A small Woodford senior men’s cross country team was content to take home its first silverware of the new decade at the Essex Cross Country Championships at Gloucester Park, Basildon, on 4th January. Unfortunately, silver was the metal of the day, with the scoring six well beaten into second place by a strong Havering team, by a margin of 80 points to 121.
L to R: Stockings, Holford, Southcott, Steel, Beedell, Wyber
There has been an impressive consistency from this scoring six, with at least four of them scoring in these Championships over the past 5 years. New threats also loomed close behind, with Victoria Park Harriers taking team bronze on 146 points, leaving the Southend team (154) of successful defending champion Adam Hickey smarting and medal-less. Though based over the border in Middlesex, VPH now have a critical mass of Essex-eligible runners, and even took the women’s team title on the day. As a club, Woodford must look to its stream of home-grown young athletes in the near future to refresh our pushes for the title, as well as find ways to attract those newly settling in the east of the capital to our folds.
The team was led in by Tom Beedell in 6th. The 2016 and 2018 bronze medallist carefully dispatched some fast starters, and had satisfaction in taking the scalp of Colchester Harriers’ stalwart and former champion Adrian Mussett. That will remain a season’s aspiration for Angus Holford who came 10th. He too started started steadily, and closed significantly on eventual 8th and 9th placers Rob Warner and Grant Twist, but didn’t have the extra gear to follow the tussle that was soon to unfold between these Havering clubmates. Outgoing team manager Darren Southcott, on a flying visit back to the UK from his new base in Singapore, handled a long-haul flight and 8-hour time difference not three days ago in admirable fashion to finish 22nd. Darren particularly welcomed the fresh Essex air, being not fully acclimatised to the suffocating humidity of the Malay Peninsula, and this was a decent performance for someone describing his training as merely “ticking over”. Dan Steel in 26th and Harold Wyber in 27th were separated by only a single second. For Dan, with a marathon already under his belt this winter, the race perhaps came at the wrong time to match his fine top 10 and teen performances for the last few years. The clockwise formation of the course meant fewer sharp corners at the bottom of the steepest hills, and Harold was pleased to do all his overtaking here, and never to be overtaken back in the ensuing flats, except for the final sprint in. His team medal today came 16 years (and a day) after taking the individual U20 silver at this same venue. With slightly less longevity, James Stockings, the 2014 U20 silver medallist, followed in 30th. Although that parallel will not be too salient to James, he will be keen to get back to the form that took him to senior silver in 2017, and we hope, to lead the new generation.
Just outside our scoring team, but with a strong enough performance to have left the team result unchanged had we needed him, was Kevin Murphy in 48th. In this roll-call of former medallists, Kevin is the only one to actually have his own name engraved on the famous trophy, along with Eamonn Martin, Rob Denmark, Adam Hickey et al, yet he does not rest on his laurels and we’re pleased to see him taking up the challenge of the Essex championships after a four year hiatus – the county of his birth rather than residence (Suffolk). Paul Manson, in 92nd, was disappointed with his run, but should be pleased to have out-sprinted ex-Woodford member Tim Ballard. Better late than never (Tim left in 2014) – that will teach him to move to Colchester Harriers. Finally, Tom Spanyol was 197th of the 226 finishers on the day, a solid run on the path back to full fitness. Despite contending with navigational difficulties to this venue again, Tom was delighted to make it before the start this time!
The Team Managers thank our supporters and all team members who ran today; wish readers and team members both absent and present today a very Happy New Year; and look forward to seeing you at the next fixture, the Metropolitan League at Alexandra Palace, just a week away on 11th January.