Berks Bucks and Oxon (BB&O) cross country, Chieveley, 18 November.

An old tradition

The senior men's race was first held in 1911 and is one of the oldest championship events in the English cross-country calendar. Quite apart from tradition, the race distances for the younger age groups correspond to those they’ll encounter in the major championships later in the season, unlike many league races. For both these reasons, the BB&O has for us been an important fixture this side of Yuletide for many years now.

This year the event was held at a venue we know well, the open plains of Newbury Showground at Chieveley. The sun was out, the going fairly firm but a chilly breeze was blowing – all in all, though good conditions for running.

Senior women

The senior women were off first, and Cordy Parker was always in the top few, finishing up 4th. With backing from Rachael Ayerst (7th) and Cordy Halfhead (16th), our girls picked up the silver team medals. Strong running from Lucy Shelton saw her move through to 26th with a resurgent Katharine Harris (28th) hot on her heels. On to the men and Newbury were out in force on their home patch, eventually winning the team race for the first time in their history. Calum Steer led the way for us with another excellent run in 5th, and with Harrison Read (11th), Owen Stepney (18th), David Bunn (22nd)), Paul Hughes (26th) and George Wood (51st) all battling hard, our team was 4th, tantalisingly close to the medals.

Under 13 girls

In the Under-13 girls' race, a hot pace was set right from the start by Newbury’s Josie Robertson, who has been in fine form already this season. As expected she ran out the winner, but behind her, there was a great 2nd place for Izzy Martin. A 9th place for Evey Powell was a big step forward from the league fixture held here just a couple of weeks ago. There was a tight tussle for the final scoring place between Ruby Herring (22nd) and Emily Betts (23rd) as our girls took home the bronze team medals. There was another step up In the Under 13 lads race, where Connor Morgan finished 19th.

Under 15 girls

On to the Under-15 girls and the race soon developed into a terrific scrap between a trio from Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow (WSEH) and our own Olivia Martin. With less than a km to go, it was still all to play for but Olivia got in front on the narrow section with 400m left and then kicked hard as the girls turned on to the final climb to the finish to take a decisive and well-judged victory. With Georgie Halfhead (13th) and Rosie Mullins (18th) in support, another set of bronze team medals headed our way.

Under 17s

The final race was the Under-17s, and as usual, the lads and girls raced together. Adam Ede is getting back to full fitness and led our guys home in 5th. Alex Pennington was close behind in 6th and Kie Francis finished strongly to complete our scoring in 17th, not far in front of Alfie Clay (23rd). For the girls, Mieke Bedlington showed she is getting back to full form in 18th and Izzie Jones was 25th having run much of the race in isolation.

Continued support

The number of competitors in many of the races continues to be somewhat disappointing given the geographical area covered by the three counties. Although some big clubs were noticeable by their absence, outfits such as WSEH, Bracknell, Reading and of course Newbury were there in strength and so there was a good standard both at the sharp end and in depth. And since post-race comments from several of our younger athletes were along the lines of “that was a long way” they certainly got what they went (or should that be “were sent”) for.

The BB&O is always a really enjoyable day of cross-country racing and today was no exception, especially with a stack of hard-earned medals coming to our athletes. A championship that thoroughly deserves our continued support. Well done to all of our competitors and many thanks to the organisers, officials and marshals who looked after us so well.