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South-West Cross Country Championships

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

It was a successful day for Bristol and West at the South-West Cross Country Championships, with the team heading home with no less than six podium finishes. Well done to everyone who raced and congratulations to our individual and team medallists.

Individual Top 10 Finishes:

1st Place: Jack Millar (Senior Men), Annabel Granger (F35) and Owain Jones (M40 and 8th Senior Men overall).

2nd Place: Megan Hornung (U17 Women).

Top 10: Ishmael Bradley (U17 Men, 8th), Chelsea Creak (Senior Women, 5th), Frances Arnott (Senior Women, 10th), Felix McGrath (Senior Men, 6th), Ben Robinson (Senior Men, 7th) and Evelina Jarbin (F35, 7th).

Team Top 3 Finishes:

1st Place: Senior Women (team) and the Senior Men (team).

Mike Down has sent in his write-up of the Senior Men. Our thanks to Mike and all the Team Managers for their ongoing efforts to organise, enter and manage our teams.

Millar’s Magic Spurs South-West Men’s Team Masterclass!

Jack Millar landed his first major title success in the South-West cross-country championships, and in doing so spurred his clubmates to another overwhelming victory in the team event. The Senior Men have won the South-West team championship without fail every year since its reintroduction in 2005. With four of the first eight finishers in a near 200 strong field, and a final fifth counter only just outside the top ten, there was never a chance of us not maintaining the Senior Men’s team title.

Jack dominated the race, held over a rain and windswept undulating course at Ilton’s RNAS Merryfield airbase, from start to finish. Picking his way to the head of the field on the first of the muddy sections, he was already forcing the pace up the short opening climb, hotly pursued by two of Devon’s outstanding U20 juniors Johnny Livingstone and Oliver Smart, together with Cheltenham based runner Dominic James and B&W pair Felix McGrath and Ben Robinson.

Over the shorter distance, positions remained largely unchanged on the second of the two-lap course. Jack, however, continued to wind up the pace on the trickier sections, with Livingstone and James soon the only pair still on his heels. Behind them Felix and Ben were now settled in 6th and 7th and chasing Smart and star Somerset junior Joe Ponter. Not far further back, Owain Jones and Andy Watt, having used their race experience and pace judgement to set off more conservatively, were working their way through the fading faster starters towards a position in the coveted top ten.

Meanwhile back at the head of the race you could always tell that this was a race Jack was determined to win, and as the underfoot conditions took their toll, he gradually opened a decisive gap on Livingstone and James and had time to look round and make sure that however fast they finished he would not be caught. So it proved as he still had close to a cricket pitch in hand as he eased across the finishing line in a time of 21:42, with James (21:44) just outsprinting U20 winner Livingstone (21:46) for second place and the senior silver medal.

“I was certainly wary about how I would go after isolating with covid over the Christmas period, so I was surprised to feel so good” quipped our new champion.

Behind the top three little change took place on the second lap, with Felix (22:22) and Ben (22:28) holding onto their 6th and 7th places overall behind youngsters Smart (22:06) and Ponter (22:09) and ahead of Owain (22:32). In his ever-inscrutable way, Owain was closing on Ben by the finish in taking 8th place, with our final counter Andy (22:50), having what was likely his best race for months, almost making the top ten too in 11th position.

With four of the South West’s nationally ranked juniors making the top ten, we ended up with the remarkable stat of having four of the top five home in the senior championship. Felix, despite feeling the toll of his two races over the Christmas period, secured the bronze medal to add to his silver of two years ago, while Ben, feeling too that he still had the effects of a dog race he’d done 48 hours earlier in his legs, took 4th place, Owain 5th and Andy 7th. Having all your five counters in the top seven is not a bad return by any criterion and enough to satisfy even the most demanding of team mangers! It left us with an impressive winning score of 33pts, which was more than a hundred ahead of Devon champions Exeter’s and top Gloucestershire club Western Tempo.

As for our team captain, who like Jack comes alive once the ground softens underfoot, Owain recorded the remarkable distinction of becoming the first runner in the recent history of the event to add the Masters V40 gold medal to the senior title he won in 2017. Who’d bet against him scoring yet again in the National next month!

There was a gold medal too for Josh Moody, who despite struggling to get a firm foothold in the muddy sections and finishing in 32nd place, found he was the last counter for the Avon team - alongside Jack, Felix, Owain and Andy - that won the accompanying South-West inter-counties title.

Four of the club’s other five starters finished in the top half of the field, with Chris Neilson 56th (24:49) leading the way, ahead of Aled Anderson 66th (25:13), Rufus Thomas 73rd (25:22) and Calum Duck 74th (25:26) who had to stop three times for losing a shoe. Further back Tariq Kurd finished 133rd (29:14).

Well done guys – it’s mission accomplished on the first of our three leg winter challenge. Next stop is Mansfield for the Midland championships at the end of this month, the only 12K cross race on the calendar before next month’s National championships.

Finally, I think I must apologise on behalf of both myself and fellow team manager Chris Elson for not ensuring we had the club tent available on the day. Fortunately, we missed the worst of the afternoon storm and were rescued to some degree by our ever-resourceful Josh Moody, who had his car positioned close to the start and made his boot available to keep everyone’s kit dry!

Mike Down (Team Manager)

Photo credits: Livy Cheek, 2022

Senior Women

The heavens opened on the drive down to RNAS Merryfield, but despite ominous clouds the afternoon was largely deluge free. However, the amount of rain deposited on the course rendered it decidedly muddy leading to some adventures with spikes sucked off and some wishing they had opted for longer length spikes.

However, most Bristol & West ladies made light of the conditions to take the club team title as well as making a major contribution to the winning Avon Country team. Chelsea Creak was well positioned coming up the hill out of the woods and maintained her position, adding to her Avon title, coming 5th overall and 3rd Senior Woman in a time of 26.07.

Frances Arnott moved steadily through the field finishing 10th overall and 7th Senior Woman in 27.05. Annabel Granger provided an outstanding run to finish 14th overall, 10th Senior Women and first W45 in 27.36. That left Katrina Entwistle, recovering from a chest infection and Becky Pierce to complete the club team. Kat was 17th overall and 12th Senior Women in 27.50 while Becky was 6 seconds behind, 18th overall and 13th Senior Woman. For Becky this was a remarkable come-back after a prolonged period of injury. Evelina Jarbin (W35) was our next counter in 34th position in 28.55 and was one who suffered from short spikes syndrome on the day (team manager make note to alter advice on spike length!). However, she was 7th in a highly competitive W35 competition.

Finally, Cadie Hibberd made a creditable debut for the club, and despite carrying one spike for the last 2500m of the race finished 53rd out of the 104 finishers.

Next up the Midland Counties Cross-Country on 29th January, entries close 14th January.

Chris Elson

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