Quantity and quality at second Met League - seniors

25 senior Woodies descended on Wormwood Scrubs in the biggest combined men’s and women’s Met League race-day squad for several years. There was a pleasing mixture of returning stars, young guns, new recruits and ever-presents. Late alterations made the course even flatter than usual, and 7.4km, at the short end, making for a very different challenge to Claybury. The squad adapted well and the women placed 7th, just 6 points off matching the men’s teams 5th place. They were led in respectively by Suzanne Phillips, in 5th, herself less than 3 seconds off matching her best-ever Met League position; and Tom Beedell, who was 15th and while “always wanting more” was chuffed with the wider team outlook.

In the women’s, Kezia Beeton made her senior Met League debut to finish in 29th place, our second scorer behind Suzanne. Bad traffic meant Alicia McArdell lacked a warm-up which, on top of a lack of recent training due to illness, resulted in a 51st finish that left her somewhat disappointed. However, her consistent presence at the front of our women’s team is something to be proud of and we look forward to seeing how she races across the rest of the season!

Next in was our new recruit Claire Allen. Racing her first cross-country since her school days, Claire wasn’t too sure what to expect but after finishing 67th she declared that she loved it! Club supporters commented on how comfortable she looked and speculated that there was plenty left in the tank after the last lap - meaning that Claire is definitely one to watch. Zoe Watson’s Garmin declared her ‘productive’ as she came in 78th - a result she was slightly disappointed with but attributed to post half-Ironman tiredness. The team was closed by Kate Stockings in 104th with Katie Olert close behind in 114th. Both enjoyed the flatter and faster course offered by Scrubs but are looking forward to putting in some hill training ahead of the Uxbridge fixture.

In the men’s race, Oliver Bushdari in his first cross-country since January and first claim debut, was hot on the heels of Tom Beedell for much of the race but couldn’t quite keep pace and finished 25th. Experimenting with this aggressive approach will pay dividends later in the season.

Around 20 places back, Nathan Wright ran a mature and even race on his senior cross-country debut and delivered a huge improvement on his senior ‘winter’ debut at the Aldershot Road Relays back in September, to come 51st. This took the accolade of 1st U20 on the day back to Woodford for the second Met League in a row, after Joel Doye did the same at Claybury.  Unfortunately, Nathan’s back became a target for multiple-times former winner Tom Frith, and for Angus Holford, whose home-straight burn-up against each other, narrowly won by Tom, took them past him and other opposition to 46th and 47th. Tom Frith was measured on his return to racing after an injury-enforced 13-month break but this approach still yields a massively important squad contribution. Mike Waddington was very close behind in 59th, with his marathon strength not yielding quite the same return as at Claybury.

Dan Steel and Tom Phillips looked to be in another intra-club tussle early on, but Dan was able to gain enough of a gap on the second lap to be safe from Tom’s track speed in the final stages, as they finished 75th and 80th. It will be interesting to see how their respective marathon times compare over the next months. Tom, managing an injury at present, declared himself “gutted he wasn’t fit” since the course changes would have played to his advantages more than anyone in the team, but was satisfied with the return from an effective tempo run. Ronan Edwards was very close behind in 85th, dropping a few places overall from Claybury but climbing one to 5th place in the U20 sub-category. One team manager was delighted to discover his part-time job has moved to a Sunday for the XC season.

Kevin Murphy was next in, in 144th. Family commitments make the trip from Bury St Edmunds complex, so he was pleased to be back racing for Woodford in his first Met League since 2021 albeit nursing long-term injuries. As with the returning Tom Frith, Kevin has been used to racing right at the front of Met League fields, but the team contribution he can make now is just as valued. Kevin edged out Simon Beedell in 152nd. Simon had felt somewhat lethargic after a transatlantic flight less than 36 hours earlier, and has missed enough training due to an uncertain leg injury to have decided to withdraw from the Valencia Marathon, previously his target race. The team was closed by Rhys Edwards in 176th, himself edging out Peter Caton in 177th, by less than a second. An unsatisfactory warm-up after arriving late due to traffic may have made all the difference to Peter.

The A-team was backed up by an unusually super set of subs comprising our half B-team. Behind Peter was Paul Manson in 223rd, occasionally wishing he was officiating himself, but declaring the run “fine”, and putting 6 seconds into fellow V40 Jon Williams in 227th. There was a close old versus new match-up as Bertie Powell came 279th in his 94th consecutive Met League, just ahead of Scott Kyson in 286th, who was making his debut after an encouraging text from a teammate the night before. Paul Stockings was pleased to get round in 391st, ticking off another Met on his journey to 200.

Away from the Scrubs, Devon-based squad member Phil Norman placed 20th in the Cardiff Cross Challenge. He was pleased with the result given it is early days in his winter training, building strength for next summer’s steeplechase campaign. He hopes to improve on this result at the European Trials in Liverpool in two weeks, where Joel Doye, absent through illness this weekend, will be aiming to make an impression in the junior race. We wish them both well. Tom Adolphus was another absentee as he raced in Cambridgeshire, securing a place in the Varsity 3rd team following “an enjoyable tactical race”.

The next Met League is at Uxbridge on 2nd December, when some core squad members’ commitments mean we expect to be weakened. With a longer-term view however, both Claybury and the Scrubs individual and team performances show a very positive outlook for the team’s future.

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