After a balmy start to the 2017/18 season last month, fixture 2, at new venue Welwyn Garden City’s Stanborough Park, looked and felt a lot more like a winter fixture, even if it didn’t feel particularly cold. With course information limited to noting that It "began and ended on grass", it was anybody’s guess what this Stevenage replacement might be. In truth it was not very different; grass, yes, more undulated and cambered with a good woodland section and a steep sharp rounded hill. Despite some water logging in the park, the course itself was surprisingly firm.
It's becoming almost routine to have a record field at every Met League and Saturday did not disappoint. Even without the number-swelling presence of the Cambridge Uni crew at this fixture, the men’s and women’s fields were the largest ever! 249 women finished, of them 232 were scorers. Woodford had seven women - a similar line-up to Woodford. With all of Cambridge’s 17 athletes packed into the top half of the field our women’s finishing positions looked lower than their scoring positions but were consistent.
Consolidating her strong start to the season and stamping her authority on the Top Vet spot, V40 Kat Gundersen (23 - 18th for points) finished first for Woodford and won the Vet's race. Closing the Gundo Gap by 10” to finish just 2” behind the SuperVet was Suzanne Turvey (25 - 20th for points) rediscovering her off-road form and edging towards the top 20. Rachel Lund (55 - or scoring 46th), having recovered some fleetness of foot after the Berlin marathon was third scorer, and with a performance more aligned to her not inconsiderable strength Lundo was happy with her run. 4th scorer was Zoe Watson (68 - or 57th for points) 35” behind Rachel, a bigger gap than at Claybury but like the rower, giving a stronger performance than at home, as she builds up the miles towards an autumn ultra and holds a hammy niggle at bay. Making a debut on Saturday on the country in a Woodford vest, new signing Georgina Warren was fifth home in 84th (71st for points) with a very creditable marker in the top third of a very strong field. Definitely more to come from the Loughborough student, recently rehabbed from injury, as she finds her off-road legs. Closing for the team 89” behind Georgina, V50 Jenny Thomas (127 or 110 for points) was pleased to have scraped into the top 50% Seventh home was V50 Alex Wardle (201 - 188 for points) in her first race of the new season, racing back to strength after a late summer knee injury.
Dropping a place to 7th in Division 1, 165 points behind new leaders Heathside, leaves us with work to do if we are to stay clear of relegation. With our 6th scorer halfway down the order we’ll have to get more of our (slightly) younger, crew out to stay up! Looking forward to December….