Dominic Stands the Pressure

Fifty-one, yes 51 LBAC members made it to Cassiobury Park in Watford for the beginning of the 2014/15 cross-country season. It has to be said that it was not your typical cross-country weather, with the autumn sunshine making it a very pleasant day for a run around this varied course.

As ever the U11's had to be there bright and early for the 11:30 start, with the girls leading the way.For many of them it was a completely new experience, but after a summer of solid training none of them were overawed and they put in a fantastic team performance. They were 5th out of 16 teams on the day with seven girls running strongly around the parkland loop. Niquole Carter led them home in 15th place with Zara Brooks, Millie Hawes and Julia Bell all finishing in the top half of the field too. Magnificent team running also came from Isobel Haynes, Ellie DeVille & Sophie Hawes who ensured that they took points off just about all the other teams.

Whilst the girls put in a great team effort, undoubtedly the individual performance of the day for Leighton was in the U11 boys race. Not since Nikki Sykes won the senior ladies race in October 2004 has Leighton had an individual winner of a CCCL race. On this day, it Saturday Dominic Grimshaw held his nerve as favourite to win by 6 seconds, which is about as big a gap as you get in the U11 boys! There was a bit of pressure on him because he had been very near the front last year and so with most of the lads moving to the next age group the way was clear, but actually pulling it off is another kettle of fish. Dom wasn't alone in the race with Callum Ogelman also picking up points for the club in 80th place.

In the U13 girls, another seven athletes took to the course, highlighting that the future of girls running in the club is looking really bright. Jess Hawes, Dana Carter and Evie Gilmour found it tough going, but completed the course well and can know that their contributions all add to the cause for the club in our quest to move up the CCCL table. Just ahead of them McKenna Keefe ran well as the 4th athlete home with Sadie Towell and Chloe May finishing just ten seconds apart in 70th and 72nd respectively. It was Ellie Rabbits that led the team home though with her 44th place earning a solid 47 points for the club.

All of the U13 boys were making the step up from the U11's and so are all a year young in the age group but the four of them performed admirably to complete a scoring team and take 10th place on the day. Scott Towell was warming up for his afternoon rugby match for school and led home Max Rose, Harry Bell and Joseph Bidlake-Hull who all scored very valuable points.

We had two U15 girls out as well with Sarah Plummer and Megan Westrope continuing their development in a tough age group by combining to take 8th team with 35th and 47th places respectively. For the first time in many years we had a competitor in the U17 ladies race, with Izzi Bidlake-Hull putting herself out bravely to represent the club in between taking hundreds of fantastic photos of all the other races for the facebook page.

The final competitor before we get to the old'uns was Sam Nicholas. Sam has returned to the club in the U17 age group following an absence of a few years and a huge improvement in standard. He recently spent a week in hospital after cracking his head open on a skate park, but it hasn't stopped him flying round the MK parkrun most weeks. Yesterday he came 17th in the race as a year young, so the future looks really bright for him.

The ladies team was buoyed by the return to competitive cross-country for Gail Duckworth after a year away from the sport. All the ladies would probably admit that for the most part they are not at their peak fitness at the moment, but they certainly all turned out to give us just about as strong a team as we could get together and they packed together very well. Gail (38th) led the team home, with Amy Inchley (48th), Jane Sauer (51st) and Lynn Boddy (60th) chasing strongly all the way. Liz Peters was running for the club for the first time and cam home just behind Lynn and just ahead of Katie Haylock. Kate Johnson in 101st position completed the team which earned 9th place overall. The veteran ladies team was 5th on the day and just 5 points behind 3rd so there is a good target for the season!

As far as the senior men go, the first fixture of the year has often been one the worst, although in the four years the club has been in division one we have steadily improved one place each year from 10th to 7th. In the 20 fixtures over those years the men have only closed the team inside 100 on three previous occasions, but each of those has been towards the end of the season when numbers to tend to reduce a little.

This race was the best start the team have had to a season ever! There were 20 men out running, who closed the team in 94 and every one of our runners were taking points of at least two of the rival teams. All of this resulted in a magnificent 4th place on the day, behind just the very biggest clubs in the league. To highlight the point, Tim Inchley – our 11th runner – would have been in the scoring team for 11 of the 14 clubs in the division which means he is taking lots of points from all those 11 clubs and this can be extended for all of the other nine club runners behind him too, which is why getting big numbers of runners out is crucial.

It has to be mentioned that the scoring team were certainly helped by the addition of some youth, with both Jordan Clay and Charlie Mead having fantastic runs in their first ever senior cross-country, helped out by Billy Mead making a surprise return from university. What this also meant was that they took 3rd place in the U20 team race and if Billy can continue to attend they have a great chance of some silverware this season.

At the end of the first fixture the club now sit in 9th place overall, but just 206 behind Luton which is really very little indeed when you consider we have over 2000. so there is much to target as 9th remains our best ever end of season finish! Full results can be found on the Chiltern League website and there are lots of photos from the day on our facebook page. The league moves on to Keysoe in North Bedfordshire next month for a brand new venue so lets make sure we continue to get everyone out and earning points. Great work everyone.