Yes, we did it. At Wimbledon Common in the final fixture we got over the line to secure Kent AC's fifth consecutive Surrey League win.
Although missing talisman John Gilbert along with that other notable absentee, skipper Stuart Beaney, the depleted team did the club proud, battling hard to ensure that we were able to score the required points in the face of very determined opposition.
We were fortunate to have a big lead going into the fixture, as while we were several runners down, our rivals seemed to have exceptionally strong teams out for the last fixture. Hercules Wimbledon, Thames and Ranelagh were particularly strong on the day and we were pushed down to fifth place in this fixture – a few points down on Herne Hill who were fourth. The result certainly gives food for thought for next season, but the main thing from the club's point of view was that our points total was still enough to keep the others at bay.
In the absence of John, we were again led home by Neil Phillips. As I've mentioned previously, Neil has been terrifically consistent for us, and Saturday's performance (he came in at 10th) again underlined his importance to the team. Not far behind Neil and sporting his familiar winter gear of hat and gloves was Chris Greenwood (13th), perhaps showing a glimpse of the form that brought him such exceptional results in previous seasons.
Our third man home with his best race of the series was James Bowler, who came in at two places behind Chris. James, a former track specialist, looks as though he might be rounding into form for the National in a couple of weeks. Fourth scorer Richard Phillips (23rd) is a second claimer who we certainly owe a debt of gratitude to. Richard has performed well for us in three of the four fixtures and in the last fixture his contribution was vital. The sight of Ben Harding (30th) putting every last ounce in during the closing stretch of the race showed how much this race meant.
There was a bit of gap before Gareth Anderson came home in 45th. Gareth's another runner who seems to have had more than his share of injury misfortune. The last few races, though, seem to indicate that he may have turned the corner. Tim Lawrence was just outside the top 50 (coming in at 53rd). Then it is great to report that two improving runners – Joe Hartley (55th) and Niall Robinson – were in the scoring ten. Our final scorer, as he was at Parliament Hill, was Phil Sanders (59th). Also of note was the fact that over the four race series, Phil was second V40.
In addition to the scoring 10, it's only right to mention the runners who also represented the club at the end of our winning season: Jack Murphy (83rd), Tom Muddiman (88th), Chris Minns (90th), Matthew Moroney (93rd), Che Compton (103rd), Tim Alexander, (107th), Arif Merali (131st), Ian Ellwood (138th), Paul Crompton (159th), Gary Boodhna (162nd), Bernie Hutchinson (172nd) and Neil Gordon Orr (175th).
So it's tremendous that we have managed five consecutive league titles, but perhaps not the most straightforward way of going about winning it this season. Off to a bit of a shaky start at Richmond, then two convincing wins followed by a depleted squad doing enough to make sure we managed to get to the winning post.
The strength of the opposition on Saturday, together with a reinvigorated Belgrave, suggests we'll have to be at the top of our game if we are going to achieve a sixth win next season. However, for the moment let's just reflect on the achievement of five in a row and congratulate the guys who ran hard to make it possible.
1.Hercules W 215; 2. Thames HH 245; 3. Ranelagh 300...5 Kent AC 359
1.Kent AC 1037; 2. Hercules Wimbledon 1204; 3 Ranelagh 1260
Apologies for errors /omissions
Full results are here