Belles Hit First Ever Major Cross Podium
Will Cockerell writes:- In a pot-boiler of a race, the Belles scrapped for every point at Brighton’s tough but fair Stanmer Park, knowing that a top five return was possible as our runners possessed an abundance of strength and savvy.
A week before the race we lost luminaries Sarah Murphy, Catherine Bryson and Zoe Smith in quick succession, but the remaining five held firm. Sam argued a tricky exit visa from her coach; Fee was originally a ‘no’ due to a very long journey, but then couldn’t resist; and Nelle is sick to the eye-teeth of running ten times above her preferred distance, but grimly gave the nod.
On to the race and it became clear the field had good depth, and there would be no ‘false highs’ that some ‘Southerns’ outside London have produced. Sam and Fee were top 35/40 early doors, Nellie observing not far back and Tilly and Hester (making a welcome return to the team) neck and neck.
10 minutes in and Sam was running with purpose, a little outside the top 25, flinging her cap at the TM. The rest were keeping reputable company, although positions were not perhaps what we hoped for. A little later and Sam, who had climbed a few spots, hurled more clothing at the TM, this time her gloves. Forget the race, this was becoming an intriguing little game of strip poker. “I’m not chucking you anything else,” barked Sam. Ah well – a time and a place.
As for the others, Fee was starting to move through, and although Nelle was toiling a tad (racing on a tender ‘hammy’), Tilly was also making good inroads, as she chased a second team medal in this event, after she led London Irish to bronze back in 1999.
And so to the end game. What joy to see Sam break free of a large pack of hungry wolves and seal sweet 16th, for her finest run in the claret and gold. Fee held firm as she inevitably does, and Tilly hove into view soon after, with a spent Nelle clinging on, now running on two tender hammies.
To the naked eye it looked like 5th or 6th, but although many clubs had fielded solid outfits, two of our biggest worries, last year’s champions Norwich, and Met League leaders Highgate could not close in; nor could other big guns Woodford, Bedford or Shaftesbury. Another key threat, Winchester, had a rocking trio, and looked big ‘faves’, but then had to wait till 187 for their fourth – Southampton had a similar problem.
It became clear that St. Alban’s would be a threat though, who had three athletes run round together as a deadly sniper’s unit in the late 30s, but we finished ahead of them by a pipsqueak two points, with another seven teams cascading in shortly after that. We had done it – bronze medals were ours!
So, a famous day, with never-say-die running by our quintet, and our first ever club honours at either the Southern or National cross. It’s taken 36 years, but surely the wait will not be as long for more.
Women’s 8k. 1 C Mitchell (Southampton AC) 29:44; 2 L Deadman (Havering) 29:49; 3 L Elliott (Winchester) 30:20; 16 S Amend 32:07; 63 F Maycock 34:30; 78 M Heaton 35:13; 82 N Quispell 35:22; 128 H Barsham-Rolfe 37:20; 335 finished.
Source: Belgrave Harriers