Another big step up for AAC
English national cross country championships, 24 February.
This years "national" took place at Parliament Hill in London in bright winter sunshine. The going on this most traditional of courses was firmer than usual - though not to the extent of the 1977 event here when track specialist Brendan Foster claimed his only national victory. There was still a fair amount of mud in parts, especially later on in this 10-race programme.
An Abingdon AC first
Our standout performer today was Cordy Parker, who became the first Abingdon AC woman to make the first 100 in the senior ladies race. With over 1100 facing the starter, Cordy was away well and in clear space with high quality company as the field crested the 600m long opening hill. Pushing on from there, she wound up a terrific 96th - still in a blanket finish with three others after 8 km of torrid racing.
The action had kicked off some four hours earlier with the Under-17 women and it was another Cordy - Halfhead this time - who led us in in 83rd place, and with backing from Anya Bromley, Katharine Harris and Mollie Darwent we were 19th in the team standings.
U15 men and women
The sheer depth in the national never fails to impress, none more so than in the Under-15 races today. In the lads race, Kie Francis was 242nd and Alfie Clay 270th but with a mere 11 seconds separating the two. It was a similar story in the girls race, with Mieke Bedlington in 141st only 24 seconds in front of Beth Darwent (188th). There was more of the same a little further back as there were 68 places but only 30 seconds between Georgie Halfhead and Rosie Mullins. Izzie Jones completed our squad as the team was 34th.
U13 boys and U17 men
Seb Lawton was our only competitor in the Under-13 boys, coming in a fine 219th as 570 finished. A decimated Under-17 mens team left David Bunn on his own in the starting pens. After a tumble over a fallen competitor early on, his fortunes changed as he powered through to an excellent 117th (356 finished). Lottie Siddle was another left to it in the Junior womens race, and putting her track speed to good use over the final stretch of firm footing she swept past 2 people and into 99th place. Jack Shayler was also in splendid isolation in the junior mens race, where he was an excellent 57th.
The final race of the day was the senior men and with it the iconic view of the start - this year with the opening charge involving over 2300 runners. Astonishingly, after 12 km of racing during which they were rarely close together, Paul Hughes and Owen Stepney tore up the finishing straight together and were given the same time (along with a couple of other people). Paul just got the nod, 344th and 345th. Harrison Reed was next (465th) followed by Jack Miller (1101st). The seemingly indefatigable Jon Bones rounded things off for us , finishing 1761st. It was Jon who had brought our home for the day by road, rail and on foot and the pennant had been planted just after 10 am.
A brilliant day's racing
It was good to see so many yellow and burgundy vests out today, with the club represented in all of but one race. Several of our athletes were making their debut in the event, and understandably some were full of trepidation beforehand (as indeed were some of their support crews). It should never be as nerve-wracking again. The national is a pretty special occasion and being part of it is a terrific experience .
Our colours were struck some time after 4 pm at the end of a brilliant day of cross country racing. A big well done to all of our athletes and thanks also to our many supporters.
The final thank you must however go to the organisers, officials and marshalls - 10 races involving thousands of athletes do not just happen by chance. And with chip timing all of the results were available on the ECCA website later that evening.