NEWBOLD Comyn in Leamington was the venue for the first hotly-contested event in the cross country calendar for Stratford Athletic Club’s seniors, writes Tony Jackson.
The course is always challenging at Newbold Comyn but was made more so by the saturated underfoot conditions and, whilst the infamous ditch/stream crossing perhaps was not as deep as might have been expected, it was still a popular spectator spot to see numerous thrills and spills.
The ladies’ race included one of the UK’s leading middle-distance athletes in Jessica Judd but, undaunted, Zoe Chandler relished the challenge and put in the performance of the day to finish seventh in a time of 24.53.
She was followed home by Female Athlete of the Year Kate Wright (29th, 26.30) and Rachel Pearce (76th, 28.34).
Hannah Spriggs (89th, 29.02) had a ‘fun afternoon’, followed by Sheila Barbour (118th, 30.22) and an excellent Fern Hordern (126th, 30.37).
Despite her scared expression at the ditch, Alison Bagnall (132nd, 30.56) had a solid run whilst Penny Stainthorp (190th, 32.51) just held off the challenge of Emma Vickers (191st, 32.51) and Emma Parkin (195th, 33.04).
Emily Adams (210th, 33.38) can be well pleased. Next in her first race following a stress fracture was Sarah Odell (251st, 35.35). Understandably Sarah ran conservatively but, having successfully overcome this challenge, despite ‘tasting’ the ditch, she will be well placed for future races and she was followed by Kate Grant (256th, 35.55).
In her first cross country race Rebecca Pridham (265th, 36.33) had an enjoyable time. Next was Jo Young (301st, 38.07), then Charlotte Potgieter (304th, 38.14) who loved her first cross country race and last but definitely not least was Kate Sergent (330th, 39.31).
The ladies’ team were sixth and the masters women’s team were third – both great results.
The men’s race included all divisions of the league, which meant a very high quality race emphasised by the fact newly-crowned Athlete of the Year Rich Shepherd was 80th overall. He was a brilliant 11th in the Division Two race in a time of 38.24.
Adding some youth to the proceedings (Jack McMullen 29th, 40.34) was next, followed by the improving (Tim Hutchinson 42nd, 41.04) who strangely particularly enjoyed Beacon Hill!
Thanks to a chance meeting in the morning, new membership secretary Emily Adams not only signed up Johann Bretenbach but also persuaded him to race in the afternoon as well and her efforts were well rewarded as Johann turned back the years to finish 66th in 42.23.
He was closely followed by Rob Ford (73rd, 42.48) and a terrific run from Kieran Tursner (96th, 43.40) completed the scoring six.
Newcomer Tim Tandy (109th, 44.09) and B team stalwart Malcolm Bowyer (112th, 44.19) enjoyed a battle throughout with Malcolm leading up the hills but eventually losing out in the final stages.
A better paced effort from David Smyth (117th, 44.58) brought its rewards and, returning from serious injury, David Battersby (137th, 46.05) ran a conservative race that augurs well for the future.
Another newcomer David Parkin (143rd, 46.23) ran in the same vest as his wife to save on the washing and he was followed by Anthony Howell (163rd, 48.12) who completed the B team scoring six.
Mark Bullock (169th, 49.00) looked comfortable and just overtook the hardworking Mike Sheppard (173rd, 49.00) in the home straight, with James Deacon (175th, 49.21) and James Cusack (180th, 49.46) close behind.
Neil Gardiner (189th, 50.21) was delighted with his effort, especially as following a heel injury in 2014 this was the furthest he had run for ten months.
It is fair to say David Jones (211th, 53.15) enjoys the firmer conditions of track and road but that does not affect his commitment to the cause. Ben Twyman (218th, 54.03) and Phil Marshall (224th, 56.17) dug deep and both can be pleased.
Determined Martyn Sergent (236th, 74.57) was overwhelmed with the support he received in his first cross country race and he was only persuaded to race ‘for a change’ by wife Kate on the basis that ‘it’ll be a laugh’.
The men’s A team finished a solid ninth of 17 teams, with the B team finishing sixth, and everybody is looking to forward to the next fixture on December 5 at Cofton Park in Birmingham.