Last Saturday saw the men’s team score an impressive team victory in the South of the Thames Senior race, while the women’s team – led home in convincing style by Amy Clements – came a fine second place in the team stakes.

The club’s victory this year seemed particularly fitting as it was held on what many of the club’s more mature members regard as their home course, Beckenham Place Park. The guys who designed the course and marked it out on the day had all clocked up many miles around it in their heyday. Well, those who had a heyday!

The men’s race proved to be a demonstration of Kent AC’s strength in depth. The men’s team won a fairly tight contest, getting the better of a pretty strong Tonbridge team. In addition to a very strong scoring six, we also had a ‘B’ team finishing fifth, a C team finishing seventh and a D team finishing eleventh. Amazingly, we also laid claim to an ‘E’ team, who had two clubs behind them.

In terms of the men’s race, special mention must go to Owen Hind, vacationing from West Texas University and taking in some races for us while he’s home. As many of you know, Owen has gone over to the States to take up the challenge of combining running with academic study, and the move certainly appears to be paying off. He’s had some very encouraging results in his first term, boasting some excellent finishes and posting some fast times.

In Saturday’s race he had the courage to try and match the pace of the race winner, Belgrave’s Phil Wicks. While Owen couldn’t hold the relentless pace of Wicks for too long, his second place was a terrific result. Phil Wicks has been in sparkling form of late, winning the South of the Thames Junior at a canter and then running a seriously fast five miler. For Owen to be just over half a minute down on Wicks over seven and a half miles is testimony to how he’s come on in just a few short months in the States.

In a battling fourth place was John Gilbert. John is still some way off the form of previous seasons when he was almost invincible over the country, but as always with John you get a hundred and ten percent effort. For a large part of the second lap John was being pursued by Tonbridge’s Ben Cole, yet with characteristic grit and determination held him off.
Third man home was Mr Consistency himself, Neil Phillips. After the Surrey League at Coulsdon I commented on how fortunate for the club that Jordan Weaver had turned up at Ladywell. The Surrey League had shown how talented he is and this race provided further confirmation, with Jordan just one place off a top ten finish in a high quality field – an incredible achievement for someone with no background in running. Johnathan Tipper had an excellent run to come home in 20th.

Then in the six to score, our final scorer was that canny operator Phil Sanders – no doubt pleased to get the better of his training partners. Phil was 25th and not far off getting the medal that is awarded for first V40 in the race. As well as winning the six to score competition we also comfortably retained the Coleman Cup for the 12 to score – and breathed a collective sigh of relief as up until the eve of the race, nobody could remember where the cup actually was (its grand location turned out to have been a cupboard at the cricket club).

Making up the 12 to score were Pete Lighting (26th), Rob Laing (27th), Stuart Beaney (30th), Daniel Stauber (32nd), Rowan Crichton (36th) and James Bowler(39th). But as can be seen by a look at the full results, there was also a number of really strong runs from Kent runners who are both relatively new to the club and, in some cases, new to cross country running.

As mentioned, Amy Clements was a convincing winner of the race – in fact coming in over a minute clear of the second placed Tonbridge runner who Amy has previously had some good battles with. A few weeks previously Amy had been fifth in the women’s Surrey League. However, that race was only around 6k and she was headed on that day by some young track speedsters. The Beckenham race being over seven miles appeared far more to Amy’s liking. A strong Belgrave team was a distance away from us in the scoring, but we in turn were a good margin away from third place Dulwich. And as with the men, the women’s team put in a number of strong Kent performances outside the scoring team.

All that remains is to wish everybody a happy and relaxing Christmas. However, no slacking on the training front. I’ve heard Stuart Beaney’s training twice on Christmas Day – or perhaps that’s just a vicious rumour.

Report by Andy Gardiner: Apologies for any errors or major omissions