In the end there were no typhoons, and not even a drop of rain to test the smart new club jackets, as hundreds of clubs descended on leafy Llandaff Fields in Cardiff for round 1 of this season’s Gwent League Cross Country. It doubled as round 1 of the UK Cross Challenge, meaning that the fields were even larger and stronger than usual, with several UK elite and club athletes turning out – the men’s race would later be won by GB athlete Marc Scott, fresh from the World Championships 5000m in Doha!
Despite the expected downpour not materialising, conditions underfoot were challenging in places, with the opening stretch to the first mini-hill particularly muddy. Harriers from young U11 novices to the senior and masters men ran varying lap lengths and numbers around the parkland course, with all finishing at the big inflatable to the accompaniment of the tireless all day race commentator.
Westbury numbers across the junior and senior ranks were variable, with injuries/holidays/”can’t be bothered”/”not for me” the main reasons for absence. As many others have said (and it’s not nagging, honestly), large scale participation in this League is one of the club’s principal aims. As is also often said – while the standard at the front of the races can be scarily high, that really doesn’t matter, and doesn’t affect most of us. Every runner scores points for a team. Everyone who turns up is valued and welcome, and will be cheered on their way round. There are always little personal battles and challenges to be had in every race – can you catch the heavy breathing spindly guy/girl with the headband this time (probably not, but so what)? And the camaraderie (and the cakes) are great…
From those who were there, young and old, there were some excellent runs on another hugely enjoyable Welsh away day, starting with the Juniors in the morning.
Novice Boys and Girls (U11)
Colin Pemble writes:
(picture: Novice Boys, including medallist Daniel and our brave ‘faller’; the mad start)
“Fast and furious races at the Gwent League for the Westbury Harriers Academy U11s boys and girls. It was a baptism of fire for some competing for the first time (including allies from Yate) as the races were so short and competitive. We had a faller at the start of the boys’ race (can you spot him in the photo?), but undeterred he was up and back amongst it in no time – that’s why we do burpees in training! Both teams excelled and the experience will bode the newcomers well. They should excel in the next races which will be longer and on more challenging terrain. We had strength in numbers with the boys’ team, but need to encourage more novice girls to compete, particularly given the successes of last year’s girls. The novices benefited from watching the junior races and hopefully will be inspired to regularly turn out for Westbury.”
A huge 130 took part in the boys’ race, with young Daniel Pemble finishing in a superb 2nd. Not far behind him there were great runs also from ‘the two Toms’ Howard and Woodworth, finishing neck and neck, and from Edward Bourdeaux, Noah Wilson, Seth Evans, Daniel Coward, Sidney Davis and William Peng. Well done to all – the A and B teams stand in 2nd and 14th places overall out of 45 teams
In the girls’ race, Estelle Lowe led the team round with an excellent 3rd place in the Gwent standings, and great running also from team mates Jenny Pauling, Megan Troughton, and Eoife Joyce to place the girls 6th out of 46 teams.
Junior Boys U13 to U20
In the boys’ races, there was a decent turnout and good running across the age groups. The U13s were ably represented by Henry Watson, Finley White, Owen Joyce, Oliver Wilson and Sam Harvey, and currently stand in 23rd out of 40 teams. In the U15s, it was a shame that there were not more runners to support the excellent runs of trio Seamus Robinson (6th), Artie Savage-Swaine (19th) and Jack Powell (45th) – one runner short of a full team. There was a much better turnout in the U17s, with James Harrod (minus one shoe most of the way round!) leading the team home in 17th in a very strong field of 81, with Josh Morland not too far behind (24th). Tom Reed also ran well, and a Westbury trio of Johan Hobbs, Tom Peaston and Ceredig Jones finished in successive places. Alexander Wilson, Oliver Shrewsbury and Louis Dubicki all battled round well, and with such good team numbers Westbury A and B teams finished in 6th and 10th out of 30.
Credit also to Greg Hayward and Ben Rawlins, the Westbury duo in the U20s, for strong runs in a small but tough field.
(pictured left to right: Kate sprints for the line; Laura on the podium; Clemmie skips through the mud)
As for the girls, team managers Jayne and Jason were delighted with the performances:
“A big WELL DONE to all the junior girls competing in Cardiff today – each and every one of you ran your hearts out. It was a top class field today, being combined with the XChallenge…. Thanks for making the effort to represent Westbury Harriers – we are heavily involved in the organisation of the league and it is a key fixture in our calendar. Also thanks to your parents for bringing you to the event. If any of you fancy having a go at the next event, don’t hold back – the Gwent League is for all, not just the elite.”
Although the Westbury turnout has been higher before, Jason observed that “Female Cross Country running is in such a good place at the moment”, with overall numbers greatly up in all age groups. The junior girls’ races, given the participation of some speedy Cross Challenge flyers from all over the country, were of a very high standard, but as ever there were some great Westbury runs.
In the U13s, Laura Chance (pictured) stormed to a fantastic 3rd place in the Cross Challenge (for a medal and a cash prize!) as well as 1st place in the Gwent League standings. But she was more than ably supported by a large number of team mates, whose collective efforts hoisted the Westbury “A” team to the top of the standings, and the B team to 10th. Very well done, and well run, to Elen Ruck, Jasmine Spear, Felicity Lowe, Corinne Jones, Elizabeth Russe, Maeve Robinson, Molly Smith, and Sophie White.
The U15s also had a good turnout, with top 10 Gwent finishes for Amelia Honor (2nd) and Clemmie Lee (10th). Strong runs just behind them from Abbie Woodworth, Hannah Jones, Eva Ward and Katie Ramsden, with the Westbury A team standing in 2nd overall.
The U17s were mixed in with the U20s, in a large and very strong Gwent and Cross Challenge field, and unfortunately – given their previous team successes – did not have a full team of 4 out for this first fixture. Despite that, Rosie Hamilton-James, Kate Howard and Rhiannon Paton all ran well, matching or beating their times from last year, with the three of them finishing high enough in the Gwent standings (2nd, 5th and 20th) to still place the team in 2nd overall. If they can get a fourth runner for the next fixtures, they will surely catch Cardiff.
SENIOR AND MASTERS MEN
(pictured left to right: Vet men; Alex spots something; Matt Lewis battles; Mike Mewse in full flow)
Come along, chaps. While evergreen encourager, V60 runner and captain on the day Mike Mewse was able to entice a total of 12 other men to Cardiff, it has to be said that we were slightly stronger at the ‘mature’ end of the age spectrum. Only 2 of the 13 runners were ‘senior men’, with the rest all being “vets/masters” of varying degrees from 35 upwards. If we can’t get more of our seniors out for the next races, relegation from Division 1 will be inevitable, despite the best efforts of the grey hairs and no hairs. But well done to all those who took part. Mike reported:
“Well done to all the Senior Men who raced in Cardiff today – good turnout of 13 fine athletes. A great day of racing for the whole club and some excellent performances in all age groups.
Our top three were Alex Hamblin who continued his rich vein of form with a fine 71st position in a top class field of 588. Rich Noble (V45) impressed with a fast time for 165th place, with Ewan Paton V45 in 214th.
Other Westbury athletes – Alastair Blackwood SM 220th Anthony Ballance V55 222nd Robin Phillips V45 267th Ian Ruck V50 281st Chris Treble V35 299th Mike Mewse V60 356th Ian Derrick V50 441st Geraint Torrington V45 443rd Jullian Bailey-Gard V65 495th Matt Lewis V50 502nd
A superb, gutsy run from Jullian Bailey-Gard (V65 but running in the full 9.6k Senior Men’s race instead of the V65 6k race). Jullian continues to defy his years and injuries to show younger men how to do it. Great to see debutant Matt Lewis finishing with a smile, Ian Ruck running as smoothly as ever and Anthony Ballance backing up his fine road running with a convincing cross-country debut for the season.”
(pictured: Geraint, Anthony and Ewan tackle the log)
Those were the combined Gwent and Cross Challenge placings, so the Gwent placings were higher e.g. Alex was 52nd senior Gwent finisher out of 516, good enough for a “top 10% t-shirt”! Rich also bagged a t-shirt as 19th V45 out of 218. The V45s were also the pick of the vet teams, standing in 6th overall out of 69 teams. One particular highlight of the day was the dramatic Ian Derrick v. Geraint sprint finish, with Geraint later blaming his narrow defeat on an inaccurate shout of “only two minutes effort to go!” from U17 runner and unofficial cheerleader Rhiannon…
SENIOR AND MASTERS WOMEN
(pictured: Bridget finishes; 10 of the Westbury women; Emma tackles the hill and holly)
Despite an unwelcome spate of injuries amongst our Westbury women, and some other unavoidable absences, there were still 16 female runners at Cardiff, with some very welcome returns to action and superb performances. Team manager Tamsin (who ran very well herself, after an injury layoff) said:-
“With a ladies team of less than 20 which we haven’t had in years unfortunately due to injuries, holidays and unavailability, nonetheless our 16 ladies started off the season with some fabulous running.
There were a huge 388 finishers in the ladies field, which I think is a record turnout.
Floren Villanueva Scrafton led the ladies round, finishing in the top ten of a class field in 8th. Catherine Treble was the first V35 home in the field in 13th, with Bridget Belfourd 16th, Lucy Richens 18th, Alison Rogers 71st, Emma Woodworth 76th, Tamsin Elson Chick 82nd, Abi Hall 106th, Judy Knights 185th, Phoebe Gould 187th, Shirley Hume 228th, Marilyn Palmer 269th, Carol Fee 294th, Linda Phillips 300th, Eithne Noonan 320th, Nicola Derrick 332nd, and Kay Ridgwell 343rd.
(pictured: Log Ladies: Linda shows how it’s done; Alison and Lucy don’t like it much…)
The A team finished 4th overall on the day, B team 21st, C team 56th, D team 90th out of 105 teams.
The senior team were 10th overall, with the V35s 2nd, V45s 13th, V55s 4th, and the V65s (Shirley and Marilyn!) 1st.
There were category top 10% T-shirts for Floren, Catherine, Lucy, Bridget, Shirley, and Emma – well earned!
Well done everyone – great teamwork.
Fantastic to have Bridget & Kay back after injuries, with Bridget having not raced a Gwent for years.
I do need more numbers – we have got a good V55 team this year with people moving up and V45 so need some more v35s. Also we need closer packing across the field, so definitely missed some of regular Gwent runners today – hope to see you all back or on the road to recovery at the next fixture Sat 9th Nov at Pembrey. If you are new or newish to the club, come and give it a go- it is a fun and social whole club day!”
So the message from Cardiff is clear – well done to all those who ran, but to others, male and female, young and old: your club needs you! As regular competitor Emma W says, “..the social aspect is just as good as the competitive side of things! It is also great to be there to support our amazing junior runners as they progress through the ranks to become our future senior team.”
Admittedly, the next round is slightly further afield: the sandy dunes and firm ground of the lovely Pembrey Country Park in West Wales, on 9th November. But it’s one of the best – almost no mud, pine forest trails, sea views, and a tobogganing slope for the kids (and adults). It is 2 hours’ drive away, but we will make a concerted effort to pre-plan as many lift shares as possible, to ensure a high turnout. See you there!
(Thanks to Colin, Geraint, Jason and Robert Gale of Parc Bryn Bach for photos, gratefully re-used)