Bicester AC travelled to Parliament Hill Fields last Saturday for the most prestigious domestic cross country race in the calendar, the English National Cross Country Championships. Sixteen Bicester athletes contested the 10 races, the biggest ever Bicester contingent to have taken part in the nationals. The event attracts runners from all across the country with several elite and international class athletes taking part. As ever Parliament Hill Fields, an iconic cross country event steeped in history, offered a tough and challenging terrain for runners with its mixture of deep mud and hills.
It was a successful day for Bicester athletes with six of the contingent achieving top half finishes and for others character building as they experienced a unique mass participation sporting event for the first time against elite cross country runners.
Bicester AC’s Lewie Harris was having only his third cross country of the season and is still a relative novice at cross country. In the under 13 boy’s race over 3km, Harris handled the tough terrain superbly producing his best ever cross country run to finish 56th (12mins 59secs) in the 397 strong field. This was Bicester’s highest placing on the day being one of Bicester’s two top one hundred finishes. It was also Oxfordshire’s highest placing in this event.
Bicester’s other two runners in the under 13 race both experienced bad luck. Jago Newton had his shoe ripped off at the start and by the time he had mentioned to refit it had lost a significant amount of ground on the rest of the field. He did very well in the circumstances to not only re-join the race but pass over 150 runner to place 243rd (14mins 39secs). His misfortune potentially cost him a top 100 placing. Erlgean Appiahkorang-Mensah also suffered misfortune, suffering a knee twinge during the race, but he managed to limp to the line placing 366th (16mins 37secs).
Bicester AC girl’s under 13 team was the only Oxfordshire team to finish in the non senior events. Six Bicester AC runners toed the starting line for the 3km event. Tabitha Bosley has enjoyed a superb first cross country season, and in her first year in the under 13 age group, she performed well to break in to the top half of finishers with 152nd (14mins 55secs). Abigail Jones produced another good solid effort for 292nd (16mins 11secs) just 6 seconds in front of teammate Amber Busby who was 298th (16mins 17secs). The team scorers were completed by Isla Wooding, who managed to just get ahead of Ella Myers Finnegan on this occasion for 316th (16mins 36secs) just one place and one second in front of Myers Finnegan. Bicester’s other runner was Eloise Le Monnier who did well to complete in 386th (19mins 48secs).
The under 15 boys have competed really well as a team this season and Bicester’s three representatives all performed well on the day in the 412 strong field. They have been evenly matched throughout the season and it was close again on Saturday as just 16seconds separated the three finishers over the 4km course. On this occasion Thomas Styles led the Bicester finishers home in 180th (17mins 21secs) to make the top half of finishers in what his first year in the under 15 age group. Noah Gulvin also just sneaked into the top half of finishers in 205th (17mins 35secs) chased hard by teammate Owen Stocker, who just fell short of top half finish in 207th (17mins 37secs).
Bicester had one solo competitor in each of the under 17 races. Jenny Critchley handled the conditions really well and posted a fine 104th (23mins 03secs) in the 274 strong field run over a 5km circuit. She is also at the junior end of the age group and has enjoyed a fine cross country season which should hold in her good stead for the upcoming track season. Finlay Colverson-Martin has been one of Bicester’s runners of the cross country season having also excelled on the road. He was Bicester’s other finisher in the top 100 making 94th in the 304 strong field and clocking 24mins 28secs for the 6km distance. Like Critchley he is in his first year in this age group and 94th was a strong performance.
Two Bicester athletes braved the senior men’s race run over three laps on a 12km circuit that had been severely churned up by prior races. Paul Jones, competing in his first national for the club, finished 1847th (74mins 31secs). Tom Gould was doubtful about competing beforehand but succumbed to gentle persuasion to don his spikes for 2025th (84mins 40secs). Bicester outnumbered the number of senior competitors from local rival Alchester Running Club but their sole competitor Richard Gould, a second claim member for Bicester, ran superbly for 765th (56mins 09secs).
Written by N Dolden