autumn but who himself was returning from an inactive fortnight’s holiday in South America. So there were question marks all round, but the way Ben attacked the three undulating three lap course from the start you could have thought he had never been away! He took the bull by the horns, opening up a lead of as much as 30-40 metres on the first two laps, but a combination of an ankle roll suffered midrace and a predictable reaction to such an aggressive approach in his first race for two years saw him run out of gas on the last lap and have to settle for 7th place at the end. Nonetheless it was a remarkable resumption to what had been a promising junior career before an overuse shin injury suffered during a short athletics scholarship stay in the U.S. left him so exasperated that he made an early return to the UK. Now happily based back with his alma mater in Bristol studying for a Ph.D. and hopefully finally clear of his chronic shin problem, it should not be long before he underlines his outstanding natural talent. While one’s attention was inevitably focussed on Ben’s comeback effort, behind him Andy Chambers, was also returning to action after before being sidelined for the past month due to an ankle sprain together with a recurrence of the back problem that grounded him for the first half of the year. Unlike Ben he purposely started cautiously, and although never in contact with the leaders soon worked his way through to a position in the top six and gradually closed the gap to finish in 4th place in a race that he thought he could have won if his training had not been interrupted. Andy and Ben’s efforts sandwiched those of Andy Watt and Jonny Suttle, who both took their time to work their way through a number of the early pacesetters to finish 5th and 6th respectively just ahead of Ben. Andy Watt, clearly acted as a spur to Johnny, who underlined his ongoing progress by producing what was arguably his best ever performance on the country. (Chris again). The A team was completed by Maciej Bialogonski who finished 15th despite his race warm up over the Seven Bridge at the parkrun earlier in the day. The B team was led home by Graham Breen (19th & 1st M40) who took the scalp of international James Thie, followed by a good run from Olly Sheppard (20th), Rob Farley (21st) who seems to be getting better every race, Pete Bains (39th) and  Lee Gawler (51st) with perhaps his best performance since joining the club. When you have a C team led home by someone of the calibre of Andy Drake (54th 11th M35) you know you have a good team. Henry Sly (68th & 8th M40) was next followed by the ever improving Sam Bentley 75th,  Darren Garmen (76th & 4th M45), who must has kept something in reserve for his exploits at the Cracker the following day and Joe Lyne (94th) another person ascending the league rankings. Under 23 Tom Blake (119th) making his league debut led the D team home, with Matt Burdon some 30 places higher than at Pembrey park (123rd), Neil Turney (125th) a recent addition to the sleep deprivation society but now getting enough to return to the fray, Jon Bennett (130th) a graduate from the said society, and debutante & another parkrun warm up victim, Simon Brice (131st) completed the team. The E team comprised Cameron Grayling (132nd), Steve Swan (148th), M45 Paul Jefferson (154 & 15th M45), Pete Gandon (158th), and M40 Tim White (180th) & F team M40 Peter Wang (188th),  Tom Moriaty (189th), Tariq Kurd with a breakthrough run (194th & 28th M45), Mark Taylor (195th & 29th M45), & Dan Titheradge returning after a long break (214th). After Nathan Lomax-Cooke (234th),  the next three members of the G team were all running their first cross-country race with M40 Ben Holding (295th) in the van, followed by Nicko Brooke (299th), Andrew Young (348th), & super coach Nick Crewe (362th & 36th M55) out of 481 finishers. Next Race the SW Championships enter online before 23rd December.

Full results are available here: http://gwent-league.org.uk/2019/res193.htm

Gwent League #1, Cardiff: senior men and women

Gwent League #1, Cardiff: senior men and women
19 Oct

The weather defied the predictions of the forecasters. By contrast, Bristol & West AC Senior Women & Men met expectations!

The women’s race was off first and it was clear that Cardiff AAC with their 4 stage National Relay gold medal team running would take some beating. Such is our strength in depth that only 21 points separated the clubs with Cardiff taking the honours. The B team finished 5th overall & 1st B team, the C team 12th and first C team and before any other B team, the D team 27th and first D team notably safely in front of the Cardiff B team, & F team 86th out of 105 club teams competing. Individually, the team was boosted by Kate Maltby appearing like manna from heaven finishing third. Natalie Griffiths ran possibly her best Gwent League in 9th place with fast finishing Izzy Talbot-Price in 11th. Elaina Gard (17th) & Catie O’Donaghue (19th) both had good runs thereby making up the A team. Katrina Entwhistle, recovering from a back injury, led the B team home in 21st place, followed by evergreen Clare Jolliffe (28th & 1st W45 &W50), Julia Belyavin (30th & 3rd W40), Alice Doggrell (35th & 6th W40) & Ellen Harrison (39th) back after her ankle injury. Hannah Dyer had an excellent run to lead the C team home in 51st place. Emma Clarke (56th), birthday girl Emma Jolliffe (59th), W40 Hannah Williams (72nd) & Charlotte Bermingham (136) completed the team. The D team was made up of W50 Rosey Mushens (146) returning after over a year of injury, Ali Hurford  (155)“fresh” from managing her army, W45 Julie Ilogue (163) making her league debut, W45 Emma-Jane Orchard (195) and Harriet Middlesbrough (209). Finally, in 243rd place (2nd W65 & 1st W70) was the club’s over 70’s star Ann Docherty. 388 women completed the race.

The men similarly had a team full of Cardiff AAC stars to contend with and with 5 in the first 8 it was clear that Cardiff would take the A team honours. However, like the women the men have strength in depth so the A team finished 2nd, the B team 6th overall and first B team, the C team 13th overall and 1st C team, the D team 35th & first D team, the E team 39th and first E team & the F team 96th & 3rd F team. Cardiff’s B team languished in 58th place out of the 125 club teams competing. Jack Millar & Andy Chambers, both of whom were pleased with their runs, were our first finishers in 5th & 7th position. Maciej Bialogonski, fresh from a marathon 13 days before & a half marathon 6 days before finished a commendable 13th, while Felix Rusby made a notable debut for the club in 26th & super vet Graham Breen in 27thand 2nd M35 & M40. The B team was led home by orienteering international Ben Mitchell (29th) with Olly Sheppard (36th), Pete Bains (43rd), and  Rob Farley 62nd, who suffered from a lack of spikes, making up the team. Ben Malliphant (64th) and Andy Drake (76th), both of whom who ran a half marathon 6 days earlier, were first finishers for the C team followed by Darren Garmen (88th & 10th M45), Keiran Batty (93rd) & Jo Lyne (102nd) making his club debut. The D team comprised Sam Bentley (111th),  Bill Hull (150th & 23rd M45), Sam Johnson (155th), Jack Longstaff (165th) making a welcome return after a prolonged injury & Jon Bennett (174th) with Brad Clarke (178th) making his club debut, Michael Chandler (185th),  Mark Taylor (197 and 37th M45), Matt Burden (211) & Peter Tang (224th) making up the E team. For the F team Jon Goodland finished 234th & 2ndM60, Tariq Kurd 286th and Nick Crewe 392th. There were 511 finishers.

Finally Dave Bedwell (1st) and Tom Burgess (14th) formed the 2nd place M65 team.

Gwent League#1, Cardiff: u15 and u17 boys

19 Oct

Emma Withers reports…

21 u15 and u17 boys made the journey to Cardiff on Saturday for the first Gwent League of the season. The rain held off and we adorned Gwent League bibs, got spikes on and completed warm ups.  At 12.20 the u17 men headed off for the obligatory team photo and the start line.

Ollie Harper (19.12) brought the A team home in 11th place, picking up his pace in the home straight to overtake runners coming into the finish.  Fred Hawker (19.54) with a solid performance, followed in 22nd place. Jay Akbar (20.03) had an exceptional race for his first year in the u17 category, gliding round in 25th.  Completing the A team, Cole Edmonds (20.17) also first year u17, in 29th place.

It was great to see Steve Kerfoot (20.25), embracing the mud, leading the B team in 32nd position.  Otto Kingston (21.37) enjoying the soft ground underfoot in 48th place.  Lewis Adamson (22.42) with gritted determination, whilst battling a painful stitch, 69th place and completing the B team, Jacob Roe (22.54), who had not realised it was two laps, in 71st position.  James Casling (23.33) had the most amazing sprint finish, heading up the C team in 73rd place. 

The u17 men are currently 5th, 12th and 28th respectively. 

 

1.25 saw the u15 boys ready to run,  Eoin O Halloran, who is first year in the u15 category (11.57), heading out the A team, finished in 31st place, 2nd home, Misha Evans, also first year u15 (12.12) in 40th place. Another first year u15, Ishmael Bradley (12.18), also taking on his first XC race this season in 44th place and completing the A Team, Joseph Hull knocking 13 seconds off last years time, (12.19) 46th place.

Amos Kingston (12.30) headed up the B Team, in his new white (yes white!) spikes, with Jay Hunt (12.31) hot on his heels, both managing to stay on their feet this week. Jacob Franklin (13.02) next in, who is improving with every race, position 62.  Completing the B Team, Tomek Czerepinski (13.26), returning from injury for his first race this season, 71st place.   Ismail Rashid (13.49) has been training with the u15 boys for some time and decided this week that it was time to become a club member, taking on his first ever cross country race, we hope he will return for many more, 76th place.  Zac Roe (14.11) recovering from a football glory goal scoring injury, finished in 79th position and Joe McNamara, holding off several Aberdare boys at the finish,  (15.23) completed the runners for the C Team, in position 89.  Fred Cummins set off solidly but his knees refused to stand up to the run and he was unable to complete the second lap.  This did not stop him from cheering on his team mates and he is very determined that he will be back to do it all again in Mansfield.  

The u15 boys are currently 7th, 12th and 23rd.

Gwent League #1, Cardiff: u11 and u13 boys

19 Oct

Ali’s Army Deliver In Wales: Ali Hurford reports…

Although I forgot to drape the prayer flags round the tent, the gods were kindly looking down on us. The plan was to start the season on the front foot & all the lads gave it their best shot.


The u11s was a very competitive race as  Oisin O’Halloran (14) who is now well accomplished in his second season,  just missed out on a top 10% T shirt. Finishing in exactly the same time was Tom White (15) who was representing the club for the first time so what a great way to start. Slightly further back Eddie Bent (52) who not only being young in the age group suffered an unfortunate fall  & likewise Rufus Hull (81) also fell victim to the fast & furious start. Both these lads will fare much better next time round as long as they stay on their feet. Our final finisher was Alfie England (98) who has recently joined the squad & is going from strength to strength & providing excellent back up to the team.


This was a large race with 130 boys finishing, 45 teams completing so our team position of 7th was an excellent start to a busy season.



The u13 team consisted of several lads who have been with the group for several seasons plus 4 boys who have not competed at this level before, so very much into the unknown for all of us.

After a couple of very successful recent road relay races it was no surprise to see Zachary Cox (11) run a very well paced race & finish just inside the top 10%. Training partner Alex Auton Green (18) was not far behind & as both these lads are  young in the age group this early excellent result really bodes well for the future.

An ever improving Ronnie Wilmott (26) had the race of his life & along with a very reliable  Vijay Bakrania (36) who closed in the scoring A team.

Joey Taylor (41) was first in for the B team & will be fighting hard next time to improve his position amongst his training partners. I am sure it will be very close again & I would not want to call it. Max Fining (60) just got the better of Daniel Jarrold  (61) in a very close finish & this competitive running makes for a great team result. Ben Pocock (100) closed in the B team & he really kept it together for the entirety of the race such is the ethos of the group.

This particular age group is extremely competitive with 113 finishers. As a result of sheer hard work & determination we finished in 3rd position but only by 1 point. Cardiff are right behind us so we can show no weakness at the second fixture on Sat 9th Nov but whatever happens there will be plenty of cake afterwards.

Gwent League #1, Cardiff – junior girls

Gwent League #1, Cardiff – junior girls
19 Oct

Under 11 girls: Simon Jones and Debbie Hunt report…

 

The under 11 girls’ team of 5 (the most we have had for many years at that level!) did brilliantly at the first Gwent League race of the season.  All 5 showed brilliant team spirit throughout, walking the course and warming up together like they had been friends for years! The determination on what was a muddy and wet course was superb, and we were delighted to see all of the runners doing their best coming up the finishing straight. 

Holly was the first B and W girl home in 13th place, closely followed by Phoebe (14th) and Gabi (23rd).  The 3 girls came around the final corner together, as if they were working to pace each other; reflective of the training that they do at Whitehall.  Zoe, who was brilliant throughout the morning ensuring the girls worked together as the most experienced Gwent leaguer, finished 4th from B and W. Anisa completed her first ever club X – Country run brilliantly, as the only girl on the team in the younger age group, to help the team to a 7th placed finish out of 46 teams!  On the morning that Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2 hour marathon barrier, it was great to be involved in the team/sport. Well done girls, see you next time!

 

 

Under 13 girls: Paul Owen reports…

Wales appeared to be the driest part of the UK today for the first xc race of the season and it was one of our relatively newer athletes Holly Sanigar who was first back in 21st, Olivia Tarr who fell at the start and was spiked managed to pick herself up and keep going with determination to finish 96th. Niamh Roe was our final runner home in and achieved her goal of finishing the race. It would be good to add a couple more girls to this group to make a team and see how much improvement can be achieved throughout the season.

Under 15 girls:  Paul Owen reports…

Whilst it is nice to pick up individual medals what I like about the Gwent League is the team focus, and this was highlighted today with our top ranked runner not available and a few other strong runners also not able to make this race. Yet despite that we managed to field a strong team that will mean as others return we can only get stronger. Bodes well for the season. Amy Nichols was our lead runner today in 14th looking composed throughout, with Fleur Hayden not far behind in 19th (did really well as raced in a Biathlon yesterday). Just behind her was ever improving Sophie Hayles-Hall in 21st and Carmen Chance securing a strong team finish with 40th.

 

The final Gwent League, Blaise Castle: u11 and u13 boys

07 Mar

Under 11 & Under 13 Lads turn out en mass for final cross country race of the season. Ali Hurford reports…

Well done to all 20 lads who participated at Blaise Castle in the final gwent league fixture. Everyone truly raised their game & clearly even at the end of a long and successful season  the group still have plenty of running in their legs. The u13 lads who were safely in the silver position prior to the race did not hold back & the plan was to win the final fixture on our home ground. Thanks to team captain Jay who encouraged everyone to be their best we comfortably won on the day. Our 6 silver medalists look very professional as the below photos show.

The under 11 team also had their best day of the season finishing 5th team on the day & 13th overall in the league which comprised of 51 teams. Many of these boys have next year in the age group and they have  a very exciting future as long as they summer well.


Once all the racing was over it was down to the serious task of refuelling & there was enough cake to feed an army as the photos show. All these lads are a true credit to the club in terms of commitment to training , racing & the professional approach that they are starting to develop especially on race day & all it entails. I am also aware that none of this success comes without the unrelenting help from the support crew, so thank you parents for the massive contribution you have given to myself & your son this winter.Finally save the date. The winter fixtures start on Sat 21st Sept the Autumn road relays Sutton Park. See you all there!


The final Gwent League, Blaise Castle: u15 and u17 boys

07 Mar

Emma Withers reports on the boys’ final efforts of the cross country season.

Lie in, leisurely breakfast; time for a parkrun…this can only mean one thing, home turf! The 5th and final Gwent League and XC race for this season took us to Blaise Castle. Having been denied our gold glory run for the u15 boys last year due to ‘The Beast from the East’, there was no stopping our 7 intrepid u15 athletes, plus our guest member from taking on the challenge. New tent in position by parent and athlete power we were off to warm up and on the start line in good time.

Rufus Thomas led the team home with an impressive run in 2nd position, followed closely by Stephen Kerfoot, looking and feeling confident having found his cross country legs, 5th. Cole Edmonds showing no signs of his recent heel injury in 16th position and Jay Akbar 18th, achieving his goal and taking him into the top ten standings for the Gwent League season, which he will be mighty pleased about. Leading our B team in and completing his first year in this age category, Joseph Hull 22nd, Jacob Roe 32nd ran a solid race and Amos Kingston 38th, with Dad and a very noisy dog cheering him round completed our teams. Evan Gerard came over the line in 44thposition, running for the first time in competition with us. It was lovely to see Joe Mead, out due to injury, arriving in time to support his team-mates, aided by a super loud air horn.

The u17 boys fresh from the Nationals and finally picking up their medals from last season, headed out for the 5.5k route. Fred Hawker taking our first position home in 5th place and finally getting that Gwent League t-shirt he so rightly deserves, 7th overall in the Gwent League standings. Ollie Harper, who was supposedly taking it easy, in 13th, Luke Iles 24th, flying through the wooded section with ease and Nathan Marchant 30th, with new go faster hair cut, smiling his way round completed the A team. Otto Kingston 39th having his best run in a long time, held his position and Lewis Adamson 43rd found the course not very forgiving on his knees but true to plan ran a conservative race in order to start and finish.

Both u15 and u17 teams finished 4th overall. B teams 13th and 20th. The u15 boys just 10 points shy of North Somerset and a bronze medal!  So this is the time for everyone to move up a year in their age group, increasing the numbers in both our u15 and u17 squads. We look forward to welcoming the u13 boys to our training groups in preparation for September when we will be back at the Road Relays in Birmingham.

The final Gwent League, Blaise Castle: juniors girls

07 Mar

Paul Owen reports on the junior girls’ performances…

u13s

Molly Thomas 13th felt a little disappointed with her position but ran well throughout the race and shouldn’t be too hard on herself. Ruby Claridge 67th, Olivia Tarr 70th and Niamh Roe 72nd all close to each other and all appeared to have good strong finishes which suggests there is more to come.

u15s

Megan Hornung 4th ran the race to perfection again using the length of the course to draw in and pass most runners and looked strong at the finish. Danni Sinclair after a fast start settled down and held on for a creditable 11th. Amy Nichols also made a fast start and likewise settled down running consistently for an encouraging 16th. Carmen Chance fourth in for the team again running a consistent race finishing strong at 34th. Grace Claridge will not be sad that cross country is all over finished 40th, and can now look forward to some speedy track work and no more mud. Well done to Danni with 3rd individual girl, joint points with 2nd but was beaten today by the 2nd place girl. 

The team finished 4th and is a case of what could have been as we’ve not always had all our runners available throughout the season. Next year…

u17s

Claudia Spice 2nd and as ever ran well throughout the race and consistently, also managed to not faint at the end. 2nd place individual girl so congratulations!

Summary. There have certainly been several encouraging and pleasing individual performances during the season and not just for those who have achieved a medal. There are many promising young girls in the group and we also had an u11 team for the first time in many years. We will be working hard to prepare and develop the group as a whole for next season as I feel a club of our size and stature ought to be challenging for medals in all age groups and it was disappointing for me that going in to the last race we were not really in a position to challenge as a team in any age group for a medal. But, we have several new girls of late all with lots of talent, so I am now looking forward to enjoying a speedy track season perhaps almost as much as the girls look forward to crop tops again in training and racing!

The final Gwent League, Blaise Castle: senior team report

07 Mar

It was yet another stellar performance from the womens’ A team who recorded their 7th consecutive overall team victory in the Gwent League whilst the B was 4th on the day & 3rd overall. The C was first C team & D first D team. In the age groups the over 45s were 1st & 6th teams, the over 55 team 1st on the day and second overall. Individually Natalie Griffiths was 3rd followed closely by Issy Talbot (4th) Price & Catie O’Donague (6th). Issy & Catie were 2nd & 3rd women in the overall standings. With Amy Partridge 8th and Ellen Harrison 15th the team took the overall title by 313 points! For the B team Sarah Everitt producing another cracking run finishing 17th (1st W50), with Clare Jolliffe 28th (2nd W50), Alice Doggrell produced her best run on the country despite a 22min warm up run at Ashton Court earlier in the day with 37th, Charlotte Bermingham 45th & Nicky Hodges 58th (11th W45). Harriet William, making her cross-Country debut, led the C team home in 60th with Emma Clarke 63rd, Tracy Allan 74th (3rd W55), W40 Kate Druett 81st & Hayley Bennett 90th. W35 Ruth Nunn 91st led the D team home followed by Jenny Anderson led the D in 98th, Leona Mills in 114th, comfortably in the top half of the field, Ali Hurford 135th (8th W55) and Latife Comlek 139 (18th W50). For the E team, Emma-Jane Orchard was 143rd leaving over 70 W45’s in her wake, Fliss Russell 146th and 3rdW60 & W40 Diana Budureano 156th. With 257 women finishing all those newcomers to cross-country can congratulate themselves on solid performances in a highly competitive field.

Sarah Everitt and Claire Jolliffe striding through the pack

Ditto from the men! The men completed their 5th win in the last 7 years with 2nd in the other two years. On the day the A team were first retaining their overall title by 103 points, the B team 3rd , C team 12th & D team 17th & E team 21st out of 84 teams. The B team topped the B division by a massive 954 points, whilst in the reserve division the C, D, E & F teams produced an astonishing performance taking the top 4 slots! Individually, the team was boosted by Josh Moody’s late decision to run. Josh has been a revelation this season and he produced his best league performance to date finishing 3rd, with Maciej Bialogonski rapidly getting back to form after injury in 5th, Jed Barlett 9th, Joe Ballard another who has made astonishing progress in the last few months in 13th & evergreen Graham Breen 21st (2nd M40) completed the team. Thus the destination of the team title was never in doubt. For the B team Pete Bains showed that he’s getting back to form in 34th, while Scott Watkins, Nick Roberts, Henry Sly & Darren Garmen (10th M45) in 45th, 49th, 60th & 62nd all produced performances that exceeded expectations. The same can be said of Neil Turney, Andy Reynolds (13th M45) & Paul Jefferson who led the C team home in 71st, 73rd& 74th while Kieran Batty 78th & Dave Eagon clearly suffering from some malady in 79th made up the team. M40 Tim White led the D team home in 93rd, it was good to Steve Swan back in action in 98th, Jon Bennett was 106th, Jack Longstaff back after a winning battle with injury & iron levels was 110th& Mark Taylor 113th (22nd M45). For the E team, newcomer Sam Johnson had his first race in 8 years & finished a creditable 120th. He was followed by Dan Titheradge (128) and another newcomer Tom Moriaty another who did a warm up parkrun, M45 Bill Hull, and a trio of Gwent League debutants Nathan Lomax- Cooke (141), Doug Webb (148), & M35 Darren Stringer (149) with Doug & Darren leading the F team home. John Goodland was again first M60 in 157th, Krzyztof Wanat 217, & two more club newcomers Peter Faulkner (231) & Jake Richardson (266) completed the teams. There were 316 finishers.

For both the women & men the start of 2019 has been most heartening! Taking the SW Cross-Country Championships, the Midland Championships, the 4th Gwent League, the National Cross-Country Championships & the final Gwent League, the women posted 1st, 1st, 1st , 7th & 1st teams and the men 1st, 3rd, 1st, 3rd & 1st, surely a record to be proud of. So on to the Midland (Saturday March 23rd) & National (Saturday April 6th) Road Relays. The indications so far are there are going to be several formidable teams out!

MIKE DOWN’S NATIONAL CROSS COUNTBACK

27 Feb
Will Christofi in action

Fortunately sometimes in life you get what you deserve, and the bronze medals we won in Saturday’s National cross-country championships were certainly no more than our runners derserved having agreed at the start of the season that this was the event on which they wanted to be judged. As team managers Chris and I have nothing but praise for the unity and commitment in making this our main goal of the winter. Let’s too not underestimate the scale of the achievement. This is not parkrunning! Some 2000 runners competed representing as many as 250 clubs, and to come third team in this line up of all England’s top clubs once again underlines our position as one of the top three or four endurance running clubs in the country. This too was only the third time that the club has medalled in the 136 year history of the race, all three of which have been since the club was rebranded 15 years ago.

Notwithstanding that such is the standard that our runners have set themselves that I sensed there was an air of disappointment in the camp in the immediate aftermath. So much so that we even missed the presentation ceremony, though to be fair there was no announcement to indicate it was taking place due it seems to a breakdown in the PA system. Then somehat downbeat reaction was because one or two of the team felt they had underperformed, though it was also a .consequence of the overwhelming superiority of our con  querors host city Leeds and defending title holders Tonbridge. It may have been over optimistic as we had genuinely hoped to be at the races with them, but have to concede that we still have some way to go to close the gap. At the same time on the credit front we well and truly avenged our defeat in the Midland championship race by Notts and Birchfield to retain the trophy for thew top Midland team as well as the unique plinth that goes to the leading club among the eleven founder clubs of the English Cross Country Union back in 1884. Both are now sitting proudly on the sideboard of our most improved runner this winter Josh Moody.

So what of the race itself? You could hardly have found a more magnificent setting in the picturesque grounds of the Harewood House estate with ite rolling downland punctuated by a series of leg-sapping climbs that made the race a true test of speed and stamina. In order to ensure that there was less lapping than occurred at Parliament Hill last year the organisers opted for a longer 6K lap that had to be covered just twice. There was very little pure flat running on a course dominated by endless climbs and sweeping descents, terminating in a very fast downhill run-in that certainly did not favour the majority of our longer distance runners. The race too was made that much more testing by the long uphill start that allowed little respite after the traditional opening stampede of a National field, the speed being exaggerated by the firm underfoot conditions.

From the gun our top two runners PETE LE GRICE and WILL CHRISTOFI both showed their ambition by going with the searing early pace and settling on the heels of the leading phalanx that numbered 20 or so runners. Despite admitting a mid-race energy crisis, which was more than likely due to the unremiiting pace at the front, Pete hung on to a position not far outside the top ten, but Will found he had overcooked it and fell back on the closing lap to be passed by his Oxford room mate JACK MILLAR, who as reliable as ever was never far off the top 30.  Pete was actually in 13th place up the final climb, only to be a victim of the fast finish referred to earlier that saw him lose four or five places and end up a still very creditable 18th. Jack for his part held on well to finish little more than half a minute down on Pete in 32nd place, with Will close up in 37th admitting he may have overdone it early on.

Behind our leading trio JARLATH MCKENNA as usual found the early pace too hot to handle, but was always picking off runners on the second lap to eventually come in only a couple of seconds behind Will at 41st – more than ten places up on last year. This gave us a total of 128pts that was actually 22 better than our silver medal-winning team managed last year, so everything was going to depend on our last two scorers expected to be HARRY ALLEN and OWAIN JONES. Harry has been in the form of his life this winter, concluding in his massive pb in the Armagh international 5K, but he is never really happy on any ground that breaks up your rhythm and even more so up hills. Try as he did you could see the frustration on his face at not being able to cope the way he wanted and he ended up 135th, while, Owain who was nursing a calf strain and  would not have started had it not been the National, naturally set off cautiously, but having missed almost two weeks training had to be content with just getting round and being sure to finish in case required to score. It was a real team captain’s effort and just as well as he ended up as last counter in 102nd. Meanwhile behind Owain and Harry it was JOSH MOODY, who was to have the run of his life. Showing grit and determination, like Jarlath up ahead he was always moving forward and eventually passed both Harry and Owain before producing a rousing finish to come home way ahead of expectations as our fifth scorer in 84th place.

This gave us a total of 313pts, which was 22pts the other way compared to last year, and with the Northern and Southern champions Sale and Aldershot appearing to have packed in ahead of our last two scorers, my first impression was that we were just going to lose out on the medals. However in the hurly burly of the finish I had been unaware that their last counters were much further back and as so often is the case that proved decisive. So in the end it was the unsung Bedford squad whom we thwarted by a mere four points to secure the bronze medals, with Sale and Aldershot 5th and 6th.

We had always been confident that in the separate nine to score competition we would be relatively stronger and so it proved as we again took third place well clear of Bedford and the rest. Our other two counters along with HARRY ALLEN were ANDY WATT  and RICH PETERS. Andy for his part did well to even start as he was suffering with a heavy cold, but after taking some time to get going did well to work his way through to finish 179th right behind former clubmate PHIL RADFORD. As for Rich, who is still unable to put together more than a couple of days running, let alone proper training, due to his career long achilles problem, he struggled to get round and finished a well chastened 202nd.

Right on Rich’s heels ALBERTO BELTRAM had easily his best race since coming to the UK to finish 203rd, but further back MILES CHANDLER never looked happy and had to be content with 239th position. Not that far behind Miles GRAHAM BREEN 254th and National debutant JOE BALLARD 284th were within a minute of the top 10% of the field, while PETE BAINS 470th and newcomer MATT BOND 742nd completed the Bristol and West contingent.

My only reservations about the venue, which provided a specataculer backdrop to the championships, concerned the chaotic access to the estate. We took nearly an hour to cover the last two miles partly it transpired due to the archway entrance not permitting two way traffic as there were a considerable number of those who had already raced trying to leave the estate at the same time. Besides that issue the PA system was inadequate – hence our missing the presentation ceremony – while the course design could have been much more spectator friendly as it was really only possible to view the race twice on each lap.

Attention now switches to the spring road relays, and with 12 runners to count our growing strength in depth must give us confidence that we can be even more competitive. Chris has taken on the challenge of entering three teams for the Midland 12-stage championship on March 23rd, so please check your diaries and make yourselves available. The Midland event will also serve as a selection trial for the National two weeks later. As usual I shall endeavour to keep you in touch in the meantime with our build up to the blue riband of the road racing year.