Doubts surrounding whether the second round of the Oxford Mail Cross Country League would take place at Culham last Sunday did not prevent a record turnout of 48 Bicester AC competitors. Culham is traditionally one of the stiffest courses on the circuit and there was an unseemly combination of ground conditions saturated by recent rain and an icy air temperature.

Such unwelcoming conditions required a special performance so step forward under 11 Bicester competitor Maisie Silvester who left all previous form behind her with an excellent 2nd placing over the 1200 metre circuit clocking 3mins 54secs. This represents a couple of years of remarkable improvement for Silvester who has now leapt from 9th to 2nd in the overall rankings after two races and is a genuine contender for the overall title awarded at the end of the season. Her biggest rivals could however be her clubmates as Molly Acton and Amy Gould once again achieved top ten finishes with Acton placing 6th (4mins 0secs) just 2 seconds in front of 8th placed Gould. Both remain in contention in the standings after two races with Acton in 4th and Gould 5th.

Millie Couzens again performed well to be the next under 11 finisher in 22nd place (4mins 21secs) but she had to work hard to hold off Bicester newcomer Rushani Arumugham, who made a very strong start to her cross country career placing 23rd with the same time as Couzens. Lauren Garside and Amelia Cox had a good battle for 28th place and Garside just got the verdict (4mins 29secs) just one second and one place in advance of Cox (4mins 30 secs). There was also a leap forward in fortunes for Lucy Stowell who finished some 11 places higher than her first round effort placing 32nd in 4mins 35secs and Paige Scarlett who improved by the same number of places in finishing 44th (4mins 47secs).

Other Bicester under 11 girl finishers included Holly Hunter 33rd (4mins 35secs), Molly Bird 35th (4mins 37secs), Daisy Newton (4mins 40secs), Paige Scarlett 44th (4mins 47secs), Freya Smith 46th (4mins 48secs), Katie Ford 53rd (4mins 57secs), Molly Nugent 57th (5mins 11secs), Caitlin Lovell 61st (5mins 17secs), Tomoka Moore 64th (5mins 24secs), Tia Faulkner 65th (5mins 42sec s), Nicole Heiyink 66th (5mins 53secs) and Erin McWhinnie 67th (5mins 53secs).

Once again the under 11 boys had to play second fiddle to the girls. Bicester’s best performer continues to be Tom Couzens who led a numerically strong boy’s team home placing 13th in 3mins 46secs. However he was only just ahead of teammates Lucas Davies and William Sims. Davies was having his league cross country race of the season and was a fine 15th in 3mins 47 secs. William Sims got the better of Billy England on this occasion and was only one place and one second worse than Davis. England had to be content with 18th place finishing 6 seconds adrift of Sims.

There was a good Bicester cross country debut for George Starkey-Vicker as he placed in the first half of the field in 30th (4mins 9secs) and he did well to finish in front of another debutant Freddie Taylor who also just crept into the first half in 34th place (4mins 12secs). Other Bicester under 11 boy finishers included James Rendell 36th (4mins 12secs), Michael Cadle 42nd (4mins 24secs), Samuel Worfolk 48th (4mins 34secs), Cameron Scarlett 54th (4mins 44secs), Joseph Nuyent 55th (4mins 44secs), Ben Groves 61st (4mins 51secs), Jospeh Rayner 62nd (4mins 54secs) and Daniel Lovell 67th(5mins 22secs).

The under 13 girls were shorn of their two best athletes for this event but that did not stop Erin Higginbottom from making an improvement over her first round effort placing 26th in 9mins 23secs. There was a good Bicester turnout in this age group and other performances included Joelly Alexander making her Bicester cross country debut (29th in 9mins 35secs), Kerry Hickman 36th (10mins 15secs), Sydney McDiarmid 38th (10mins 24secs) and Ellie Laurie 39th (10mins 27secs). Kieran Bird was the sole Bicester trail blazer in the under 13 boy’s event and he placed 25th in 8mins 21secs for the 2000 metre course, an improvement of 10 places on his frst effort.

In the older age group Tom Gould fresh from his victory in last week’s Santa run left his Father Christmas costume at home to place 32nd in the under15/17 boy’s event (15mins 15secs). As in the first round Jonty Renk gave him able support placing 42nd in 16mins 23secs. Bicester were well represented in the under15/17 girl’s race with 5 coming under starter’s orders. Ellie Faulkner was first home making her Bicester cross country debut and running a race of promise in placing 32nd (15mins 57secs). Lito Michalelidou and Orla Welby left their track spikes at home as they got some useful endurance training placing 36th (17mins 53secs) and 37th (17mins 57secs) respectively. Completing the Bicester scores in this category were Sophie Gunn 38th (20mins 12secs) and Emma Wagland 39th (20mins 18secs).