The men's cross-country team were back in action this weekend, with the fourth and penultimate Met League fixture. Although we had to acknowledge that the league was just out of our reach this time round, we still had to solidify our second place standing. The venue for this week's fixture was Trent Park
Shaftesbury's Richard Goodman won the race from a reasonably strong field for a post-Christmas Met League fixture with 20-second margin of victory. Despite the strength of the field, HCA member Ross Tennant led us home with a 3rd place finish. Ross has been having a very good winter, having been part of a fourth-placed Cambridge and Coleridge relay team at Mansfield and notching a three-minute victory at the Suffolk county championships the previous weekend. Starting hard and maintaining, a spot in the top five the whole way round, Ross had to pull out a sprint finish to hold off John eves of Herts. His namesake Ross Matheson, who improved from 8th to 5th in his second Green and White outing, followed Tennant home. Ross avoided a stitch this time round and ran a well-paced race to break into the top five.
Club stalwart Tom Beedell was next across the line in 19th place. Tom is having a solid winter and ran another good Met to continue his streak of top 20 placings. Darren Southcott, who ran a much better paced race for a Met League PB and 20th spot, 4 seconds adrift of Tom, kept him on his toes. In 26th spot and carving his way through the field in his usual fashion was Dan Steel. Dan had a good run on Thursday in the Civil Service vs RAF match, and so it is great to see him recover quickly to race 48 hours later. We would expect nothing less from a 2.30 marathon man!
With arguably his best Met of the season, 6th man home was the resurgent Angus Holford, who is beginning to progress towards last year's fitness levels. With the Essex 20 in mind, he is improving with each race and was able to keep our 7th scorer Bertie Powell at bay by 9 seconds. Bertie had been suffering with a sore hamstring coming into this race, and his woes were compounded by a fall, suffering a cut knee. In traditional Bertie fashion, he gritted his teeth and powered through to a pleasing 35th place. Simon Beedell had another good run for 52nd, unfortunately missing the top 50 by 3 seconds. Simon should be satisfied with this result considering the mileage he is putting in in training. Another Met League debutant, Tim Dalton, was our 9th man home in 57th. Tim was eager to don his spikes earlier in the season but a few niggles meant he had to sit out the first few fixtures. If this is Tim's starting point, then it will be interesting to see how he progresses as his fitness returns.
Tim had to battle hard to hold off our 10th scorer, Harold Wyber, who finished 2 seconds further back in 61st spot. Harold's running has been sporadic this season due to hamstring troubles, but he is also showing good base fitness. Our 11th man home, and creeping up in position as the races progress, was Julian Russell. He had another consistent run for 90th, finishing just outside the 30 minute mark for the 8km course. Our team was closed by Ben Whitworth, who should be pleased with his return to racing, finishing 105th round a tough course. It will be interesting to see if he has his post-race smile on show after the Southern Championships in two weeks' time!
This was a great effort from our A team in a very busy time of year. We finished the match in second place, frustratingly 31 points adrift of Highgate! However it was great to see us have two big hitters out in the top 5 and all bodes well as we have one eye on getting our Met League title back next year - watch this space!
Opening the scoring for the B team was Joe Everitt who, although he cut it quite fine, did not miss the start this time round! Joe is building his fitness week by week following a spell on the sidelines with a nasty heel injury. It is great to have him back racing regularly and his body responding well. Seven seconds adrift of Joe was another struggling athlete, Louis Clark, who is having a battle with plantar fascitis. Louis got into great shape early season and it is a real shame that his foot is giving him problems. However, this was a pleasing return to racing for Louis, who needs to manage the injury, have patience and the performances will come as he returns to full training. Our Third B team scorer was 800m and fast finishing man, 'Pistol' Pete Caton. Pete put in a solid run and all his endurance work will come to fruition over the track this summer. Marathon Maestro James Perry was our next man home, sneaking into the top 200 with a 199th placing. Under the watchful eye of Terry McCarthy, James is handling more mileage and is training and racing on heavier legs. This hard block of work will pay dividends for when he heads to Boston for another crack at the marathon. Keeping his tally of Met Leagues going strong, next across the line was Paul Stockings in 344th and 8th V55. Trevor Powell, who was 41 places back in 385th, closely followed Paul across the line. Trevor was 3rd V65 home and both put on a good show for our veteran contingent!
Unfortunately, we were a little light on numbers and closed just the 6 B team runners, which left us finishing in 9th place in the Division Two standings for both the match and the league. We will need to ensure we have strong numbers for the final fixture to guarantee our position in Division Two for next year.
It was a tremendous effort by all who ran and we can now turn our attention to the South of England Cross Country Championships in a fortnight's time.
First League match of the New Year, though not the first race for half of our team which had fine-tuned its tendons on the Claybury home turf the week before. Unlike the Essex, Trent Park - a welcome returnee to the Met calendar - was the season’s coldest and wettest yet.
3.7 miles in 3 increasing circles for the women on this new course - a kind of dizzying Horsenden/Parliament Hill hybrid with a hill-top Obelisk thrown in for good measure. “Challenging" said the starter. He wasn’t wrong.
Not are strongest season, this. We closed Scrubs in 5th, our best result so far putting us 6th in Division 1. However, our Vet-heavy squad’s quietly accumulating points means that we are sitting at the top of Vets Division 2. Something to hold onto.
Once again, we just about managed a scoring six this time as a mixture of seasonal illness, icy mishaps, injury and travel took its toll.
Once again V40 Kat Gundersen (23), totally recovered from her Christmas cold, was first home taking the day’s third Vet slot just as she did at Scrubs. Next was Rachel Lund (36) only 45” behind Kat, clearly drawing on her rower's strength to power through the mud. Or was she also channelling some stardust from the spikes of kind young Joseph Geller, whose steaming shoes she hastily borrowed on realising (rather calmly we all thought) that she had left her own back at the boathouse after a morning on the river?
Just back from Gundo and Lundo, a three way mini battle was unfolding between Kate Stockings, V45 Jenny Thomas and V50 Susan Edwards. Knowing her weakness would be the hills, Susan’s strategy was to forge ahead to win some valuable places early on and hold on. Behind the breakaway, Tuesday training partners Jenny and Kate tussled throughout the course, eventually getting clear of Susan as her strength finally failed her on the climb to the Obelisk. It was Kate (75) who triumphed on the finishing hill by 8” ahead of JT (79) and 27” clear of Sue (87). Closing for the As was V45 Alex Wardle (133).
With so much strength elsewhere in green & white, and such a great effort from the girls on the field, closing the day down in 9th and dropping back to a League low of 7th is disappointing. Still, we’ve held on at the top of Vets Div 2 and with a brilliant finale at Ally Pally we could yet stay clear of the relegation zone.