We sent a senior men’s team and several junior teams to the ECCA Cross Country Relay Championships in Mansfield last Saturday. It was the first time the men had competed in this event for many years, and they performed well, achieving their target of a top 50 finish.
Although missing in-form team captain Rob Wilson, the men fielded a young and strong team. Sam Ashcroft led us off with an impressive run, bringing the team home inside the top 40 on a very competitive first leg, and taking some big scalps in the process. After six weeks’ training with top runner Neilson Hall, he showed huge progress on his performance at the Southern Road Relays. On the second leg, 1500m runner Jamie Taylor-Caldwell put in a solid run, especially considering it was his first cross-country outing in ESM colours in nearly two years. With one of his rivals in his sights to keep him focussed, he managed to keep the team inside the top 40. On leg three, Chris Hepworth struggled for pace on the undulating and muddy 5 kilometre course, but still conceded only one place. Luke Nicholas is not fully fit, (working as an engineer on cross Channel ferries, he can only train alternate weeks), but he fought valiantly over the fourth and final leg to maintain position, bringing the team home an impressive 45th out of 147 teams.
For all the younger age groups, the races comprised three legs. In the junior men’s race (Under 20), we finished exactly half way down the field, in 28th. Ben Waterman, Zephon Allen and Nick Landeau turned in a very consistent set of performances, all three achieving a sub-10 minute clocking over the 3km course. The B team lacked a third runner, but Malik Ouzia and Mark Cameron both ran well, each completing the course in around ten and a half minutes.
The Under 17 boys ran the same 3km course as the junior men, and Abdi Jamma , Mukhtar Farah and Charles Sillett also clocked a consistent set of times. Abdi was the fastest by half a minute, but all three finished in well under 11 minutes, finishing 46th out of 69 teams.
The Under 15 and Under 13 boys’ and girls’ races were held over a shorter, 2km course, but the weather was not kind to them: just as they were about to start, the heavens opened and the rain came down, accompanied by a strong wind. The Under 15 girls felt disappointed with their race, finishing about halfway up the field. However, there were some good teams behind them and two of the team are at the lower end of the age group, so it was not a poor performance by any means. On leg one, Nicola Ravenhill ran a particularly swift race, taking less than 8 minutes to come home in 44th place. This left Laura Stewart with a tough act to follow, but she hung on well to finish in 57th. On the final leg, Erica Wallace was only a few seconds slower than Nicola, and this was enough to pull the team back up to 45th out of 86 teams. For the Under 15 boys, John Fielding also got the team off to a solid start on leg one, finishing in 57th. Reece Farren and George Kerry both fought hard but conceded three places each, and the club finished 63rd out of 82 teams.
The club’s Under 13 boys were represented by William Coutts, Kirk Lebdiri and Patrick Owen, who finished 74th out of 79. Maryam Hussein was the only representative in the under 13 girls’ race.