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Kent League - Seniors - Swanley Park

Well, the summer has come and gone, we’ve all had our fill of running round and round on the red tarmac for now, and the new cross country season is off and running. Needless to say, the best bit about it is that, for the time being at least, we’ve still got track season weather. I for one don’t remember coming away from a cross country race completely mud free, but that was certainly the case at Swanley on Saturday.


No doubt conditions will deteriorate as the season goes on, but, in context, this was a nice gentle introduction for the tougher assignments to come. So congratulations to everyone, from all age groups, who showed up and competed on Saturday, from Under 13 upwards. As far as the Seniors are concerned, there was a very pleasing turnout, with six men and three women competing on the day in those categories. In the women’s race, Rebecca Weston and Emily McKane stepped up from the U20’s to run with the seniors, with some distinction.


Rebecca (granted, fairly predictably), cruised to victory with nearly ninety seconds to spare (!), whilst Emily came in at an extremely creditable ninth, in under 20 minutes, in her first taste of senior action. She also had a very close nip-tuck race with club stalwart Sharon Hawkins, which went all the way to the finish line. Sharon, by just three seconds, won this particular tussle, coming in 8th, one place ahead of Emily, but watch this space, because this could become a good rivalry to watch. With three finishers in the top 10, it will come as no surprise to anyone to see the Invicta women leading the way in the teams’ league table. A FABULOUS team win!


As for the men, it’s fair to say that some of our team’s members have seen better days and produced better performances, but we still comfortably put a full team out, and I have no doubt that everyone in it will produce significant upturns in finishing positions as the season progresses, and there are certainly some extenuating circumstances on this occasion. Rob Whittaker, for instance, finished 95th, when he was comfortably in the top 60 for most of last year, but given he was a major doubt just to get to the start line until about 15 minutes before the start, due to a groin injury, I say a big well done just for finishing in the top 100.

 

James Brooke is new to the whole cross country lark, having chosen to focus on road running almost exclusively up until this year. I have seen for myself that he is no slouch however, and is more than capable of very impressive times. Saturday will have been a very good learning curve for him, and I have every confidence that he will improve on his 84th placed finish. James, more than anyone, will have been grateful for the favourable early season conditions as he gets used to cross country.


Meanwhile, Gavin Knight, who has been a fantastic long term custodian of the club, continues to turn out season after season, which is a major credit to him, as was his finish of 164th, in a time of under 50 minutes. I have serious doubts that I’ll still be turning out for cross country every other week by the time I hit V50 age, so a serious well done to Gavin, and indeed to the likes of Rob and Michael Gallyer-Barnett as well, for continuing to turn out for us.

 

Me, Tim Corby and Chris Holmes completed the six that ran for Invicta. I finished in 63rd position, just shy of the top 60 finish I had been aiming for. There are plenty more chances to achieve that particular goal this season however, and my body feels in better shape than it has done in years. Training is going very well, so I have complete confidence that I can close in on the top 50 by the time the last race comes round at Parkwood in February.


Chris had one of his tougher days, with a finish of 38 his lowest ever at this level. However, knowing Chris as well as I do, he will go about turning that round in exactly the right way; by training harder and longer and getting himself as fit as possible. The be all and end all is we all have off days, and I’d gladly put money on a seriously big reaction from Chris over the next couple of months.


And then we have Tim, who finished 25th, which, once again, is somewhat below the heights he’s been setting over the last couple of years, but leading the team home again and showing courage and grit.


As for the team, it currently sits eighth in the early season rankings, but I have no doubt that there will be a significant climb up that table in the next couple of months.


All in all though, it was another fine day of athletics and competition, and I hope for more of the same and indeed bigger and better things, as the season progresses. Michael, who I mentioned earlier, will hopefully be back with us shortly, after recovering from his own recent injury troubles. I for one am also hoping that Donald Carter decides he’d like a crack at a few cross countries this season. It can only help keep him race sharp, and we will certainly have a better team with Donald in it.


Well done everyone, and good luck with the training. Oh, and apologies for rambling on for so long, I’ll try not to make a habit of it!

 

Nick Little, Seniors Cross Country Captain/Manager