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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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

Steel in Sheffield – Dan racks up PBs to demolish club record

Multi-events specialist Daniel Steel began his track and field season with a new sensation – that of being a new father. Arriving at the England Athletics Indoor Combined Events championships in Sheffield, and having been away from competition for four months, expectations were hard to assess over two days of tough action. “It was already a huge task to get close to my club record 3,383pts,” he said. “However, I was in for an almighty shock.” Four of them, to be precise.

Daniel Steel with six-week-old Maisie. Photo by Gemma Dixon
Daniel Steel with six-week-old Maisie. Photo by Gemma Dixon

First up was the 60m. “I got off to a solid start and to my surprise me and one other started to pull away from the field. Second place, 7.76sec, a personal best.

“My long jump was a solid 5.84m, but nothing spectacular, but then the shot put was the biggest surprise of the weekend. After a foul in the 1st round my second round throw was half a metre longer than I’d thrown before and a club record by 99cm – 9.60m!

“For the high jump I was expecting to jump around the 1.70m-1.75m area. However, I was feeling good in warm-up, clearing 1.75m in the process. So, I had a clear card through 1.65m, 1.71m, 1.74m and 1.77m, then cleared my year target-height of 1.80m at the second attempt. Safe to say the whole Sheffield arena heard my delight at clearing the bar!”

Day two posed an additional challenge, and Dan arrived on the back of a sleepless night, thanks to six-week-old Maisie. In spite of this, he got off to another fine start in the 60m hurdles. “Leading into the first barrier my stride pattern got the better of me and fell away towards the end. However, a time of 10.71s hadn’t caused any damage and the record was well and truly on.

“In the pole vault I had trouble with the pole in warm-up. But once I had got going clearances at 2.78m, 2.88m, 2.98m – then, finally another PB of 3.08m! That meant I had scored more than last year with one whole event still to go.

“Going into the final event, the 1,000m, I knew I needed 3:13 to break 3,600 points. However in the middle of the race I’d got isolated and with a lap to go I was too slow. Somehow I pulled out a 34-second final lap to finish in 3:10.40.”

This added up to a superb 3,629 points, 246 points more than his previous indoor club record, and a fine 20th place overall among some of the best young multi-event talents in England.

The last leg … BAC leave it late to end track & field season with superb victory

Biggleswade Athletic Club took a brilliant victory on a dramatic final day of Southern Athletics League action last weekend. With the scores tight among the top teams in attendance at the fixture in Peterborough, it took the closing relays to decide the outcome.

It was an outstanding team performance against high-quality opposition in the form of Woodford Green With Essex Ladies, the former British Athletics League champions who have boasted a host of Olympians and Team GB internationals over the years including Sally Gunnell, Tiffany Porter and Jeanette Kwakye.

Yet they were undone by both difficult conditions and a litany of BAC victories on the day. Club coach Jamie Webster said: “The day started off slowly but very quickly heated up and we found ourselves in second place after six events.” Helping the cause enormously were wins for Sarah Ridley (13.1sec) and Katie Miles (13.4) in the 100m A and B races respectively. Morgan Webster doubled up to take both the 200m (23.4) and 400m (51.8), while Tristan Rayner won the 400m B race (55.5).

Elaine Livera in SAL action. Photo by Darren Janssen
Elaine Livera in SAL action. Photo by Darren Janssen

Elaine Livera emerged up top in the 3000m (10:57.5) and Hannah Broom won the 800m B race (2:41.8). Daniel Steel (20.7) and Joshua Watson (27.1) took the honours in the A and B 110m hurdles, and Watson added victory in the 400m hurdles B race for good measure, in 66.4sec.

Not to be outdone, Steel won the long jump and triple jump with season’s best performances of 5.97m and 12.36m, and added the win in the high jump B string with 1.55m, while Darren Janssen topped the B standings of the pole vault (2.50m). In the B-string of the triple jump, Alex Ingram won with 11.68m, and the men mopped up in the javelin too thanks to Alex Ingham’s 48.44m in the A string and Nathan Dodds’ 44.05 – making him the second-best thrower on the day and comfortably good enough to take B-string honours.

Backing up brilliantly were a whole host of top three placings from Jamie Hall, Alice Middleton, Jakub Grabowski, Kathryn Juty, Sandra Ingham, Marcus Davey, Paul Davies and both 4x100m teams.

BAC women's relay team won the crucial 4x400m thanks to last leg runner Katie Miles. Photo by Darren Janssen
Katie Miles on the last leg of a crucial 4x400m relay. Photo by Darren Janssen

Special mention must go to the two 4x400m quartets however, as Webster notes: “As the day went on we stayed in second place until the field results went in and we leapfrogged Woodford into first place. The women’s 4x400m team ran out of their skins to finish first by five metres and set up that the men’s team needed to finish ahead of Woodford.

IMG_2848
Hannah Ridley, Alice Middleton, Elaine Livera and Katie Miles celebrate 4x400m victory. Photo by Jamie Webster

“After a close run race it went to the last leg. Peterborough were 80 metres ahead and Woodford and Biggleswade were level. As the race went on Biggleswade went ahead and came home in second place. But most importantly we finished ahead of Woodford and it left us 4 points clear at the end of the day.”

Marcus Davey added: “I did very little, probably the lowest scoring BAC individual of the day! To save face, I was selfishly focused to the one important event of the year, achieving my 2017 goal: a PB in the 1500m in a time of 4:37.6, taking 4.5 seconds off from two years ago.  It also tots up as my 4th V45 club record of 2017!”

He highlighted the huge part teamwork played on a successful day all-round: “I must emphasise I could not have achieved this 1500m PB without all the dedicated coaching from Michael Blunt during the 2017 track season, plus … PLUS some very impressive on the day 1500m race pacing from Jamie Hall who had already run the 800m and a very hard 5,000m!”

BAC’s win marked their first in SAL competition since 2015 and wrapped up an excellent season in the league which has seen a great standard of competition result in dozens of personal bests and a string of club records.

Full results can be found here.


Sophie shows steel on another record-breaking day

Another racking up the records was under-13 athlete Sophie Steele, who continued her fine season in the Eastern Young Athletes League at Bedford on 13 August with two club records and three personal bests.

She won the shot put with a club record 9.08m, came second in the discus with another club best 24.15m, and beat her PB in the javelin thanks with a third-placed throw of 20.29m.

Cameron Rayner won the U15 200m and came second in the 100m, and Nathan Dodds took the U17 javelin honours, while Kareen Davis, Bailey Foster, Alex Matsukatoval, Tristan Rayner, Elliott Swinburne and Alicia Ward also put in strong performances.

Full results can be found here.

The power of 10: runners go down by the Riverside, plus BAC round-up

Four days after the Doug Anderson 5k, 19 Biggleswade athletes took to St Neots for the Riverside Runners 30th Anniversary 10k, taking place on a tough course, described by organisers as “a summer cross country” with a mix on paths and off-road, plus several bridges traversing the Great Ouse.

Paul Cooke was first BAC runner home, thanks to a brilliant 16th place in 39:09, but further down the field the race marked a special moment for five members in particular, who were taking part in their first 10k race since graduating from the club’s Couch to 5k programmes last year. For Jennifer Emanuel (1:08.01) and Julie Cooke (1:20.44) the race was particularly timely, marking precisely a year since they completed the programme.

Riverside 10k, St Neots - BAC squad. Photo by Bev Strong
BAC squad at the Riverside 10k in St Neots. Photo by Bev Strong

Bev Strong (1:15.34), Joanne Hornby (1:15.34) and Ruth King (1:20.44) were graduates from the second course, which ended in November.

Results – Riverside 30th Anniversary 10k

16 Paul Cooke – 39:09
125 Malcolm Steward – 50:14
213 Andrew Deans – 53:35
218 Neil Harvey – 54:01
225 Sarah-Jane Seaman – 54:23
226 Damien Pitts – 54:23
313 Julian Brunt – 58:35
336 Simon Strong – 59:22
354 Richard Barker – 1:00.20
359 Sally Jones – 1:00.28
362 Georgia Barker – 1:00.33
420 Rachel Hallam Stott – 1:04.16
466 Jennifer Emanuel – 1:08.01
467 Helen Steward – 1:08.02
500 Vikki Vowles – 1:12.09
520 Bev Strong – 1:15.34
521 Joanne Hornby – 1:15.34
537 Ruth King – 1:20.44
538 Julie Cooke – 1:20.44


A week earlier, Philip Housden took the trophy as the brilliant winner of the MV65 competition at the Bedfordshire AAA 10k, thanks to a fine time of 47:56. Richard Bevan was the first of BAC’s four runners in the race, finishing 15th overall in 35:54.

Results – Beds AAA 10k

15 Richard Bevan – 35:54
38 Nick Haworth – 38:47
104 Philip Housden – 47:56
122 Christopher Clarke – 50:40


Elsewhere, Biggleswade’s Sophie Steele performed brilliantly representing Bedfordshire in an inter-county competition at Kingsmeadow Stadium in Kingston-upon-Thames. Her throw of 9.06m smashed the club record and gave her a superb third place. Also wearing her county’s colours was Hannah Brunning, who gained a fine PB of 18.43m in the javelin.


At the latest EYAL fixture in Colchester last weekend, Cameron Rayner broke 12 seconds for the first time and broke the club record with a fine 11.7 in the U15 race. Callum Stokes got a PB too in the U17 equivalent, finishing in 11.9.

Leonie Brunning won the U15 high jump with 1.63m, while her sister Hannah Brunning got a PB 800m (3:08.4). Nathan Dodds took the honours in the U17 discus, winning with 37.80m, and also took the win in the javelin with 45.20m.

Madison Ball got PBs in both the U13 800m (2:58.8) and 100m (15.0), Georgie Smith won the U15 300m with her best time of 44.4, and added another PB in the U15 200m (27.3). BAC newbie Alex Matsukatoval ran his first competitive 800m for the club, finishing a fine fourth in the U15 race in 2:29.9. Tristan Rayner’s 4.98m in the U17 long jump was a season’s best. Full results from Colchester are available here.

Record collectors: Veterans sign off in style at final EMAC fixture in Stevenage

Team captain Charlie Arnold writes …

Unfortunate scheduling meant Biggleswade AC’s veterans were depleted for the final match in the Eastern Masters league series at Stevenage stadium, with many regulars competing in the club championship Doug Anderson 5k in Bedford – taking place at the same time. However, those present performed with admirable effort and enthusiasm, stepping out of their usual events and comfort zones to earn points for the club.

The evening on track kicked off with the 2km walk, which sees male and female competitors lining up together. And it was a phenomenal start for BAC as Helen Middleton was the clear class of the field, coming home a comfortable first overall in 11:29.8. Robin Wynde took fifth place for the men.

EMAC - Helen Middleton and Robin Wynde in 2km walk. Photo by Marcus Davey
Helen Middleton and Robin Wynde in action in the 2km walk. Photo by Marcus Davey

Meanwhile, Charles Arnold was competing in the high jump M50 competition where he finished third, clearing 1.25m and setting a club M60 record.

Jon Fediw doubled up in the M35 high jump and javelin, alternating between each discipline as the rounds progressed. He finished fifth in the high jump, matching Charlie’s 1.25m and setting a club record of his own, while he took fourth in the javelin with a throw of 24.43m. Wynde took fifth place in the M50 javelin at 16.52m while Ian Skerratt was fourth in the M60 standings with 15.61m, another club age group record.

On the other side of the stadium, Kathryn Juty (W45) and Sandra Ingham (W50) were competing in the discus, Kathryn coming fourth with 11.73m and Sandra in third with 13.66m.

After the initial events, the yellow vests of Biggleswade were seen rushing across the field to get registered for the next series. The 100m saw Kathryn claiming third in 16.2sec (another club AG record) and Sandra finishing fourth in 22.0s. For the men, Marcus Davey, usually a middle distance runner, competed in the M35 category and produced a tremendous run of 13.9 to finish fifth in a tight race and add to the age-group records bonanza. Ian Skerratt ran in the M50 race coming fourth in 18.0. Next to the 100m, the men’s triple jump was taking place and Arnold represented Biggleswade in M60 finishing second with a jump of 7.43m – yet another AG record.

The track then saw the mile races with Zoe Luscombe running in the W35 finishing a good fourth in 6:46.3 (another AG record). For the men, Davey was at his preferred distance and took M35 third in an AG time of 5:07.5, with Robin Wynde fourth M50 in 7:29.8 and Arnold third M60 in 6:14.5.

In the field events Ingham became the second BAC winner of the night taking the W50 javelin with a throw of 20.37m, while Luscombe went straight from her efforts in the mile to finish fifth in the W35 javelin with 10.12m. Sandra mimicked Fediw by also competing in the high jump taking fourth W50 with Juty also coming fourth in W45. After her win in the javelin, Ingham went straight over to the triple jump with Kathryn, Sandra finishing fourth in W50 jumping 4.57m (AG club record) and Kathryn a very commendable second with a jump of 6.03m. In the men’s discus Fediw was fifth in M35 with 17.30m, Robin Wynde fifth M50 with 16.13m and Ian Skerratt fifth M60 with 9.67m.

The final individual event of the evening was the 400m and Luscombe stepped up to run in W35 taking third in 76.2. For the men Charles Arnold took fourth in M50 (75.7) and Ian Skerratt second in M60 (81.7). This was then followed by the 1200m varied distance relay and David Brown was able to to take a break from officiating to run a blistering first leg to hand over to Skerratt, then Arnold before Davey produced a fantastic race to finish third, so nearly catching the team ahead.

In the end, the women finished fourth on the night and lifted themselves to a creditable fourth overall. The men finished fifth on the night and slipped to fifth overall, but just 3.5 points behind the hosts who were able to field a strong team. Neither team qualified for the finals, but all the athletes who turned out for the four matches gave commitment, effort and enthusiasm, and most of all, made them fun occasions with some success.

A special mention should also be made for the officials that turned out each time – without them there would be no competition.