Since the early 1990's, when it was moved from its traditional date in early December, the first weekend of the new year has been reserved for the County Cross Country Championships in almost every county in England. This event is part of a National heirarchy of events which includes the Regional Championships ( Southern in our case ), the Inter Counties Championships for the best racers from each county & culminating in the National Championships, which is open to all affiliated clubs & at 9 miles, is the ultimate test for cross country runners in England. The County Championships themselves are pretty much as old as Cross Country running itself. Fitting therefore, that in 2009 the winners of the Surrey Mens event, were the Thames Hare & Hounds club, which is established in history as the originator of organised cross country running both in UK & all over the world, before the turn of the 19th century.
With the freezing weather over the Christmas holiday period, it was no surprise to find that the ground was bone hard in many places & the usually thick, smelly mud of Lloyd Park, Croydon was reduced to hard rutted ground, with a tricky, slippery surface. You certainly would not have wanted to fall over on any part of the course as it would have resulted in some nasty bruises.
The Ladies were first on the course for the 8k race, with Justina Heslop right at the front as they ascended the first hill, with the two Aldershot girls, Partridge & Adams in tow & Charlotte Bryson of Belgrave hanging on in 4th
Newcomer Catherine Dulla was right up in the top 10, using her British Military Fitness strength, as was Olivia Chevenix also in her first Chasers race, chased hard by Moana Burt with her usual steady start. Lucy Custance was close behind as yet another first time Chasers racer, to complete the scoring team all in the top 20 or so. Nat Bennet was chasing hard, her recent good form being continued & Sandrine Gonnet, Kelly Nugent & Lou Ellis attacking the hill hard, in the middle of the field. This was definitely going to be the Chasers best ever club finish to a ladies Cross Country race.
Justina still led the group of 3 at the end of the lap, with Bryson finding it tough 25 metres back. Catherine was still right up there in the top 15 or so, with Moana chasing hard, passing people all the time as her NZ mountain running speed & strength began to tell. Lucy had passed Olivia & our team were looking good for a Championship medal each.
As the leaders came storming into the finishing straight, Lily Partridge from Aldershot had pulled away from Justina to take the title in what is, I think, her first year as a 'Senior', having won international races & been 3rd at the inter counties as an under 20 runner. So no shame in Justina being beaten by her at all.
By the final downhill section, Moana had caught & pulled clear of Catherine to take 14th & 15th places respectively. Now we only needed one more finisher to complete the team & finish 2nd behind the top team in England, Aldershot. But a whole phalanx of South London Harriers came storming home before Lucy in 31st place & it looked like we might not make it. However, it was good news for the Chasers, as South London simply didnt have as many runners in the top 20 as us & Lucy took her place with the Silver medalists on the podium ! Olivia just held on to keep in front of Nat Bennet & Sandrine pulled away from Kelly, her spikes giving her the advantage over Kelly's trainers. Lou Ellis closed the gap well to bring home the Chasers team. A great result for the Chasers & well done to everyone for committing to this event which is well known for being very tough, but ultimately extremely rewarding.
The Chasers mens team, one of the larger contingents on the day, with 17 racers, lined up for their 12k race just as the ladies race was finishing. Predictably, at the front, British team member from the recent European Championships, Phil Wickes of Belgrave led the way, with Thames Hare & Hounds & Herne Hill Harriers in evidence at the front. The Chasers 'packed' very well in the twenties & thirties, to show some of the more established teams that we really are an emerging club. Matt Ward, in training for another London Marathon & looking as if he might do rather well again, was the leading Chaser, steaming down one of the hills as yours truly was struggling up the other side, a long way behind ! Nick Stevens, best known for his storming race in the Surrey League after arriving late at the start, managed to get to the line just about on time & with his recent New York Marathon strength still apparent, was second finisher for us & Neil Aitken, after a bit of an injury recently, as third placer.
Graeme Buske, also in training for London & managing to keep injuries in the background at last, was fourth man home, with Clive Alley, reliable as ever on the country 5th man home. Rameez Khan, cheered on by Uncle Khawar, completed the scoring team of 6. Tobias Mews, took the mantle of 'last to the line' from Nick Stevens this time, as he was still putting his vest on & pinning his number to it, as he ran the first 100 metres ! But he moved well through the field to finish just behind Rameez.
Stuart Brameld & Steve Black had a titanic battle going into the final strength sapping lap of 3, with Stuart the stronger in the end, beating Steve by a 100 metres or so. Paul Jagger recovered from the excesses of the Buscke / Peacock cocktail bar on New Years Eve, to finish in a brilliant 53 minutes which was a minute or so in front of Miles Cox.
Joe Dean was too far in front of me to be caught on the final lap & Rich Chaplin could not quite catch me as I began to tire up the final three hills.
Phil Diamond managed to hold off Andy Ormesher, who had an injury ravaged December & was pleased to get a decent run -in.
A great 4th place for the Chasers mens team, our best ever & beating clubs like South London, Reigate & Dulwich is always to be savoured, as these teams are pretty damn good.
So well done you Chasers & its onwards & upwards for next weeks Surrey League. Shorter distances & hopefully a bit more mud than this week.
2nd Justina Heslop 31.19
14th Moana Burt 34.28
15th Catherine Dulla 34.34
31st Lucy Custance 36.42
45th Olivia Chenix-Trench 39.38
48th Natalie Bennet 39.59
65th Sandrine Gonnet 42.56
70th Kelly Nugent 43.40
77th Louise Ellis 44.41
28th Matt Ward 46.36
35th Nick Stevens 47.21
38th Neil Aitken 47.52
43rd Graeme Buscke 48.14
56th Clive Alley 49.50
59th Rameez Khan 50.20
61st Tobias Mews 50.36
73rd Stuart Brameld 51.43
75th Steve Black 52.09
84th Paul Jagger 53.30
94th Miles Cox 54.17
106th Joe Dean 56.26
115th Mike Scofield 58.10
116th Rich Chaplin 58.25
131st Phil Diamond 62.17
134th Andy Ormesher 63.36