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.
Elliot Swinburne. Photo by Mandie Trudgill
Nicholas Batterbee. Photo by Mandie Trudgill
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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
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.
The ceremony is on 15 February in Letchworth – best of luck to all of those in the running!