By Matthew Knowles
55 Gt Bentley runners made the trip to Cullen’s Farm, Ramsey at the weekend, for the second fixture of the season in the 53-12 Cross-Country League, hosted by Harwich.
There was slightly less trepidation than usual in tackling the well-known tough course amongst the hardy souls who set off this year, due to the weather being fine and the ground somewhat firmer in many places after a week with little rain.
The combined senior field numbered some 300 athletes, a large field compared to other years at Harwich, but about three quarters of the size of the 30th anniversary fixture at Colchester last month.
The combined senior team again finished sixth, leaving them at the foot of Pool A in the League, but with some individual performances which suggest the team’s improving strength in depth will begin to show dividends as the season progresses.
The ladies team repeated a strong and well-entrenched fourth position in the team event with 17 athletes competing. Once again, Vicky Presland was first home in a great 6th position (and taking the silver V40 position); an improvement of 11 places on the first race of the season.
One to watch this winter is in-form Meera Rajoo-Oakley. After making a great start at Colchester by placing 30th Meera made another leap forward to finish 16th this time, confirming her position as one of the club’s key high-performing athletes. Sarah Fletcher (21st) also had a great run, 38 places up, followed by a strong season debut from Eileen Shadford (30th) who also finished 3rd in the V50 category, to close out the scoring team.
Two other strong season debuts came from Jess Alexander (49th) and Gemma Colling (55th), supported by some enormous place improvements from several other competitors: Lorna Shape (43rd), improving 36 places, Anna Lyon (47th) and team captain Marion Simmons (53rd) both up 37 places. 4 athletes made improvements of over 50 places – Katie Presland (57th), Sue Wright (88th), Barbara Law (94th) and Sandra James (97th).
The ladies race winner was Laura Shrewbridge of Colchester Harriers.
The men’s team of 31 maintained their 6th position, but remain close behind Witham. Ryan Day led the charge, finishing in a sparkling 27th. He was followed by Russ Sharpe (34th), (also 8th in his new V40 category). Fellow veteran Mark Jasper followed in 48th, (an improvement of 25 places), then came Ben Ficken (55th), up 19 and senior club coach Michael Simmons (72nd). Tom Fowler made a strong season debut in 84th, with Malcolm Jarvis (97th) and Lee Clarkson (98th) running well to close out the scoring team.
There were some other performances from the men that showed enormous improvement and great promise for forthcoming fixtures: Tim Ballard (118th), Paul Carlisle (127th), and John Booty (156th) all made advances of nearly 90 places.
Richard Moor (111th), Gary Hill (187th), Paul Blackwell (194th) and David Iddon all made good season debuts. There were some other very strong and improving runs from James McCullagh (103rd), Colin Farmer (112th), Phil Presland (129th), Graham Clarke (131st), Kev James (153rd), Frank Gardiner (155th), Rodger Alexander (157th), Andy Fuller (179th), Luke Groves (182nd) and Martin West (192nd), all of whom improved by between 30 and 60 places. West also took 3rd spot in his age category.
The race was won by Paul Wain of Ipswich Jaffa.
In the 100-strong junior race Harrison Leek (32nd) again led the team home, improving by 11 places, followed by Tom Disney (93rd) with a good season debut. Megan Hughes (94th) had a great run (up 45 places) as did Ben Lyons (95th), up 37. Amie Apps (closing the scoring team of 4) and Lotti Talbot also made promising season debuts, finishing 97th and 98th respectively. The junior run of the day goes to young Angel Jasper (102nd), who built well upon her debut race at Colchester with a brave run on the more difficult terrain at Harwich.
The race was won by Thomas Abbott of Ipswich Jaffa.
The club will return to action this Sunday for the third and middle point fixture of the season at Halstead.