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Race report for Race Day 2 of the Women's Midland Cross Country League Division 1 and Men's Birmingham and District Division 2 fixture

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Clopton Park, Stratford on Avon - Saturday 4th December 2021

On a crisp and clear December Saturday, in the lull between storms Arwen and Barra, CLC Striders women’s and men’s cross country runners made their way up the outskirts of Stratford to compete in the Midland and Birmingham cross country leagues for Race Day 2 of the 2021-22 season. Hosted by Stratford AC, the event took place in the beautiful Clopton Park grounds over challenging but firm terrain. Once again, large numbers of runners from all over the Midland region converged to participate in what were highly competitive fields.

First to run two laps (4 miles) of the hilly course were the women in their Midland League Division 1 race. They were led home by talis-woman Liza Barry. Nursing a sore achilles after a busy year’s racing and not at full strength, Liza came 46th overall as 9th Masters finisher in a time of 28:48. Second, again, for the team on the day was ladies captain Rachel Vines in a time of 31:28 for 85th place overall and 25th Masters finisher. The steadily improving Fiona Brady-Miller put in a gutsy performance for a top 100 finish in 99th place as the 34th Masters finisher in a time of 32:17, closely followed by Amelia Mullins in a time of 32:36 for 103rd place overall and 36th in the Masters category. Last but not least was Emma Abbey who was 83rd in the Masters standings. Still missing some of their best performers through COVID and injury, the ladies secured 16th place in the team competition on the day.

Next up, the men took on three laps (6 miles) of the parkland course in their Birmingham League Division 2 race. Again missing a crop of their top runners, the men still fielded two complete scoring teams on the day, a mark of the club’s strength in depth and inclusive approach.

They were led home by cross country specialist Iain Porter who, even though not in serious training, still managed a top 50 place for 33rd in a time of 37:52. Iain was followed home by cross-country club debutant Oliver Watkins who, running in his road shoes, broke off from his marathon training regime to take on the country for the first time, landing 80th place in a time of 40:28. Hot on his heels and making a cautious return from long-term injury, Sam Baylis secured 86th spot in a time of 40:44 and he was followed in by the fast-improving newcomer Rob Barnett in 87th place and a time of 40:48. Also finishing under 41 minutes was Tom Kabala, beginning to recover his cross country form of old, for 89th place and a time of 40:59. Completing the A Team scorers on the day was Will Pearce with a solid 110th placing and a time of 42:32.

The B Team finishers were led hime by the dependable Paul Lockyer, who improved on his time from four years ago across the same course. Next home was another cross-country club debutant Ryan O’Donnell. Vets John Willson and Paul Northup finished close to each other and the B team finishers were completed with a welcome run from Joel Freeland and the ever-green super-vet David James who turned in an astonishingly strong run in his V70 category over the full distance.

Overall, the men finished 12th of 14 teams competing on the day.

After an afternoon of tough racing, the club know they have serious work to do if they are to make themselves safe in their respective leagues, and so attention now turns to race Day 3 at Burton Dassett in January 2022 when the Striders hope to be able to field full-strength teams once again.