The Chiltern League is over for another year and its been a tough one. Oxford started off warm and dry with no mud, but the weather and the mud has got steadily worse with each race. But this, after all, is cross country! Doing well in a cross country league is all about consistency over all the fixtures. We started the season well back in October. We struggled a little in the 2nd fixture at Teardrop Lakes but thereafter we have gone from strength to strength.
The SM went into the final match at Campbell Park in 3rd, with a 94 point buffer over 4th. We were determined we weren’t going to lose this and every runner from the Keysoe toed the start line again. In the end the result was never in doubt and we took bronze by nearly 300 points. Joe Branch again led the team home in 11th. He’d been pretty ill the previous week but there was never any chance of him missing this one. With half a mile to go, a few good club athletes thought they had the scalp of Olympian, James Mcilroy. 800m though is ‘his thing’ and he powered past 10 athletes to finish within 30 secs of Joe in 15th. David Clark, Peter Finn, Frank Fulcher, Chris Filer, Andy Walling, Tim Hogbin, Sean Wilson all followed in the top 67. Kieran Gilfedder and Will Langley then fought out the 10th scoring spot and the job was done!
A special mention also to Ben Sendall who was our highest place finisher in any match with his brilliant 3rd place in the first match.
After 3 matches the SW were lying 7th. We knew though that if we could get a full 6 runners out that we would be a lot higher. A brilliant performance at Keysoe moved us into 5th. Could the women actually get a medal as well? On Tuesday it didn’t seem possible. We only had 2 confirmed runners and one of those was ill! However, come Saturday afternoon, we had 6! Jenny Roberts even delayed her family half term break in order to be there.
Lucy Rogers ran her best race of the year to come 3rd and took herself into 3rd overall. Next home was European Masters champion, Zoe Doyle who was making her debut for the Club. After months out recovering from a stress fracture, we would have been happy with a finish in the mid teens. Zoe though surprised everyone with a brilliant 5th place. Jenny and Nicki Johnson followed, both getting better with every race. Jess Gray and Fran Sille then completed our team. With 6 in 29, we couldn’t have done much more on the day. In the end though it wasn’t enough and we finished in 4th overall. An incomplete team in the 2nd and 3rd fixtures cost us. Congratulations though to Dacorum who were more consistent throughout the season.
With it being half term we struggled a little for numbers in the junior age groups. However, there seems to be a growing crop of keen U11s who have made an appearance through the season. Well done to the following athletes who have competed in at least 4 races; Libby Sutton, Ellie Faulkner, Casper Chillingworth (who finished 9th in the League), William Alexander, Charlie Kassar, Rufus Parry and William Foster.
The U13s have performed well, in the U13 boys Rollo Parry has been blazing a trail and at the end of the final match finished 8th. The U13 girls have been led by the dynamic duo of Olivia Brown and Tilly Firth. The girls finishing 10th and 14th respectively.
In the U15 age groups where we have typically been stronger in previous years; this year we have struggled due to reduced numbers. Hopefully, next year we will have more runners in this age group as some of the talented U13s move up. But of the U15s who did race, all performed brilliantly. On Saturday Megan Harris showed great determination coming 4th in Division 1 which is an excellent result and our best junior performance of the day in a difficult age group. Although not available for the final match, Izzy Wijsman is worth a mention. She has had a great season – focussed and consistent throughout – finishing 10th overall. She’ll be a great asset to the U17s when she moves up next year. In the U15 boys Jacob Sanderson improved greatly over the course of the 5 races and had a solid run in the final match to finish 14th on the day and an excellent 9th overall in the League.
In the U17s category, where we have previously struggled for numbers, we have been strong and held our own in Division 1. Coming into the final match, the U17 boys were in 3rd place and needed a good turnout to secure bronze. On the day, Myles Caddell led the boys home followed by a steadily improving Tom Crockett, Hal Burtenshaw and Marcus Waterhouse. All 4 boys scored to guarantee a team bronze.
We also fielded a full team in the U17 girls. Cerys Vico led the team home, followed by Mia Waterhouse (with a strong sprint finish) and the ever reliable Ana Montgomery. After the race the team was awarded bronze, although there is still some confusion over this result and we are awaiting clarification from the League.
For the juniors to remain competitive next season, we will need to increase numbers across the age groups, in order to reduce our reliance on the same small number of athletes turning out for each race.