Surging clear at Standalone: BAC’s ladies take commanding lead in Three Counties XC league

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s women took a potentially decisive step towards retaining their Three Counties Cross Country league title in Letchworth on Sunday after another dominant performance on the trails. Elaine Livera’s stunning season continued with a fourth-place finish in the ladies’ standings – amazingly her lowest position of the series so far. Her performance was matched on the men’s side as Jamie Hall’s outstanding fourth place overall – matching last month’s result in Dunstable – once again gave the men an important platform to build on, and helped the combined team to consolidate fifth place in the table.

Conditions at Standalone Farm posed a variety of challenges, with two laps round a heavy field at the start immediately sapping energy levels and derailing several race plans. From there, a change of terrain proved problematic for those opting for spikes as a rock-hard trail, interspersed with icy patches, conspired to grind them down to the nub. Yet from there the real tests arrived, as a succession of long, boggy hills, with grip alarmingly difficult to come by for many, made for a steady stream of ever-slowing progress. A stiff wind, in runners’ faces for long spells, only added to the trudgelike nature of progress for many. Downhill hurtles, a staple of cross-country running for many, were fraught with menace given the almost complete absence of meaningful traction on the ground, and a festive bugler stationed by organisers at the base of the most piggish of climbs may have been more appropriately serving up renditions of The Last Post rather than The Holly And The Ivy and Good King Wenceslas. Adding to the torment: the advertised five-mile course was actually nearer six.

Elaine Livera in the finish straight. Photo by Jon Stott
Elaine Livera in the finish straight. Photo by Jon Stott

The first eight men and first four ladies from each club count towards the team totals. With 13 teams competing, team points for each fixture go from 13 for first place down to one point for last, and BAC’s women took their third maximum from four attempts, with second-place at Wootton adding up to a total of 51 points with just one fixture remaining. Elaine’s fourth place was backed up by fellow scorers Juliet Nayler (7th), Isobel Everest (8th) and Natalie Morgan (11th). Aside from Biggleswade, only North Herts Road Runners had more than one finisher in the top 10 – two, compared to BAC’s three.

Natalie Morgan. Photo by Jon Stott
Natalie Morgan digs in on the two-lap field start. Photo by Jon Stott

Bedford Harriers, the ladies’ team’s closest rivals, could only manage fourth place and lie a massive seven points behind with 44, meaning BAC can retain their title with a mid-table finish at the last race of the season.

However, that race, a “home” fixture taking place at Bedford’s Priory Park, is no gimme, made all the harder as team captain Juliet Nayler made her final appearance in BAC’s colours in Letchworth, as she prepares to switch allegiances. A stalwart of the cross-country squad for many years, Juliet will be overseeing events at the race from the sidelines, and Biggleswade will hope that injury niggles will not leave their team further depleted.

Isobel Everest and Paul Davies
Isobel Everest and Paul Davies. Photo by Jon Stott

Hannah Broom, just outside the scoring positions for the ladies, pinpointed the reason behind her own performance: “Thinking it was a good idea to have a go on the Rodeo Rudolph with a sore shoulder at the works Christmas do … it ended as you would expect.” On Juliet, she said: “We will miss you, I hope you enjoyed your final run as a mighty blue and yellow. Thank you for running the team for many years and often leading the girls to victory. I am not looking forward to competing against you next year!”

The men’s team welcomed back some familiar faces, and behind Jamie’s fourth place in the scoring stakes were Steven Baldwin (14th), Nick Haworth (64th), Paul Cooke (78th), Paul Davies (88th), Damien Pitts (93nd), Adam Murphy (102nd) and Giles Hawthorne (104th). Their combined efforts were good enough for a solid seventh place on the day, following up results of sixth, eighth and ninth so far this season. They now lie seventh in the table, with Stopsley Striders hot on their heels one place back.

Jamie Hall. Photo by Jon Stott
Jamie Hall. Photo by Jon Stot

Jamie said of his performance: “I managed to get myself into a decent position by the second loop of field. From then on I just tried to stick with the runner in second with an aim to out sprint him at the end. But as the race dragged on, I gradually slipped further back. Although it was cold, the ground was still soft and I could feel the course draining my energy. The undulating terrain took its toll and eventually I was caught by the runner behind me who came surging past at about mile four and went on to take second place. I wasn’t able to make any ground on the runners ahead of me, but managed to stay ahead of the next runner to finish in fourth for the second time in a row. As always the support from BAC was fantastic and it was another great turnout from so many putting everything into their races. Roll on next time for the final event!”

Before the Christmas break and new year battles for trophies, BAC’s runners will be alarming motorists and passers-by this Saturday as they take part in the club’s annual Fairy Run. A staple of the calendar, outrageous costumes are promised as athletes compete in a timed handicap race, levelling the playing field, and for the coveted title of Best Dressed Fairy.

Standalone Farm XC results

Position | Runner (gender position)
4 Jamie Hall (4)
14 Steven Baldwin (14)
58 Elaine Livera (4)
71 Nick Haworth (64)
88 Juliet Nayler (7)
89 Paul Cooke (78)
99 Paul Davies (88)
100 Isobel Everest (8)
104 Damien Pitts (92)
116 Adam Murphy (102)
118 Giles Hawthorne (104)
124 Natalie Morgan (11)
133 Charlie Arnold (116)
134 Hannah Broom (14)
199 Stuart Goodwin (156)
207 Gary Baldwin (163)
208 Neil Harvey (164)
219 Nigel Bush (169)
223 Sarah Jane Seaman (47)
226 Neil Gregory (173)
251 Kathryn Juty (63)
260 Ian Grimwood (188)
273 Juliet Grimwood (76)
274 Ricky Byrne (194)
286 Colin Harries (197)

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