Oxford Mail Cross Country League Round 1 - Ascott Under Wychwood November 3rd 2013
November 4, 2013
Our boys and girls made an encouraging start to this season's OxfordMail Cross Country League on a beautiful, sunny (if chilly) Autumn morning in the Cotswold village of Ascott Under Wychwood on Sunday.
To come up against many of the best amateur athletes from Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire was a real challenge for our runners, especially given our relative lack of experience of this type of event and considering our club's lack of training facilities.
So all in all, we would have been happy to start our first official season in this competition by making it to the finish line in each race with the back of the pack still in sight. Yet, though we’d be lying if we said that anyone in the black and white stripes found Sunday’s competition easy, our runners battled hard and managed to stay in the game all the way to the muddy finish line.
Seven year old Hannah Merry, who has only just taken up cross country running, struggled to finish in the newly created Under 8’s race, but she showed great heart by not giving up and sticking with it despite her obvious discomfort.
Hannah now knows what she’s up against and has vowed to train harder for next month’s event and it must be said that she made a good start at tonight’s training session where she put in a commendable effort.
Under 11’s Girls
Next up was Isobel Craft in the Girl’s Under 11’s 1200m race. Unfortunately, through no fault of her own, she was still crossing the field to join the race when the starting pistol went off. Having to sprint 200 metres to try to catch up with the rest of the pack took it’s toll on Isobel, resulting in her running out of steam before the end of the race, but like Hannah, she stuck with it and despite her obvious disappointment in coming in at last place, Isobel deserves full credit for not taking her frustration out on her coach (who was responsible for her late start) and for quickly cheering up to focus her energy on enthusiastically supporting her teammates.
Under 11’s Boys
David Howells followed the instructions of his coaches down to a tee in the Boy’s Under 11’s 1200m race, pacing himself well to stay with the pack all the way and showing great spirit in nearly taking the back two runners on the approach to the finish line. Now he has the measure of the race, it is highly conceivable that we will see David move up a good few places in the finish positions over the next few months.
Under 13’s Boys
We had two runners in the Under 13’s 2000m race: Elliot Howells and Alex O’Keefe. Both did well, coming in 27th and 32nd places respectively with very decent times of 9:45 and 10:22 (considering the hilly terrain).
Elliot was surprisingly fresh when he finished, indicating that there is plenty more to come from the plucky youngster, while Alex, who is also a promising young runner, is the first to admit that he is far from his best, fitness wise, so with a little extra work both boys should soon move up in their rankings.
The boys fine efforts have earned to IWCA AC joint tenth place in the U 13’s table alongside Eynsham Roadrunners, Newbury Athletics Club and Swindon Harriers.
Under 15’s/Under 17’s Boys
In the Under 15’s/Under 17’s 4800m race, Shawn and Robert Merry joined Peter Wright in the black and white stripes to pull off respectable performances, coming 36th, 37th and 38th places in a field of 40 runners, with times of 24:47, 25.30 and 26.13, lifting the Blackbird Leys IWCA AC above the Newbury and Eynsham A teams in the U15/17 league table. The quality of the standard of runners in this category can't be over stated, so hats off to the lads for a great effort. Robert's time is especially noteworthy as he is a year younger than his team mates. This is a reflection of his hard workrate in training sessions over the last few months.
Graca Craft did herself and the club proud finishing 150th out of 190 runners in the Senior Women’s 6500m race in a time of 38.17.
Having devoted much of her limited spare time in recent months to concentrate on coaching the junior runners, Graca hasn’t trained as much as she could have at her race distance (though the midnight feast of apple pie and clotted cream the night before the race also probably didn’t help!) and Graca has vowed to make more time for training in preparation for next month’s event - so we hope to see improvements in her performance. That said, Graca ran her heart out and single handedly earned us 46th spot in Division 3 of the Women’s table; above Abingdon AC, Eynsham Roadrunners, Alchester Running Club and Witney Roadrunners.
It is worth noting that if Graca had been joined by a couple of team mates who had run the race at the same speed, our club’s position would have been raised 13 places.
In a field of 261 runners - the largest group on Sunday, Blackbird Leys IWCA AC Stuart Craft and Simon O’Keefe finished in 203rdand 240th places with times of 43.03 and 48.11.
Though we’ll need a few more of our senior male runners appearing at forthcoming meetings to make our mark on the cross country league table this season, for our two veteran runners to finish so far away from the back of the field on their first time out, against such quality opposition, is an achievement in itself. Both Stuart and Simon have been encouraged by their placings this time around and have set their sights on doing even better next time.
Thanks to Lorraine, David T, David C, Phil, Francis, Peter and Angela for helping out with transport and food and for being there to cheer the team on.
Thanks also to the organisers and stewards for putting on such a well run, enjoyable event.
The next meeting of the Oxford Mail Cross Country League is at Culham Park near Abingdon on December 1st.