Fine margins at Prospect Park
BB&O Cross Country Championships, 17 November.
That most traditional of championships, the Berks Bucks and Oxon (BB&O), returned to Prospect Park in Reading on Sunday. Recent rain left underfoot conditions soft and cloying, but it was dry overhead. Those in combat were otherwise engaged but there was much late autumn colour for supporters to enjoy around this scenic but testing course – true cross country.
The senior races were off first, and after a late withdrawal through injury from Fiona Bunn, the women's race was the only one where no yellow and burgundy vests lined up. Our senior men were spearheaded by a mixture of youth (Harrison Read in 8th) and experience (Simon Fisher scything through to 9th and first V35). Owen Stepney (26th) was next, followed by Pete Mullins, Andrew Caruana and Jon Bones as our sextet finished 5th in the team race.
Now for our younger gladiators, and first up there was a clear win for Izzy Martin in the girls' race. Evey Powell produced another strong performance in 6th and Sophie Fleet closed in our scoring trio in 30th. The team results showed us level on points with Reading, but the home side collected the bronze medals by virtue of the position of their 3rd scorer. On to the lads and the tough nature of the course was much to the liking of Connor Morgan, who had a great run to finish 7th.
For the girls, it was a race-long battle at the front between Olivia Martin and her long-time Windsor rival Charlotte Dewar before the latter squeezed out a narrow lead over the final 800m. Tilly Westbrook had another fine run in 8th and Harriet Mullins completed our scorers in 37th for another 4th place in the team race. In the lads' race, Monty Grewal and Harry Richards were together until just before the final climb to the finish when Monty prised open a gap that Harry kept to a single second at the line. Josef Willis was our 3rd man home in 36th.
As usual, the men and women went off together, covering the same course as the senior women. For the lads, Kie Francis was first home for us in 21st and it was good to see Alfie Clay back in action in 28th. Mieke Bedlington has been getting back into racing shape of late and led in our women in 9th. Our other scorers were Georgie Halfhead (11th) and Rosie Mullins (14th). We were tied on points with the Windsor B team but it was our turn for the bronze medals this time with Windsor’s final scorer being one place behind our number 4, Beth Darwent – clear evidence that everybody matters in cross country.
Keeping it going
An excellent day of cross country racing, as we have come to expect of the BB&O. This championship has been in existence since 1911 and long may it continue. OK, some of the race distances were a little short of the advertised values, but looking at the athletes coming out of the finishing funnel some hard, high quality, competitive running had certainly gone in – exactly what we want at this stage of the season. Many thanks to the organisers, officials and marshals who all did a great job.