Huge fields at the heath
Southern Cross Country Championships, 25 January.
Test of strength
Mist and murk meant that we forewent our usual views over central London, but some sparkling performances from our athletes lit up the day at this most traditional of venues for cross country racing in the region. The course was its customary demanding self, with plenty of mud and hills to test strength, balance and determination.
Pride of place goes to Olivia Martin who took the individual bronze medal in the Under-15 girls' race. Always well-placed, she entered the finishing field a clear 3rd and with the worst of the mud behind her made sure of her medal with a decisive change of gear in the home straight.
Other standout performances
Cordy Parker shone in a senior women's field that contained a liberal sprinkling of internationals – 37th of almost 700 that crossed the line. Jack Shayler flew the flag for the lads with a fine 28th in the junior men's race.
Two of our athletes were having their first taste of combat at this level and will have learnt much from the experience – Harry Richards (135th of 317 in the Under-15 boys) and Harriet Mullins (248th in the corresponding girls' event, where 304 finished).
Tempus certainly does fugit and nowadays Kie Francis (77th Under-17 men) and Alex Pennington (80th junior men) can almost be considered as old hands. At the younger end of the age range, there was some hard running from Evey Powell (an excellent 67th) and Connor Morgan (204th) in their respective Under-13 events where around 300 finished in each race.
As a championship event, team races are decided on the first 4 scorers (6 in the senior men) which makes it tough on smaller clubs such as ours. We did, however, have a quartet in the Under-17 women's race. Mieke Bedlington (53rd) led us in followed closely by Rosie Mullins (64th), Georgie Halfhead (74th) and Beth Darwent (85th), 9th of just 14 teams that closed in.
The senior men's race has stayed at the once-traditional 15km distance (now with a time limit of 90 min) and provided a stirring sight as around 1200 athletes charged up the long opening climb. Matt Hills (717th), Jon Bones (1065th), Adrian Francis (1113th) and Dave Morgan (1149th) rounded off a full day for Abingdon AC.
Thanks go to ...
Thanks are due to Jon who had the tent and flag up by 9.45 am, to the marshals and officials who looked after everyone over an action-packed 10-race programme and to FR Systems who had a complete set of results online by the time we got home.