Nationals Cross Country – Wollaton Park, Nottingham – Sat 22 Feb 2014

Sam Ashcroft, Alison Hopkins, Nicola Ravenhill and Patrick Owen were the star performers for ESM in the Saucony English National Cross Country Championships, staged at Wollaton Park, Nottingham last Saturday.

On a sunny but windy day, over 10,000 athletes and spectators attended the Championships, creating a fantastic atmosphere and the local organisers Notts AC and Nottingham City Council put on a great event. As well as the overall big number there were a number of record fields of finishers from the 10 races in the programme.

Thirty athletes from our club made the trip to the Midlands, and were surprised to discover that despite the recent wet weather, the scenic undulating course at this iconic venue was mostly dry underfoot, with just two muddy patches to negotiate.

Sam Ashcroft (pictured above) made light work of the challenging conditions, placing 187thin the Senior Mens race. Throughout this winter, Sam has been the club’s most consistent cross country runner. The team finished 77th out of 127, the scoring team comprising James Steel, Rob Brown, Andy Dodd, Steve Plested and Phil York. In support, Alan Keeler made his first competitive appearance of the winter. The race was won by Stockport’s Andy Vernon.

ESM’s James and Andy both had solid starts, trading places for much of the first lap. Rob started off more steadily having been ill over the last week or so. Andy’s lack of training and strength started to show as he dropped back on the hills and through the mud, whilst James pushed on to finish strongly for one of his best races this season. Rob ran a steady pace all the way round, catching Andy half way round the last lap and eventually pulling away through the mud and up the final hill. Steve Plested was delighted to make the scoring team, while Phil York and Alan Keeler were delighted just to finish the 12km race. Phil recalled having some super-fast training sessions in Wollaton Park during his student days, but that was nearly thirty years ago!

Alison Hopkins (right) was the club’s sole representative in the Senior Womens race, finishing 174th in a strong field headed by last year’s champion Gemma Steel. Alison had a fast start, then dropped back a little before pushing on in the middle half of the race and managed to hang on as the hard work up the hills and through the mud took its toll towards the end.

For the Young Athletes, we fielded 2 full teams, in the u13 and u15 girls. The boys teams all had only 3 starters, whilst Olivia Will was the only starter for the u17 womens race. Going was fairly good and not too wet though there were logs to negotiate on the course and a large (& very muddy) “water feature” which involved for most going through more or less knee deep (for the shorter ones) in water.

Lucy O’Brien (158th place) led home the Under 13 Girls team. The rest of the squad packed well, with just 100 places covering Cameron Thomas, Anisa Ibrahim, Maryam Hussein, Shiva Basu, Sarah Freegard and Elsa Stocking.
The club were well represented in the Under 15 Girls event, finishing 28th team out of 37. Nicola Ravenhill came home in a creditable 95th place, followed by Roisin Lynch, Laura Stewart, Jasmine Loh, Jennie Connelly and Leah Kelly. The squad, some of whom are regulars at Gunnersbury Park Run, have benefited from regular hill training sessions this winter.
In the first race of the day, Olivia Will had a good run in the Under 17 Womens category, taking just 22 minutes to complete the 5km circuit. However, she turned her ankle after 5 min & ran on in a lot of pain so very brave to race in the circumstances.

The in-form Patrick Owen was the club’s first finisher in the Under 13 Boys race, but training companions Naoki Kanai and William Coutts were close behind in this 3km event. Raunak Mainali and Conor McCarthy enjoyed the challenge of the Under 17 Mens course, which included hurdling a giant log, an obstacle not usually encountered at ‘The National’. Aydrus Ibrahim didn’t finish u17 race, he pulled out with knee injury, but well done for taking part in this challenging race. John Fielding, Luke Adar and Eliot Stewart ran well in the 4.5km Under 15 Boys race. John finished in 108th position, just two minutes behind the leader.

Report by Phil York with additions from Graham French for the Young athletes. Photos by Andy Dodd.

Also see the results on the ECCA website and in ThePowerOf10.