I arrived at Presteigne just in time to see the women’s team photo being taken and it was pleasing to see a good turnout from the Croft women in this last race of the season. Similarly, the Croft men’s turnout of 22 runners (including junior men) was our highest of the season and provides a springboard for more success in the summer XC league and next winter. It was good to see Neil P. back out there, after various injury niggles and similarly Nigel T. was back and returning to form. Strikingly, the combined field of 213 men and women compares with a total of just 97 men and women in 2014. Numbers have more than doubled in four years!
My advice to any runner is “don’t miss Presteigne”. Over the years many medals are decided at Presteigne and showing up is often more than half the battle. This year was no exception. Near the front of the race, Mark T. sprinted hard to ensure his 3rd place overall in the MV40 category, risking a “twinged” hamstring. I reported on the MV65 battle in some detail after Rotherwas but it was again a brutal battle, with no quarter given by the main protagonists. Check out the photo of Steve Herington trying to close down Ian P., the eventual MV65 series winner, in the sprint to the finish. What a tribute to that age group that 7 men completed four races or more.
Up front, Andy S. had another great run to take 3rd place in 40:45. Andy would surely have picked up an overall medal for the series if his job had allowed him to complete one more race. And Simon N. would have been in the MV45 medals I think, if he had been able to complete the required four races. Being one of the lesser athletes I never get to see the front of the race. I imagine it must be so much easier for them running in pristine conditions before the course is churned to mud. Or am I wrong about this (I’m inviting a lively riposte)? This year the course was quite sticky in places but shorter than usual, at exactly 6 miles. However, some fiend in the organising committee decided it would be fun to divert us briefly off the track in the final ½ mile of the race and back into the woods, just when we thought we had a clear run for home. Nice one. I really appreciated it.
Of course it’s easier to pick up medals in some age categories than in others, so it’s important to mention those Crofties who had good series but finished outside the medals. These included Glyn W. (7th MV45), Rob W. (4th MV60), Tom D. (6th MV65) and Jasper R. (5thJunior U17). Congratulations to our other medal winners: Ashley R. (2nd MV65), Guy W. (1st MV70), Gary G. (2nd MV70) and Bryan M. (2ndMV75). At the medals ceremony, Will G. beamed with pleasure at his 3rd place in the Junior Men and rightly so. Once again he trashed me (and quite a few others) on the uphill sections. Well done to our other finishers today: Matt M., Justin W., Scott H. and Bryn R. Congratulations too to our up and coming youngsters: Sam R who was 2nd in the U17 series, and Alec who was 5th.