A contingent of the men's winter squad made the 3 hour trip up to Wollaton Park in Nottingham on Saturday for the National Cross Country Championships. The overcast weather, drizzle and challenging under-foot conditions made it a tough day for all. Over a distance of 12K the course consisted of undulations, good firm running, boggy mud and uneven ground to make for a catch-all course. We ended up finishing in 17th place in both the six and nine to-score trophies, which was a par performance for the men who toed the start line in what was a very strong, deep field.
Our first man home was Tom Beedell. Fresh off a new 5k road pb of 15.03 from Armagh, Tom was hoping for a best ever placing in this event. It was not quite to be as Tom did not feel great but worked hard through the race to finish 142nd. He did, however, gain some good scalps along the way. Moving through the course in usual fashion was our second man home Daniel Steel. This race tops off Dan's best ever winter as he now turns his attention to his favoured event of the marathon. He should be very pleased with his 154th placing. Our third man home was a resurgent Angus Holford. Having started the winter with some below-par performances by his own high standards, Angus has discovered some form. He gained his first win of the season in the latest addition of the 53-12 League and carried on this good form to finish 177th.
Another Woodford stalwart whose results have greatly improved of late was our fourth man home, Bertie Powell. Having spent a long period on the sidelines, Bertie's body is now allowing him to endure higher mileage and more intense sessions. Recent results have shown strong evidence of this and a top 200 place at the National Cross is a real achievement, and something this 197th place finisher can build on. Next, we had Darren Southcott, who worked hard to get around in 222nd place. Darren recently returned from a two-week holiday in South Africa where running took a back seat, and by his own admission did not feel sharp for this race. Always going backwards, Darren dug in well to get round to the finish in one piece, cursing the mud most of the way round. The race to close out our six to score team came right down to the wire with Simon Beedell dipping Thomas Plibersek by one spot, 321st to 322nd, yet both were given the same time. This was another solid run from Simon who rounds off a good cross-country season and will now turn his attention to some ultra-marathon races in the spring. For Tomaz this was a par performance, as he has only recently began to increase his training. His own running has taken a back seat as he has switched his focus to coaching. To grind out a performance like this shows what a calibre athlete he is. He was very quick to inform us how he much preferred the dry, firm conditions of the National last hosted at Wollaton park in 2014.
8th man home for the day was Harold Wyber in 459th. Harold has been struggling with a hamstring injury throughout the winter but, to his credit, he managed to get around the challenging course with little hindrance. This is a result which shows the strength of Harold's running at present, but once he recovers from his injury, form will quickly return, as it has so many times previously. Closing our 9 to score team was Paul Stockings. Our only team member choosing to use the National for a weekend away, Paul was quick to pull out the pre-race excuses of 'having been led astray' and that 'Jager was a bad choice' in the early hours of the previous morning. Paul got round as his company from the previous evening cheered him home for a 1584th place finish. 10th man home for the day was Trevor Powell who finished in 1663rd spot, another solid run from Trevor, who has powered his way around every target fixture this winter. Closing our 11-man team was Alistair Holford. Alistair's season was hampered by a calf injury. He is an example to us all as he got round with arguably the heaviest pre-race injury strapping of the day. He was pleased to finish and should be content with 1709th spot. We hope that the injury clears up for Alistair to have a more successful season next time around.
Well done to all who have raced for us this season, be it at championships or in Met Leagues. Our attention now turns to the road relay season as we look to round off the winter in style.
Only two of our young athletes made the journey to Wollaton Park; a family brace of McArdells with both sisters racing. In U20W Alicia’s case, it was just a short trip for her, now that she is at university in Nottingham.
Alicia was the first of the two sisters on the course, finishing 83rd of the 148 runners in 27m28s with Warrington ACs Harriet Knowles-Jones leading the field home (for the second year in a row) in 22m03s. A muddy Alicia was able to report useful information on the state of the course and muddy streams to cross to those due to run later. U13G Holly then raced in the following 3k event, finishing 371st in a huge field of 467 runners headed home by the diminutive Maisy Luke from Cornwall AC.