Cross Country: 2017/2018 season report
The Oxfordshire XC League drew to a close at the Swindon race in February, after the snowy weather forced cancellation of our home Farmoor fixture in March. As such, the season prizewinners and team positions were based upon the first four scheduled events (Newbury, Carterton, Adderbury, Swindon).
Eynsham XC has been on an upward trajectory, in incremental steps, over the past five years, based on committed efforts of many runners in both the team events, as well as individual categories, and in overall ‘getting muddy’!
THE LADIES STEAL THE SHOW!
The highlight of the season was undoubtedly the amazing performance of the Ladies’ team, under the leadership of Jacky Pinnock. With Hannah Hale running all 4 races, and the excellence of Liz McAllister at three events, meant the spine of the team was very strong indeed, both of these runners eventually being selected to represent Oxfordshire in the Inter-Counties XC in March. I believe this is the first time in club history, that we have had two runners selected for the same county-level XC team.
The Ladies’ team finished top of Division 2 and remarkably were the THIRD best team overall of the entire competition of 38 teams, with Newbury A runaway winners with an astonishing season score of just 36. White Horse Harriers were 2nd on 241, and Eynsham just behind on 255, finishing ahead of all of Newbury B, Oxford City, Radley, Abingdon, Headington, Woodstock, Alchester, Witney, Didcot, Banbury,Team Kennet, Highworth, Cherwell, Kidlington, Hook Norton. To put this in some perspective some of those teams (e.g. Headington, Alchester) feature age-group running internationals! Eynsham Ladies will gain promotion to Division 1. Whilst it’s hard to presently see anyone catching Newbury’s whippets, perhaps the Ladies might aim for runner’s up for next season!?
Whilst Hannah (SL) and Liz (LV35) were the undoubted stars, both finishing runner’s up in their respective categories for the season, special mention also goes to Laura Leach, Kate Allred and Katherine Bates who all also scored for the team and contributed to this marvellous performance. Well done all of you.
It is also worth noting that Eynsham B finished ahead of Witney B and were only just behind Alchester B. The mainstays of this team were Tess Evans, Jacky Pinnock and Katherine Bates, who also represented the A team as well, reflected by her being Eynsham’s richly-deserved individual category winner, as LV55 Champion for the season.
The season started off with a superb turnout of 14 Ladies at Newbury, although this inexplicably shrunk to just a hardy quintet by the time Swindon came around! But well done to everyone who raced, including, inaddition to those mentioned above: Jane Whitlock, Ali Berrett, Cecilia Dahlsjo, Tara Lawfull, Anna Mackin, Jane Garton and in particular Florence Storey who made her debut.
Hopefully we’ll see more 100%ers next season, or even 60% or 80%ers!
INDIVIDUAL PRIZEWINNERS – OXFORDSHIRE CROSS COUNTRY LEAGUE
HANNAH HALE – 2nd SL, selected for Oxfordshire for the Inter-Counties team
LIZ McALLISTER – 2d LV35, selected for Oxfordshire for the Inter-Counties team
KATHERINE BATES – LV55 CHAMPION
LADIES’ TEAM – DIV. 2 CHAMPIONS
… AND WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?
Eynsham A team retained (for the first time) our Division 1 status by finishing 6th overall on 1405 points, just 7 pts behind Alchester and only 127 pts behind the very strong Headington. To put this in perspective, the team scored their best ever points total for a race (265 at Carterton) which was 3rd on the day, just 2 pts behind Abingdon, who have an assortment of extremely fast young runners … and our 1405 season total was more than 1000 (one thousand) points ahead of Witney, who were 7th. So we are much closer to the business-end nowadays. Let’s make big gains next season then chaps!
The season was certainly marked by injuries and illness to a few key runners, but it was great to have Robert Storey back in the team, running all four races and taking home the 2nd V50 prize for the season, Dan Lewis stormed back on form with a superb 5th place at Swindon and 2nd V40 for the season, with Jon Cox securing an impressive 4th V40 for the season. Honourable mention also to ever-present Mark Creasey taking 5th V60 for the season (555 pts), not that far behind 3rd (520 pts).
We also welcomed Tom Weller, debuting for the team, undoubtedly helping secure us valuable points amongst a very strong ‘pressing midfield’ along with Sean Duvall, Dafydd Warburton, Pete Green, myself, Dave Ferrier, Arthur McEwan-James and Graham Bridges.
The strength in depth is palpable amongst the Men, with Arthur McEwan-James hitting the top 100 for the first time, pushing his way into the A team, and a heart of B teamers always solid: Richard Hume, Nick Leach, Tom Baker, Ewan MacDonald, Nick Hardwick. Keep training and break your way into the A team, I say!
We were seemingly a little bit down on some of our other regulars, but Keith Baker showed us how to do it, with 4 out of 4 races completed, and Howard Humphris ran 3. No doubt illness and injury played its part for some, but a certain highlight was to have Martin Johnson out running again, at Adderbury.
INDIVIDUAL PRIZEWINNERS – OXFORDSHIRE CROSS COUNTRY LEAGUE
DAN LEWIS – 2nd VM40
ROBERT STOREY – 2d MV50
SOUTH OF ENGLAND MASTERS XC CHAMPS
Dan Lewis (14th), Robert Storey (33rd) and Benedict Pollard (41st) made up the ERR V40+ team at the SEAA Masters Champs held at Horspath on Saturday December 9th on a bright but chilly day. Graham Bridges (67) also competed, and our team finished a superb 6th out of 17, ahead of such luminaries as Peterborough AC, London Heathside AC, Headington RR, Southampton AC (with a commuter belt catchment area of 1.5 million people !), Aldershot Farnham and District AC (!!!), City of Norwich AC, Newbury AC, Crawley AC, Leighton Buzzard AC. I think that’s quite a remarkable achievement, and I hope next season we will field a team again, perhaps even enough for two teams, seeing as we are replete with so many strong veterans!
SOUTH OF ENGLAND MAIN CHAMPS
Although several of us signed up for this, which was held in Brighton in late January, in the end circumstances dictated that we ended up not competing. However the opportunity remains for next season.
CHILTERN LEAGUE XC
A few hardy souls competed in this league, albeit on a slightly lower level than last year. Katherine did very well again, I believe scoring a podium finish at one of the events, proving herself regionally excellent, as well as in the counties closer to home.
We may need to up the entry cost per runner next season depending on perceived interest from within the club. I feel it still remains a good thing to have as an option and certainly good training for the main Oxfordshire League. I am still trying to find out who ran as me at Milton Keynes?! Any ideas … on a postcard please.
TENT TROUBLE …
Whilst our winter was mostly positive, setting up the tent proved more difficult that it ought to have done, with some of us having to sheepishly loiter around Woodstock’s palatial encampment at Adderbury and Swindon when the delegation of tent duties seemed beyond the scope of certain unnamed individual veteran Men! Perhaps next season I shall reassume the mantle once again, but the whole idea of delegation is to successfully spread the workload around, not make it worse … having said that, this afforded us the opportunity to confirm that Woodstock were and remain a very friendly bunch, and clearly prove that camping chairs and table, with hot drink stalls are a very cosy and inviting setting for midwinter races! Silver linings, and all that.
SPIKES OR TRAIL SHOES?
Many were saying trail shoes were the order of the day at Carterton, and indeed that was the official proclamation of the League Management on their web page the day before. But then again, seeing as there were no toilets provided, perhaps the information needed to be more carefully scrutinised. I for one had a horrible race at Carterton, which I promptly blamed on having heavy mud-caked trail shoes, instead of swift, light-footed spiked shoes. Or then again it could have been that I compounded the situation by doing my first tough personal training session in the gym the day before, whereupon Sunday morning I literally couldn’t get out of bed on account of sore muscles (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS). Who knew this was a bad strategy? I for one, now do! Fortunately we were on full-strength and the team did brilliantly without me in it! In fact, running the Witney parkrun last weekend demonstrated again that spikes are fine, even with stretches of tarmac, once you are familiar with the slightly weird feeling. They more than make up for any awkwardness on the hardstanding, when you’re ploughing through the mud and squelch, overtaking people at will !
THE FARMOOR FIXTURE
The committee and League have agreed that we won’t be hosting a XC event next season at Farmoor, largely on account of the unsuitability of the parking areas, especially given the unhelpfully-timed deluges of rain and snow we had in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Perhaps for the 2019/2020 season things can be reviewed, but I just wanted to make a final note of appreciation here, to all the many of you who helped towards these events the past two years.
I have now written out my own running goals and the process by which I intend to achieve them for this year, and I hope that we can all nurture and encourage ourselves and each other to be fitter and healthier through 2018 and beyond, whatever your personal running aims and goals might be.
One of my favourite moments of the season was the bank of about 15 ERR men being able to cheer on ALL of the Ladies at the Carterton XC, where the course was cleverly designed so the route ran right by the club tent area several times. So, this is just to finish by saying that I find it really motivating to see all you Eynsham RRs at the XC, whatever your pace, and whatever you are doing (racing, just getting round, keeping your fitness up, supporting, driving, chitchatting, providing cakes, joking around!) – so do consider joining in, especially if it’s new to you or you don’t often take part, as it really is a social occasion too, and a fillip to many through the winter skies.
Another great season, so lets just have more of you getting stuck in next year!
P.S. Keep an eye out for the XC prize-giving notice, in the next month or so.
P.P.S. If I have missed anything glaring in the report, let me know and I can update.