National Cross Country Championships, 2017 – The Club’s best ever?

2013 represented a breakthrough year for the Club’s young athletes. In the snow at Sunderland the U13G team stormed to victory, closing three runners in the first 11, including the overall winner, and the fourth scorer in 26th, ensuring a winning score of 42 vs the second place team, 118 points.  Ever present, Alex Brown, finished her first National in 11th place.

The men’s team finished 18th and there was no women’s team.

2013 Medal Summary: One individual gold and one team gold.

In 2014, in Nottingham, the U13G retained their team title, and were led home by Alex Brown who secured a silver medal. Turkay Korkmaz finished third on his national debut.

The men’s team were 35th and there was no women’s team.

2014 Medal Summary: One individual silver, one individual bronze and one team gold.

In 2015 at Parliament Hill Fields, the U13G maintained their excellent medal run by securing second team. The U15G, led home by Alex Brown in second, also secured second team.

The SW finished a best ever 4th, and the Senior Men were 22nd.

2015 Medal Summary: One individual silver and two team silvers.

In 2016, Castle Donington, Alex Brown, third consecutive silver, led the U15G team to a bronze medal.

The SM finished 20th and there was no women’s team.

2016 Medal Summary: One individual silver and one team bronze.

In 2017, Nottingham, Jaden Kennedy won the U13B race, leading his team to second place. Charlotte Alexander, on her national debut, finished second in the U15G race.  Alex Brown secured her fourth consecutive National medal, finishing third, and led our U17W to their first ever National medal, finishing second (on countback).  Of note, the U13G were 4th team and U15G were 7th, indicating good depth on the girls’ side.

The SM finished 13th and the SW 16th.

Medal Summary: One gold, one silver and one bronze individual, and two silver team medals.

Overall standard in Senior Men’s race

In his write up in Athletics Weekly, Steve Smythe questions the standard at the front end of the SM race. He compares the sharp end in the event 40 years ago to 2017, on a weekend when the current best male UK cross country runner, Callum Hawkins, won the Scottish Championships.

It is difficult to argue with the central tenor of his argument. He points out that the first three in the 1977 National, at Parliament Hill, all ran sub 27.45 for 10000m that year, and three of the remaining top six were sub 28 minute runners.  Others, who were to later run sub 28 minutes, in the top 30 included Julian Goater (who subsequently produced a record winning margin at the National, at Parliament Hill), Geoff Smith and Steve Jones, whilst Steve Ovett was 13th.  Steve had been a doubtful starter as he’d been ill leading up to the race.  He subsequently finished 4th and 6th in the (then) 15km Nationals and won the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships.  He is arguably one of the greatest examples of combining world class 800/1500m running (he won the Olympic 800m in 1980) with traditional cross country running.

The leading men in this year’s National are clearly all on an upward trajectory. Their 10000/10k pbs are 28.56, 30min06 and 30.26 (albeit the third placer has a 13.30 5000m pb).  Would they have made the top 30 in 1977?

The men’s national was reduced from 15km to 12km on the premise this would help ensure our top athletes would contest it. Steve Smythe reasonably asks the question, ‘if the likes of Ovett and Foster competed over nine miles of mud in the National, why won’t all of England’s top runners do it now, especially as it’s only 12km?’

Later in 1977, after his 13th at Parliament Hill, Steve Ovett produced what many regard as one of the finest exhibitions of 1500m running we have ever seen, in the World Cup, Dusseldorf.  I commend this to any aspiring middle distance runner:

Steve had famously been due to race in the Highland Games in Edinburgh the week before the World Cup, but his plans were wrecked by an air-traffic controllers’ strike at Gatwick. He reverted with some Brighton and Hove club mates to the Dartford Half Marathon, and duly won the race in 65mins38, beating the 1976 Olympic Marathon contestant, Barry Watson.  He later reputedly described his victory as ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’.

A week after the half marathon, Steve’s run in Dusseldorf was described by Mel Watman, Athletics Weekly, as ‘the perfect race’, whilst Geoff Dyson suggested it should be kept on film in athletics archive as ‘a work of art and object lesson in middle-distance running’ (Harry Wilson, Running Dialogue, A Coach’s Story).

Keith Newton 5 March 2017