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XC XL at Yeovil Country Park! – 23 November 2014

Ian Kennedy reports on Wessex League cross-country race.


It’s a long way to the top! As Joe, and everyone else, were to find out!

It’s always interesting to visit a new cross-country venue, you’re never sure what you’re going to get. This one turned out to be a bit special. The course can’t be more than a couple of miles from Yeovil town centre, but what a challenge it presented. The course is used for cross-country horse trials, our red and black heroes were spared the jumps, but that was about all they were spared! The final climb to the finish line was a monster, with a particularly nasty final hairpin bend within 200m of the finish line. However, most WACers considered that climb NOT even the toughest they had faced on the course. There was one particularly crazy descent too!

What made this course really special was the view spectators could get from the start/finish area on top of the hill. From there you could see around 80% of the course, with only a wooded area really out of sight. It was clear for all to see the formidable challenge the runners faced, with the course zigzagging up, down and across the hill across the valley.

We got underway with the joint start for the u17/men’s/women’s race. The first red vest over the line was that of Jason Sotheran’s. Jason was 2nd in the under-17s race, team-mate Sam Davies was 8th, a result repeated by Maddie Williams in the under-17 women’s race.

As he has done for much of the season, Ryan Walbridge led our senior men home. Ryan was 4th senior, and second under-20. Next in was the far-travelling Iain Donnelly. A real surprise was the return to XC action of Graham Whiffen … a few years ago Graham was an ever-present. It was wonderful to see him back in a Wessex League race. Our senior team was completed by Richard Davies, Nigel Butcher and Paul Hine.

In the under-11s race Ben Butcher and Tom Fuller gave great accounts of themselves (6th and 7th of 18). The whole field took off from the start line at breakneck speed. The exuberance of youth! Ben and Tom more than held their own. I can’t imagine that any under-11s will be asked to run a tougher course!

We had a strong looking team in the under-13 girls’ race. First in was Abbie Lovering (4th), with Anna next with Holly Nixon in close attendance. Fern Morrison completed the team.

Possibly the performance of the day from a WAC point of view occurred in the under-13 boys’ race. Charlie Davies really rose to the challenge and ran what must surely be his finest XC race so far, he finished 3rd. Tom Morrison, who often leads the team home in this age group, came in 17 seconds later in 6th place.

We had only one under-15 girl competing – Lucy Ballam. She ran superbly, giving quite a few of the boys that she was running in parallel with, a bit of a fright. Lucy came 2nd in a field of 14 girls.

For the boys in that age-group, Joe Kelliher was first home for us (3rd), with Michael Johnson 6th, and Matt Yates (8th) and Elliott Symes (10th) renewing their personal duel.

The only disappointment with the meeting was the lower numbers of competitors taking part in the races. The under-13 boys’ race was particularly badly hit. For many of the clubs in the Wessex League, this is the furthest distance many would have to travel. For a venue like this one it’s definitely worth trip! I hope this becomes a regular port of call in the cross-country calendar. If it’s scheduled for next year … DON’T MISS IT!

WACers times and results were:

Under-17 women (11 finishers)

8 – Maddie Williams – 20:07

Under-17 men (12 finishers)

2 – Jason Sotheran – 15:08
8 – Sam Davies – 17:39

Senior men (40 finishers)

4 – Ryan Walbridge – 31:09 (2nd under-20m)
18 – Iain Donnelly – 36:14
31 – Graham Whiffen – 40:51
33 – Richard Davies – 43:14
36 – Nigel Butcher– 46:06
38 – Paul Hine– 49:45

Under-11 boys (18 finishers)

6 – Ben Butcher – 8:14
7 – Tom Fuller – 8:17

Under-13 girls (16 finishers)

4 – Abbie Lovering – 11:55
6 – Anna Kelliher – 12:15
8 – Holly Nixon – 12:21
12 – Fern Morrison – 13:31

Under-13 boys (6 finishers)

3 – Charlie Davies – 11:22
6 – Tom Morrison – 11:39

Under-15 girls (14 finishers)

2 – Lucy Ballam – 15:44

Under-15 Boys (16 finishers)

3 – Joe Kelliher – 14:36
6  – Michael Johnson – 14:59
8 – Matt Yates – 15:08
10 – Elliott Symes – 15:19

Full results for the Wessex League will be found at the Team Dorset website



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