Race report for Race Day 4 of the Women's Midland Cross Country League Division 1 and Men's Birmingham and District Division 2 fixture
As Storm Eunice eased away, athletes from CLC Striders Men’s and Women’s squads went their separate ways to compete in the final race days of the season in their respective Midland cross country leagues – the women to Leamington Spa and the men to Redditch.
Going underfoot was soft at best, boggy most of the time, and downright watery on several occasions. After a morning of torrential rain, conditions eased somewhat for the afternoon races, but it was still a classic cross country challenge – with little grip offered and plenty of grit required.
Midland League Cross Country Division One, Saturday 19 February 2022
Race 4 at Newbold Comyn Country Park, Leamington Spa
Hosted by Leamington Cycling & Athletics Club
Four Striders ladies made the trip to a very soggy Newbold Comyn Country Park where the tried and tested course once again featured the near-legendary water ditch and beacon to navigate, meaning the athletes needed to keep their wits about them as they toughed out the two-lap course.
First finisher for CLC Striders on the day, concluding what has been a stellar cross country season for her, was Helen Knight in 34th place overall. Helen was followed home by ladies captain Rachel Vines in 70th and Amelia Mullins in 91st. Fourth scorer was Sophie Longmore, who turned out at less then 24-hours notice (CLC’s other competitor having had to withdraw after a positive Covid test at the 11th hour) to finish in 151st place.
Overall, the ladies finished 16th in their league and were the fourth Masters Team across the season. But, finishing third from bottom overall, they will start next season in Division Two. Having struggled to recruit more than four scoring runners for most of this season’s fixtures due to all sorts of factors (including injuries and COVID), core performers like Helen Knight, Rachel Vines and Amelia Mullins, were joined by some runners who don’t usually score for the team and this has been a real positive.
Birmingham League Cross Country Division Two, Saturday 19 February 2022.
Race 4 at Ipsley Meadows, Redditch.
Hosted by Bromsgrove & Redditch Athletics Club.
While the ladies were relatively ‘safe’ going into their final fixture, the men needed to battle against the very real threat of relegation, sitting third from bottom of their league with only 15 points in hand going into Race Day Four. A strong 259-point performance in January’s fixture at Burton Dassett had give them more confidence, but every runner needed to perform well on the day. Which is why it was so good that 17 runners turned out to represent their club on the day. The race was staged in the water-logged fields of Ipsley Meadows in Redditch – a course which none of the athletes had run before.
Once again, the club was led home, in his debut season, by Rob Green for a really fine fifth place on the day (Rob also finished fourth over all the four races! – an amazing achievement). Next home were a tenacious trio of Dan Bazzard in 30th, Iain Porter in 32nd and Tom Burgess in 33rd, packing brilliantly to ensure CLC’s first four finishers notched up just 100 points between them. The foundations were well and truly laid and, with the next two A-team finishers – Will Ferguson in 45th and Sam Baylis in 78th (despite lacking race-specific training) – the team had sealed their survival in incredibly energy-sapping conditions.
The B team finishers were Rob Barnett (95th), Ryan O’Donnell (117th), William Pearce (131st), Paul Lockyer (141st), JJ Willson (142nd) and debutant Jamie Hartnoll (150th). The remaining squad members to give it their all were Paul Northup (167th), Joel Freeland (169th), Hedley Phillips (179th), Eoin McQuone (186th), and Tim Brock (197th).
In fact, CLC Striders finished in a brilliant fifth place on the day, moving up the league table for the season from 12th to seventh place overall, a full 90 points clear of relegation. Over the course of the season, eleven of the men’s squad finished as A-team scorers at least once, meaning it was a real team effort to not just secure their survival in Division Two but to achieve their equal highest placing in the league over the whole season.