For most people the English National Cross-country Championships represent the final XC of the season. They rotate around venues in the North, Midlands and South of England and this year it was the turn of the midlands to host in Wollaton Park, Nottingham. Three years ago the same event at the same place turned out to be beautiful springlike day in the sunshine so we were hoping for the same this year.
LBAC’s relationship with the event has fluctuated a bit, but in recent years we have been fairly consistent in terms of senior men’s participation, especially at the Southern and Midlands venues. However, the other categories have always struggled to get numbers in attendance. With a healthy bunch of entries this year we were hoping for some strong results.
We arrived at the course to see that it was significantly wetter than in 2014 and although it was dry overhead there wasn’t much sunshine to keep us warm. However, without any participants in the first couple of races there was a chance to see exactly what it was like.
First out on the course was Izzi Bidlake-Hull in the Junior Women. To put things into context, Izzi has run a 25 minute 5K which many of our members would be very happy with and that pace would be comfortably in the mix with the senior women, especially in the Chiltern League which means she will be a great asset to the seniors team when she gets there. The juniors women is as tough as it gets though and we were delighted to have a rare participant as Izzi came home in 148th place.
Three U13 girls took on the 3K course straight after the juniors in the shape of Niquole Carter, Julia Bell and Daisy Giltrow who have been regularly participants throughout the season. Niquole was first back in 351st with Julia (383) and Daisy (435) pretty close behind. Unfortunately it is four to a team, but hopefully next year we’ll break into that list.
Next out on the course were our U15 girls and we were delighted to have a team of four for the first time ever! The race was approximately 4K (like the Stag!) but as with all the other races involved battling through large muddy bogs as well as some free-flowing running on parkland. The battle in this was was between Isabelle Hoare and Dana Carter with Isabelle just getting home 1 second ahead on this occasion in 409th place. The team was led back by Amy Killick (242nd) who had a strong run and continues to improve, but there was also great support for Mckenna Keefe who completed the team and meant that LBAC featured in the team results.
The last race before the oldies got onto the course was the the U13 boys, in which we had two representatives in the Oscar Butlin and William Rossiter. These two have been the core of our boys team throughout the cross-country season and on this occasion Oscar came home in 280th place, in just under 15 minutes while William was just 36 seconds but 80 places behind! That’s the nature of the nationals……
So as the clouds started to gather rather ominously, LBAC just about had four women arrive at the site after a few stressful car journeys. The significance of four is that like the U15 girls, this amounts to a team and in the 20 years where results are available online we have never had a team in this event either, so it was pretty momentous for us. Unfortunately Maria had not made it due to a car malfunction, which was a shame as she had done more XC than any of the women this year, but four others had and so they lined up together.
The race is around 5 miles for the women which is about as long as they ever are and combined with the difficult terrain it is certainly a good test. Typically, just after they started the rain did arrive, and whilst this was more inconvenient for the spectators than the runners, it also managed to freshen up the muddy sections of the course.
Amy Inchley continued her comeback and was first home over the three lap course, just sneaking into the top 300 in 297th while Kate Johnson (655) chased Fiona Towell (650) right to the end as they finished three seconds apart. Just a minute behind them was Alison Bell completing our first ever (?) team in 677th with more than 100 behind her. This meant that our team not only finished but gave them 81st place and therefore ahead of twelve other clubs. Well done ladies.
The weather had cleared up in time for the men’s race 40 minutes later and with nine participants we just about had enough to qualify for both team competitions (6-man and 9-man) as long as we all finished! Across the club the men have been outstanding this season in terms of their commitment to cross-country and we have been led from the front by Elliot Hind who has done 7 out of 8 club fixtures and only missing the county champs for an NCT class!
Elliot’s position of 83rd in the national is certainly an SM best for the last 20 years and may well be a best ever position for someone from LBAC so huge congratulations should go to him, but it does highlight the quality at the front end of the field! Additionally Chris George has run all eight of the fixtures this season and after a real battle with Andy Inchley, managed to get the better of him with a fast finish to just sneak inside 400 (out of 1770 runners) with Andy 8 seconds and 16 places back.
Tom Inchley’s continued improvement towards London marathon put him in the top 500 while club captain James Bell was 794th and Warren Rose closed the 6-man team in exactly 900. Warren is another LBACer who has completed a full set of 5 Chiltern Leagues, County, Southern and National championships for the season.
The 9-man team was completed by Tim Inchley (963), Dan Webb (1230) and Sean Westrope (1480) who were all pretty pleased when the final 7.8 miles of XC season was over. These efforts meant that the 6-man team was 41st out of 131, which we believe is an LBAC record too.
So next year the event is certainly down south and is likely to be just an hour away on Hampstead Heath, so can we improve on these results? We’d like to think so. If you haven’t ever done the nationals, then it is certainly something to put on the list.
For the men – There is a “Minor Clubs Trophy”. This is awarded to the highest placed team that have not been in the top 30 in the five previous years!?