Wimborne Athletic Club

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South Of England XC Championships  – 29 January – Parliament Hill 

Report from Hampstead Heath.

It was an early start from QE, the two buses pulled out of the car park at 7am. The journey to London was uneventful and we arrived in good time prior to the first race. The hill where we erected the team tent afforded magnificent views of the London skyline, but the exposed nature of the venue meant we had to withstand an icy blast, and spent much of the day trying not to get too cold. There were a few frozen patches on the ground, but when we got to Hampstead Heath the conditions (by Parliament Hill standards) did not look to muddy. With hundreds of runners in each race, many doing multiple laps, conditions were to change as the day progressed.

First race of the day was the under-15 boys race. With WACers in all of the first five races, it was the start of a very hectic period for us, and it meant that if you went to see our runners off the start line, you were likely to miss them approaching the finish. Ryan Walbridge warmed up and headed for the start line. Ryan is in the lower half of his age group, as are many of our juniors, and in this sort of company his 87th place, in a field of more than 260 was a very good start.

Abbie Hine was next to go, in the under-13 girls race. She is enjoying a marvellous XC season except for the single disappointment at the South-West Championships where she went off to quickly. With a hill straight off the start line, Abbie had clearly learned from that experience, she ran a canny race and recorded an excellent 60th place.

Our best representation in the junior races came in the under-13 boys. We had Piers Copeland, Jamie Brash and Tom Boulton. Piers ran superbly for his 17th place, without doubt the best performance from a WACer on the day (the best part of it is that he still has another year in that age group). There has been little to choose between Jamie and Tom all season, with Tom getting the upper-hand when they ran against each other in the Hampshire League at Farley Mount and at the South-West Championships at Bicton – but each time there has been seconds between them. Jamie was completely unfazed by the big occasion. He turned the tables on Tom, but once again there was just seconds between them.

We have healthy rivalry in the under-15 girls team too, between Sharon Hutchings and Chloe Morris. Both are running in the lower half of this age-group, so their 139th and 160th places are encouraging indicators of what we might expect next year.

Callum Kennedy was our sole representative in the under-17s races. This and the under-20s age-groups are the toughest categories. There simply is no tail on the field, a few seconds lost makes a big difference to where you finish, and every place you take is hard-earned. 6000m over this sort of terrain was a good test as, with each race, the mud got a little deeper, and the spikes needed to be a little longer!

Lynn Hutchings is another runner who has been having a superb XC season. Lynn has no trouble in finishing in the top half of the field.

Our best representation in any race was in the senior men’s category. We needed six of us to record a team score, and there were seven WACers on the start line. It was chaotic, the starter’s gun was fired before 100s of runners had lined up. This saw some vaulting the fence to get into the starting area, while those who were in the tented approach to the start were the most severely delayed. Whatever, we were underway and almost 900 runners charged that first climb. This is the longest of the XC Championships races – and at 15k in those conditions, it is a war of attrition.

Our men’s team had an experienced look about it, as every WACer could be classified in the Veteran category. Comfortably our top performer was Jerry Shield, he improved considerably on last year’s time, coming within seconds of the time Graeme ‘Bionic’ Furley recorded in 2010. Next in was Mark Copeland. He may be a veteran by age category, but as this is his first season of racing he could still be considered a novice. Mark ran superbly over a distance he is unused to (he was a little stunned when he realised he had signed up for a 15k race rather than the more usual 8-10k distance we cover during most of the XC season) quite a day for the Copeland household.

Our team of veterans includes two runners in their 60s – Gerry Hutchings and Phil Burgess. Gerry has added some real pace to his resolute determination and his form in recent races has been a revelation. Gerry even managed to get his nose in front of our most experienced off-roader – Graham Whiffen – although there was only seconds between them at the end of a very tough 15k. Phil took the first lap steady and just got better and better as the race went on. Ian Kennedy claimed the sixth team place as he edged away from team-mate Paul Hine over the later laps.

With the racing done and the tent down, we trudged wearily back to our minibuses at the end of an exhausting but satisfying day at the South of England Cross-Country Championships.

WACers times and results were:

Under-15 Boys 4500 m (262 finishers)

87 – Ryan Walbridge – 17:19

Under-13 Girls 3000m (242 finishers)

60 – Abbie Hine – 13:42

Under-13 Boys 3000m (224 finishers)

17 – Piers Copeland – 12:10
156 – Jamie Brash – 14:10
163 – Tom Boulton – 14:16

Under-15 Girls 4000m (209 finishers)

139 – Sharon Hutchings – 18:52
160 – Chloe Morris – 19:25

Under-17 Men 6000m (178 finishers)

160 – Callum Kennedy – 26:17

Senior Women (381 finishers)

180 – Lynn Hutchings – 38:45

Senior Men (885 finishers – 86th team – of 93)

343 – Jerry Shield – 1:03:09
602 – Mark Copeland – 1:10:58
734 – Gerry Hutchings – 1:16:26
735  – Graham Whiffen – 1:16:34
805 – Phil Burgess – 1:20:50
838 – Ian Kennedy – 1:24:28
866 – Paul Hine – 1:33:23

Full results for this event will be found at



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