Cross country is often associated with mud, cold, rain and hard work, so to turn up to the first XC race of the season with the sun shining and firm ground underfoot was a bit of a rarity!
Knights Grange Fields, Winsford was the location for the first North Staffs Cross Country League (NSCCL) race of the season and a 22 strong team of Telford Harriers made the trip from Telford to Staffordshire full of confidence and raring to go.
With 4 traditional Cross Country courses in North Staffordshire and South Cheshire, the NSCCL League offers excellent competition for both male and female club runners of all ages and abilities.
Harriers entered 2 teams, one into the senior male category consisting of 13 runners and one into the senior female category consisting of 9 runners.
The senior ladies were off first as the men warmed up and offered support. The ladies ran two loops of the 1.65mile circuit to complete a race distance of 3.3miles.
A field of 220 runners all set off up the slight incline and the XC season was well and truly underway. After the first lap it was Nicki Atkins who was leading the Harriers charge and setting some good pace, closely followed by Vic Doran.
With the sun still shining and the crowds shouting on their respective clubs Nicki Atkins brought the ladies team home in an excellent 76th place with a time of 25:54 and setting a course PB by just under 2 mins.
Second Harrier home was Vic Doran in 91st place. The seasoned XC racer, competing after finishing a gruelling swim/run marathon a week earlier, posted a time of 26:38 and gave the team some valuable points.
Just over a minute later, Cristina O'Brien came in as third Harrier in 27:36 and 106th position with final league points scoring position going to Lisa Yeomans who came home in 27:42 and 109th place.
More fantastic running was to come with our other runners finishing as follows:
121st: Elysia Gapper, 28:40
149th: Kim Chatfield, 30:49 165th: Georgina Westwood, 32:15
189th: Sonia Edmonds, 34:43
218th: Emma Ward, 47:12
After the first race of the season the Harriers ladies sit in the top half of the table in a very respectable 9th position with 382 points.
Photos of our ladies team during lap 1, copyright Bryan Dale Photography
The mens race started 40 mins later and consisted of 3 laps of the 1.66 mile circuit totalling 5miles. Harriers fielded a strong team with high expectations of a decent points scoring day and the green and gold lined up on the start full of confidence.
With the ladies in full support following their race, the whistle sounded to signal the start of the mens race with all 307 competing runners charging up the incline jostling for position. As the first lap unfolded the ever impressive Dean Aston was forcing his way to the front of the field, closely followed by Micheal Smith.
Despite the course being relatively flat, there were some interesting sections that challenged all runners. A few short inclines and a small wooded section kept all the runners on their toes and gave enough to keep the race interesting.
As the final lap came to a sprint finish is was Dean Aston who led the Harriers home in an amazing 36th position and a time of 29:50.
Michael Smith was next Harrier to finish and recorded a 5 min course PB to come home in 31:39 and 81st place.
Third Harrier home was Victor Bennet in 142nd place in a time of 33:37 and league final point scoring place went to Andy Pigg recording 34:17 and 157th place.
With all of our runners putting in some hard work, the remaining men finished as follows:
194th: Andrew Dippie, 36:40
208th: Steve Walker, 37:20
209th: Jon Edmonds, 37:21
223rd: Andrew Buckle, 37:52
244th: Rob Friel, 39:18
247th: Paul Ruscoe, 39:26
250: Robbie Chesbey, 39:41
258th: Gus Erlandson, 40:16
269th: Matt Giles, 41:08
At the end of the race the men's team posted 416 points from the top 4 finishers and finished the day in a brilliant 7th place in the league.
Race photos copyright Bryan Dale
Overall an amazing first XC race of the season. Special thanks go out to XC captain Nicki Atkins for organising the day and also Jacquie Walker for baking some amazing cakes to keep everyone going after running.
Here is a little taster of the day: