The senior men's team kicked 2018 off with a fantastic result on Saturday, successfully defending the Essex Senior Cross Country title at Great Notley. We made the trip down the A120 full of expectation as President McCarthy could be seen clutching the trophy, hoping it would be out of his sights for all of 45 minutes of competitive running.
From left to right: Rob Wilbraham (24), Dan Steel (9), Joe Everitt (28), Tom Beedell (3), Angus Holford (5), Team Manager Darren Southcott (4).
Notley was a new choice of venue for these championships, taking them away from our home base of Claybury. The course consisted of one small and 3 large laps with one significant climb at the beginning of each circuit. Despite the hazardous conditions much of the country faced thanks to Storm Eleanor, the open fields encouraged the wind to dry up the wet ground for some reasonable January cross country conditions. The overall race was won by Adam Hickey of Southend. The GB international led from gun to tape as he sealed the individual titled by 30 seconds.
Leading our senior men's team home, and collecting a fine bronze medal was Tom Beedell, covering the 12km course in 42minutes and 02 seconds. Tom demonstrated a return to form at the last Met League and, with a few good weeks training over Christmas, ran strongly for a third place finish. This was the second time Tom has picked up a bronze medal an,d following a fourth place finish last year, he is proving to be one of our most consistent county championship performers. Fifteen seconds adrift of Tom in fourth was team manager Darren Southcott. Darren, eyeing up a medal in these championships, began aggressively, demonstrating his intent to his fellow competitors. Despite best efforts, it wasn't quite to be but he was consolidated with the highest place finish he has achieved so far as he continues to improve under the close guidance of Coach Tomaz Plibersek. Our next athlete home was Angus Holford in fifth, 11 seconds adrift of his compatriot. Angus had been slightly under the weather with a cold leading into the race but had a good spell of training and racing around the Essex circuit prior to Christmas. With the additional pressure of the friendly rivalry with his Colchester training partners, Angus managed to find the strength to have a good run and strong finish for his second top 5 finish at these championships.
Our 4th man home was Daniel Steel in 9th place finishing in a time of 43.40. Dan has had a reasonable first half of the winter, racing and training consistently with, no doubt, an eye on a few road races come spring. He battled hard to repeat his 9th place finish of 12 months ago and gain another Essex team championship gold medal. In 24th place, Rob Wilbraham was our next man to cross the finish line in 45.49. With running taking a back seat for Rob over the summer, we were thrilled to welcome him back into the A team ranks. A vast improvement on his 47th place finish of two years ago, Rob is working hard and finding form at the right time as we head into the business end of the season. The battle for the 6th scoring spot and a gold medal was contested between Joe Everitt and Harold Wyber. There was much excitement as they entered the home straight, dragging their scrap for team honours to the wire. Just having the edge as he kicked hard for home, Joe saw off Harold's efforts to finish in 28th in 46.06, three seconds ahead of his team mate. Joe's emphatic finish closed out the A team with a grand total of 73 points, 50 points clear of Colchester in second spot.
The B team began with Harold our 7th scorer of the day. In a disappointed post-race assessment, Harold acknowledged his poor choice of footwear which resulted in a loss of grip on the muddier patches of the race. This is a mistake he will not be keen to repeat, and will look to make amends at future races in the season. Our next Woody home was Gareth Cavell, who has recently recovered from a calf strain which resulted in him missing some of the winter. Gareth ran well to finish in 71st and 4th V50, in a time of 50.40 for the 12k course. Due to his past calf problems, Gareth will be looking to get back on the firmer surfaces where he can be relieved of the pressure of wearing spikes. James Perry was our next man home in 85th place. This was a good run from the marathon man as the course could be described as somewhat shorter than his preferred distance. Like many before him, he has one eye on the Comrades Marathon in June. Joining James on his 56mile jaunt in Durban is Julian Russell, who was the 10th Woody home in 100th spot. This was another solid run from another athlete with different goals to aim for over the coming few months, as he makes his road marathon debut this spring. Our 11th and final athlete home was V60 Alistair Holford. Alistair is another one of the squad who has had injury woes of late, and so it was great seeing him back in action and enjoying a good run, finishing 5th V60 for the day.
It was another successful day out at these championships as we have now won the team title four years in a row. Thanks to all who supported and we now turn our attention to the Met League at Wormwood Scrubs this Saturday.
In the women's race, injuries prevented us from fielding a full team. Nonetheless, W40 Kat Gundersen enjoyed a decent run, achieving her aim of making the top 10 out of the 157 finishers in what is always a strong field. Rachel Lund took 2 minutes longer to complete the 8K course but her 23rd was also a very competent performance. Former team manager Alex Wardle was our other representative, finishing 85th.