Ian Kennedy reports from the Hampshire League, Reading
It’s not every day that we see a red kite wheeling above us, and you certainly don’t expect it over parkland in an urban area. A bitterly cold wind was a constant presence at Prospect Park for Race 4 of the Hampshire League. This is the race where we tend to struggle for numbers each year. From the boys at least, there was a significant improvement in turnout this time around.
Under-11 Harry Butcher got the team off to a flying start. Over a longer course than we’ve seen so far in the under-11 Hampshire League races this year, Harry claimed third place.
Under 11 boys (28 finishers)
3 – Harry Butcher – 10:07
We were delighted to field a complete team in the under-13 girls race. Imogen Rawles led the way for us, once again, with great support from Evie Fuller (who, having only just turned 11 has two more years in this age-group) with Ella Fazakerley picking up vital points as the third team finisher. Our girls claimed 5th place team, the best WAC U13 girls’ team finish of the season.
Under 13 girls (41 finishers) – 5th team
19 – Imogen Rawles – 13:21
25 – Evie Fuller – 13:45
41 – Ella Fazakerley – 17:01
The Williams boys as usual led the way in the under-13 boys race for us. Fast-improving form from Tom Williams is keeping brother Jack on his toes. Jack currently lies in 10th position in the league aggregates. Vital to our team score was the contribution from Jack Doran. Emulating the U13 girls, these boys produced their best HXC team score of the season so far too.
Under 13 boys (52 finishers) – 4th team
8 – Jack Williams – 11:24
12 – Tom Williams – 11:36
46 – Jack Doran – 14:09
For the second HXC race in a row Ruby Sargeant was our only under-15 girl. Ruby tends to finish races looking strong. I have a hunch that when she moves up into the older age-groups covering long distances this is going to suit her.
Under 15 girls (45 finishers)
44 – Ruby Sargeant – 17:25
Jay Dunn has led home our under-15 boys in every Hampshire League race this season. His commitment in training in second-to-none, his reward at Reading was a season’s best performance in the HXC. In support, and also pitching in with a season’s best HXC performance was Josh Fazakerley. George Butcher’s points ensured that we claimed team points. Seventh for the team equalled our best in the HXC season.
Under 15 boys (46 finishers) – 7th team
16 – Jay Dunn – 15:14
31 – Josh Fazakerley – 16:06
44 – George Butcher – 18:18
Our under-17 men have had a strange season. They’ve been incredibly unlucky with illness over the winter. This has thrown up some unpredictable individual results. There has been little to choose between them much of the time. They all lie together in a cluster in the season’s averages, with Ben Martin 16th, Charlie Davies 18th, Tom Fuller 19th, Joel Green 20th and Ollie Rawles 23rd. In each race this season the U17 men’s team have produced progressively better results with each meeting. At Reading they claimed 3rd, and they are now 3rd in the league table too. The clash of dates between the final HXC meeting and the South West Schools may well scupper their medal chances however.
Under 17 (29 finishers) – 3rd team
14 – Ben Martin – 19:43
15 – Charlie Davies – 19:52
18 – Tom Fuller – 20:14
21 – Ollie Rawles – 20:33
23 – Joel Green – 21:07
Of the 132 finishers in the women’s race only one of them – Grace Copeland – was ours. Grace has competed more than 20 times for WAC in the Hampshire League, but this was her first appearance in HXC since 2016. The race had even more significance as it was also Grace’s first race since May 2019 when she pulled up with a foot injury whilst wearing a Team GB vest in a 3000m on the track at Loughborough. She’s been carefully recovering and managing her fitness since then. Her first recorded time since the injury came on 4 January when she broke the women’s club record at parkrun in Poole. It was a day when more than 1,000 runners took part. Grace recorded a time of 17:02. Not only was she first women, but only two of the men had quicker times. The XC race at Reading was another landmark, Grace’s 7th position was the best yet by any Wimborne athlete in a senior race in the Hampshire League. She was second under-20 women on the day.
Senior women (132 finishers)
7 – Grace Copeland – 20:03 (2nd under-20)
The meeting concluded with the men’s race, and once more we were able to field a full team (five in this category). Since Mark Copeland’s return to cross-country a few races ago, it’s turned it into something of a duel with Rob Rawles (see photo). Both have seen their performances enhanced because of this rivalry. In the three races that they’ve done together it’s 2-1 to Mark on the head-to-head, but after two hours of racing over three events Rob has the better accumulated time by just six seconds! The ever-dependable Pete Kingswell-Farr was our third scorer, and Seamus Doran was next in, maintaining his ever-present status in XC league races this season. It was great to see Richard Davies back racing, and he completed our team on the day.
Senior men (209 finishers) – Div. 3 4th team, 17th team in veterans
138 – Mark Copeland – 43:36
140 – Rob Rawles – 43:39
170 – Pete Kingswell-Farr – 46:42
192 – Seamus Doran – 51:42
201 – Richard Davies – 56:17
One more Hampshire League race remains, at Popham Airfield near Winchester on 8 February. We’ll find ourselves spread thinly as there is a fixture clash with the South West Schools Cross-Country Championships at King’s Park. Thank you to Seamus Doran will be taking on the team manager’s duties at Popham.