More mud in Milton Keynes … Chattering teeth at ice-cold Chiltern XC closer

Four of Biggleswade Athletic Club’s junior athletes contended with pouring rain, bitter cold and uphill slogs in the last leg of this season’s Chiltern Cross Country League last Saturday. Taking place at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes, the quartet of Orlagh Brunning, Nicholas Batterbee, Hannah Brunning and Elliot Swinburne competed superbly to do the blue and yellow vest proud.

Different age groups and categories had different distances to contend with, but the overall course consisted of two laps with the first, smaller lap covering approximately 1.5km – with around the first kilometre consisting of tricky uphills. The second lap of around 3km offered a similar amount of gradient, and with rough, muddy and sodden ground. Despite the variety of challenges on show, conditions were undeniably tough for all competitors in the field.

Jostling for position at the start was the trickier thanks to the hard opening uphill stretch, which immediately tested all the athletes. Thankfully the support crew of BAC members, coaches and family members, including Mandie Trudgill and Michael Blunt, were liberally scattered around the course to offer much-needed cheer and encouragement.

Orlagh, first off in the Under-11 girls’ race, came over the brow of the hill looking strong and determined and fought to a fine 35th-place finish in the “mob” race, which equated to seventh in Division 2. In the boys’ equivalent, Nicholas went one place better, crossing the line in 34th and placing 10th in the Division.

Hannah, in the Under-13 girls’ field, worked hard to a 62nd-place finish in the mob standings, which gave her 25th place in Division 2, while Elliot – running the full 4.5k in the Under-15s boys’ field – saved something for a barnstorming finish, coming in 38th, and 10th in the Division.

At the Love Welwyn 10k last Sunday, five BAC athletes took to the road – and hills – for another challenging course made all the trickier thanks to extremely high winds.

Julie Spavins and Jon Stott. Photo by Nick Spavins
Julie Spavins and Jon Stott cross the line. Photo by Nick Spavins

In spite of this, Julie Spavins, accompanied for the duration by clubmate Jon Stott, was delighted to cross the line in 1:02:30. Roo Goodwin, preparing for next month’s Milton Keynes Festival Of Running race at the same distance, endured 6.22 miles of at times unwelcome “encouragement” from husband Stuart, running alongside her, and finished in 1:09:48. Just behind was Gemma Murrell, in 1:10:36.

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The winning streak ends … BAC’s ladies XC team pipped at Comet Sports Awards

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s ladies’ cross-country team experienced rare disappointment when they were beaten to Team of the Year at The Comet Sports Awards on Thursday night. In a shortlist of extremely strong nominees, Letchworth Sports & Tennis Club Ladies 1st Team took the top prize, thanks to a superb 10-year winning streak as Hertfordshire champions. All at BAC pass on their congratulations to LSTC on a wonderful achievement. Also on the shortlist were Pixmore Junior School Boys & Girls Indoor Activities and Hitchin Ladies’ Rugby.

This takes nothing away from another brilliant season for the BAC team, with Elaine Livera, Isobel Everest, Hannah Broom, Natalie Morgan and Juliet Nayler sharing point-scoring duties during a third successive Three Counties title-winning campaign, while Elaine, Isobel, Hannah and Natalie also took team honours at the Bedfordshire County Cross Country championships. Individual honours stacked up throughout the season too, while outside the points the morale in the team was outstanding, with first-timers taking the muddy plunge, and support crews lending valuable encouragement and taking photos while biting cold numbed their trigger-fingers.

Thursday’s ceremony at the Icknield Centre in Letchworth saw proud club coach Paul Davies join Elaine, Isobel and Hannah accept their prize for making the final. We hope that all in attendance enjoyed their night. Enormous thanks to the awards organisers for recognising the ladies’ achievements.

Taking flight … BAC athletes rocket to RSPB Race For Wildlife 10k glory

Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes Jamie Hall and Elaine Livera took top honours at the RSPB Race For Wildlife 10k race last weekend on an extremely cold morning at The Lodge in Sandy. The pair took first in the men’s and women’s standings respectively, with Elaine fourth overall in the combined results. BAC’s Deb Bryant was third lady finisher on the day as well.

Deb Bryant, Elaine Livera and Jamie Hall after the RSPB 10k. Photo by Charlie Arnold
Deb Bryant, Elaine Livera and Jamie Hall after the RSPB 10k. Photo by Charlie Arnold

The first running of the race took place on an awkward but picturesque two-lap course, each of which took in two steep inclines, including the cruelly leg-sapping Galley Hill. The route took runners through the old heath and the new heath, including the Iron Age Hill fort, and down the spectacularly sunlit, tree-lined bridleway.

Being a local affair, BAC members assisted with the planning and management, and those competing were already familiar with much of the route as the RSPB HQ is a favourite in training runs.

Jamie’s time of 36:57 was 1min 6sec clear of Martin Amos in second, while Elaine’s 42:10 for fourth overall was just 10sec behind Trevor Grace in third. BAC’s Paul Cooke was fifth overall in 43:40.


Elsewhere last weekend, multi-event specialist Daniel Steel continued his excellent start to the season at the Brunel Indoor Jumps and Throws Festival in Uxbridge. Having recently mauled the indoor heptathlon club record, he came away with a huge CR and PB in the shot put, with a best of 10.05m, but with three of his six efforts clear of the old mark.

Daniel also leaped to an impressive 5.65m in the long jump, while his 12.69m in the triple jump was not just a season’s best, but his best effort in two and a half years.

At the Eastern AA Indoor Championships at Lee Valley, BAC’s Morgan Webster – competing for Bedfordshire – took a fine silver medal in the Under-20 400m.

Morgan Webster, left, on the podium. Photo by Jamie Webster
Morgan Webster, left, on the podium after winning a silver medal. Photo by Jamie Webster

Run over two laps indoors, Morgan started the race slowly but slowly built up pace and passed the breaking point lying fifth out of six athletes. He then showed his pace judgment by reeling in those ahead, and his superior kick told in the closing stages as he fought his way into second place in a time of 51.25. He was joined on the podium with Beds team-mate Joseph Hubbock, who finished third.

BAC’s Hannah Ridley, competing for Keele University, took the line for the BUCS Cross Country Championships at Hillingdon House Farm Sports Ground in Uxbridge last Saturday. In a hefty field of 704 finishers, Hannah finished a very creditable 320nd in 29:59.9. The women’s race, taking in two laps totalling 6.5km, saw competitors having to contend with awkward ground and a sapping, muddy water crossing that conspired to suck shoes from the feet of some athletes …

If they could stay on their feet, that is …

The great indoors … BAC athletes show promise treading the boards

At the London U13-U17 Games at Lee Valley, Biggleswade Athletic Club hurdler Natasha Ryall was in indoor action. The event, which is now an international open, saw the youngster contending with higher hurdles than last season, having moved up to the under-15 age category.

Arriving with an open mind, her aim for the 60m hurdles competition was to gain experience over the barriers, and looking towards an opportunity to compete at the England Athletics Age-Group Championships in Sheffield later this month.

Natasha’s PB in the event was technically over 12secs, but having improved a great deal since that performance, she was looking to get close to the required mark of 10secs needed to qualify for Sheffield, and had two opportunities in Lee Valley to try and obtain the time.

Natasha Ryall. Photo by Chris Ryall
Natasha Ryall at Lee Valley. Photo by Chris Ryall

In her first outing, she got a good start and was very clean over the barriers. Indeed, with one hurdle to go was in the lead, before two rivals closed in. At the finish you could put a blanket over all three, but the photo finish gave her third place, in a huge personal best time of 10.25secs.

Her performance meant she was promoted to a higher standard of competition for her second outing, and once again she was swiftly out of the blocks, leading going into the final hurdle once more. This time she was pipped out of the first three, crossing the line in fourth with 10.38secs. Still more to do to attain the qualifying standard, but good experience.

Coach David Brown said: “With indoor facilities now open to all, there are now opportunities for competition all year round. This has only been available in the last 10 years with the build of the Lee Valley Athletics Centre at Enfield, which has a complete full indoor athletics competition facility.

“With now such competitions it is good to see where the athlete is in their development and we can adjust training depending on the results off the winter comps and the performances in the summer improve.”

More evidence of this came at the same venue the following weekend, for the London Senior & U20 Games. The popular annual meeting has acquired an international flavour, attracting a great standard of athlete both from the UK – with internationals such as Dwain Chambers and Andrew Robertson as well as athletes from the USA, France, Germany, Ireland and Malta. Joining them on track were BAC’s Euan Dickson-Earle, competing in the senior 60m hurdles, while Bradley Strong took the line for the U20 200m.

First in the blocks was Loughborough University student Euan, and as he progresses in the senior ranks finds himself among some of the best hurdlers in the country. A former World Youth Championships finalist, he lined up against European junior and under-23 medallist Gianni Frankis, coached by 1991 World bronze winner Tony Jarrett, and fellow youth international Khai Riley-Laborde, who was second at last year’s senior British Championships.

Euan approached his first race cautiously, but made a good start to be in contention for the lead over the first hurdle. As the race wore on, with little room for error, he was slightly down on Laborde and Frankis, and despite a blanket finish he was down in fifth place, in 8.08secs

Second time around, against the top four from his first race, Euan was more aggressive and attacked the race from the off. He led over the first two barriers before those chasing reeled him in, and while Laborde and Frankis again took first and second, he came away with fourth spot, equalling his season’s best time of 8.01secs.

Euan now looks forward to the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Indoor Championships in Sheffield later this month, where he won the silver medal last year.

Later in the day Bradley lined up in the 200m heats, looking to establish where his fitness is at the is time of the season. Lined up in lane three, a favourable draw as the banking is not as steep in the inside lanes, hegot a good start going into the tight bends. In a good rhythm coming off the turn, he injected more speed and attacked the athletes on his outside.

Keeping his form into the final bend and off the curve, Bradley come home sixth in a new indoor PB of 26.69, his best indoors or out for a couple of seasons. With training going well this early in the season, a target of sub-25secs looks a promising challenge for 2018.

Many thanks to David Brown for contributing to this report

Final countdown … BAC’s all-conquering ladies XC team up for Comet award

The BAC family are thrilled that the club’s ladies’ cross-country team have been shortlisted for Team of the Year by The Comet Sports Awards – great reward for another truly exceptional season where they cantered to the Three Counties XC League title, as well as taking Bedfordshire county honours, and amassing a stack of individual trophies.

Huge congratulations in particular to Elaine Livera, Isobel Everest, Hannah Broom, Natalie Morgan and Juliet Nayler, who captained the team superbly to a third successive Three Counties title in her farewell to the club.

COM SA 2017 Finalist Logo

The ceremony is on 15 February in Letchworth – best of luck to all of those in the running!

Read more about the Comet Sports Awards here

Chiltern chills in Keysoe … juniors take the plunge in more XC action

Mandie Trudgill writes …
Three of BAC’s juniors, Orlagh Brunning, Hannah Brunning and Elliot Swinburne, turned out at the Keysoe Equestrian Centre for the fourth leg of the Chiltern cross-country league.

The course is run over a bona-fide horse cross-country course and incorporates a water jump. This year age group athletes from under-13s and up were given the choice to run through the water or not. I was really proud that although the water was freezing, both Hannah and Elliot chose to brave it.
Orlagh was extremely disappointed that u11 age groups were not given the choice but directed round.

It’s a tough course and all three athletes performed great. Orlagh finished 26th of 58 in her race, Hannah 23rd from 38 and Elliot 12th from 22 in 15:44 – just pipped by one second by the athlete in front.

At the Luton fixture on Stopsley Common last month, Nicholas Batterbee was 25th in the boys’ under-11s race, while Nathan Cant was 48th. Orlagh Brunning was 39th in the girls’ under-11s, while Hannah Brunning was 65th in a busy under-13s equivalent.
Adam Reed pipped Elliot Swinburne in the boys’ under-16s race, as the pair finished 38th and 39th respectively.

Bringing it home … BAC’s ladies team take third successive Three Counties XC title

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s ladies cross-country team capped a dominant season with another match win to seal their third successive Three Counties XC league title. Following last week’s haul of awards at the county championships, the team took the top prize again, as well as a quartet of individual honours.

BAC ladies team. Photo by Bev Strong
BAC ladies team, including prize-winners Elaine Livera, Juliet Nayler, Isobel Everest and Hannah Broom. Photo by Bev Strong

Power-couple Elaine Livera and Jamie Hall capped astonishing debut seasons with brilliant performances on the day, but more was to come in the prize-giving ceremony when Elaine took overall honours for the whole season, while Jamie was second on the men’s side. Across the five fixtures, Elaine was 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th and 2nd respectively, while Jamie took three 4th places and a 5th in the four matches he competed in.

Isobel Everest and Juliet Nayler were others to enjoy incredibly consistent seasons, and they took the FV35 and FV40 honours respectively. With team victory on the day meaning they won four of the five fixtures this season, the ladies’ team cantered to the league win.

Out on the course of the “home” fixture at Bedford’s Priory Park, organised and overseen by Juliet, who was a non-runner on the day, wet weather had caused upheaval in the runup, leaving a section of the scheduled course looking less like cross-country and more competitive wading. Thankfully plans had been made and though the rejigged route was slightly shorter, it still posed a unique, sapping, muddy challenge to competitors, with an ice-cold stream crossing to boot.

Following the initial charge from the start line, early exuberance soon gave way to runners criss-crossing the breadth of the course in search of the least treacherous racing line.

The big charge at the start. Photo by Nick Spavins

Marcus Davey said of conditions: “I was expecting a mud-fest but as it turned out it wasn’t all mud – only the second mile was the tricky section with plenty of ‘squidge bogs’. From data collected from our various BAC owned GPS running devices collated on Strava, I have been geeky enough to note the second mile of the run was on average 30 to 45 seconds slower due to the excess of water and mud.” How runners contended with the slower sections would prove critical to final places, with some powering through as others wilted.

With many BAC members standing aside to help with marshalling duties, the club fielded ateam of 27, making the prize-winning achievements all the more impressive. As a comparison, Bedford Harriers, who were runners up in the ladies league had 71, while Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers – top of the men’s table – had 68. North Herts Road Runners, the overall winners of the combined team prize for the season, had a team of 49 competing on the day.

Of his fourth-place run, Jamie Hall said: “I was quite apprehensive before the start; I had foolishly looked at the overall standings after the last event and found that despite never placing higher than fourth, I was in with a chance of finishing second in the series if I had a good run.

Jamie Hall. Photo by Nick Spavins
Jamie Hall, left. Photo by Nick Spavins

“The race got off to a strange start. I had been caught napping at the start of the last few events and missed the horn, so I watched the starter like a hawk. A rather forlorn whimper came from the klaxon canister along with some compressed air, I immediately set off, charging to the front in an eight-second burst as instructed by coach Paul Davies. After a brief spell in the lead alongside Rob, I was soon joined by three others who gradually eased away from me as we approached the water feature.

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Jamie Hall and Rob Morgan blast from the start. Photo by Nick Spavins

“I knew I couldn’t keep with the front runners, so I settled into what felt like an appropriate pace and tried to conserve my energy as much as possible over the boggy surface. Having missed the first event and its stream, it was nice to get a proper cross country christening through the brook. As the race progressed we eventually reached a short paved stretch where a runner in trail shoes was able to make up ground. As soon as we hit the grass my spikes started paying off again and I managed to stick with him until we reached the final stretch. I gave it everything I had to push ahead and sprint to finish the race in fourth. With no idea who the runners were ahead of me other than the clear winner of the series, I wouldn’t know my final place until the awards were handed out.”

On the ladies’ side things were clearer cut, with Elaine Livera arriving on the start line with the same number of points as Bedford’s Gill Fullen, meaning a straight shootout between the two for the individual title. From the start, in BAC coach Giles Hawthorne’s words at the finish: “She was awesome today.” Elaine powered round to finish as second lady, but crucially Gill was the fourth lady finisher on the day.

Filling up the ladies’ scoring positions, Isobel Everest was sixth, Hannah Broom seventh and Natalie Morgan ninth, with all having been in and around the top 10 all season.

Elaine said: “I realise that the marshals and organisers usually get thanked at the end of these reports so I wanted to make sure they took priority for once. I thought the course was really good and all the work that went in to organising and setting up the route on the day was awesome. I do realise that if most of you hadn’t have been helping, you would have been running, so I really appreciate you sacrificing your own runs so that we could all participate. Hopefully there will be an event in the future where I will marshal so you guys can run!

“After a fun evening making over 400 rolls with a few members of the BAC team, we had all topped up on some team spirit in preparation for a tough but exciting run the next day. Due to the excellent performance by everyone who had run in the previous races, the women’s team was very close to winning the title! If we all ran well on the day, we knew we could secure it. This pressure was definitely in the forefront of my mind as well as the nerves that came from knowing that I had to place at least one point ahead of the woman I was tied with on points.

“I knew that the calibre of runners who showed up on the morning was high and that they would be really hard to beat. I decided to try the tactic that had worked at Dunstable; just run as hard as you can for as long as you can and hope that ‘as long as you can’ reaches the finish line.

“The route was really good and felt like proper cross country (minus the hills) due to the energy sapping mud that made you feel like you were sliding backwards with every step you did. All I could think about was where I was on the course map and I was watching myself complete the course as if I was seeing it as a Strava flyby.

“I managed to stay with the girl in front quite comfortably in the muddy woods as I was wearing spikes however as we changed terrain and moved onto a short stretch of concrete, she started to increase the distance between us. I was okay with this as I was still in front of the lady I knew I had to beat.

“As I neared the finish I heard Jamie shouting at me to start sprinting and I’m glad I was told because one of the ladies behind me had also started sprinting in the hope of pipping me to the line! Thankfully I managed to hold her off! Phew! Plus, coming second meant that I had won the individual title!”

The men were seventh on the day, meaning the combined team were an excellent fifth for the season. Behind Jamie his fellow scorers were Steven Baldwin (42nd), Rob Morgan (61st), Marcus Davey (66th), Paul Cooke (88th), Nick Haworth (91st), Paul Davies (93rs) and Jon Stott (106th).

The third team title marked the end of a long and prize-filled relationship BAC has enjoyed with Juliet Nayler, and after the race chairman Damien Pitts gathered members around to pay warm tribute to the hard work she put in over the years both as a key part of the squad, and as team captain. Of what comes next, Juliet said: “I’m joining Bedford Harriers to train for triathlons with them. But I will be doing Liverpool half in May with some of the Biggleswade bunch.

“You never know I may be helping the Harriers with their cross-country!”

Jamie added: “Thank you to Jules for organising such a successful event – the course was brilliant. Good luck in your new club, you’ll be missed.

“The team spirit has been incredible, it’s great to see so many people from the club giving it everything over some really tough terrain! Special thanks to Paul Davies for the training sessions as well as the excellent advice and encouragement, all of which were absolutely essential in coming away with an award.”

 

Results

Position | Name (Gender position)
4 Jamie Hall (4)
43 Steven Baldwin (42)
60 Elaine Livera (2)
66 Rob Morgan (61)
71 Marcus Davey (66)
95 Paul Cooke (88)
98 Nick Haworth (91)
100 Paul Davies (93)
114 Isobel Everest (6)
115 Jon Stott (106)
119 Hannah Broom (7)
123 Natalie Morgan (9)
140 Charlie Arnold (124)
154 Emma Bailey (16)
158 Aaron Ball (139)
242 Stuart Goodwin (188)
245 Nigel Bush (190)
251 Neil Harvey (192)
269 Kathryn Juty (62)
283 Kevin Goody (209)
301 Nicky Double (78)
311 Ian Grimwood (224)
335 Ricky Byrne (238)
340 Georgia Barker (97)
353 Juliet Grimwood (107)
385 Julie Spavins (135)
412 Julie Cooke (160)