Kent AC women won both the three and the six to score team competitions at the Kent County Cross Championships. On the men’s side, John Gilbert secured his place in the history books by claiming another county title – and his sixth victory in the event.
The men were first up on Saturday, with John Gilbert as usual cutting out the early pace. For much of the race John was accompanied by Tonbridges’ Max Nicholls, a runner he’d had a tremendous tussle with last year. For a good part of the race it looked as though it was going to be between these two again. However, it seemed the effort Max was putting in to try and shake John off took its toll and he eventually dropped back, only for another young Tonbridge runner, George Duggan, to take up the challenge against John.
For a while, it looked as though he might succeed. He put John under pressure and for a a brief period even took the lead and forced a bit of a gap. But one thing that Gilbert watchers know is that you should never underestimate his determination and immense will power. He clawed his way back and then towards the end of the race put a burst on a hill section that gave him a decent gap on his Tonbridge rival – one that he was able to hold until the finish. It’s likely that John chose the right time to make his move as Duggan has impressive 1500m speed. It seemed that forcing the gap when John did left his young rival unable to capitalise on his track speed at the end of the race.
As has often been the case this season, our second man home was Neil Phillips. He looked as though he had a couple of bad patches during the race but he hung in for another highly credible top ten finish. Behind Neil (9th) was the fast finishing David Morgan (15th). For much of the race David was running with Jonathan Tipper, but got away from him in the latter stages. Once again he seemed to prove his ability to judge a race well and come on strongly in the closing stages. Although David may have got away from him, Jonathan’s finish (19th) was nevertheless an excellent run, one that allowed him to finish inside the top 20. The two scorers who made up the six were Phil Sanders (23rd) and Chris Minns (33rd). Phil looked strong throughout and was first V40 in the race, while Chris had probably his best race for us since joining from Beckenham.
As per usual there was familiar ‘B’ group rivalry in evidence amongst those who made up the scoring twelve. Tim Lawrence (34th) was ahead in the battle of the Tims, but then Tim Alexander (36th) was no doubt pleased to get the better of Stuart Beaney. Stuart was just behind however, finishing inside 40 at (38) .And when the field was a strong one, as by most peoples reckoning it was, inside 40 should be considered a pretty good run. Just inside 50 was Ron Taylor (48th). Ron had a very good mid-race section when he was overtaking runners, although towards the finish he looked as though the end couldn’t come soon enough. Our final two in the 12 to score – both putting in impressive runs – were Joe Hartley (51st) and Barney Day (57th).
It was always going to be a big ask to get the better of Tonbridge in the team event, and so it proved. They are always strong opposition, but when some of their talented younger athletes haven’t gone back to university they’re perhaps even more formidable. However, with John securing victory again, coupled with team silver in both the six and twelve to score, it has to be regarded as a satisfying day.
Our women, meanwhile, managed to win both the three and six to score in what was an extremely tight contest. In the three to score we won by a very narrow margin – a mere two points ahead of Tonbridge, while they in turn were just two points better than Paddock Wood, coming in third place. However, in the six to score our margin of victory was a fairly comfortable one. Just like last year, Amy Clements was second in the race to a Tonbridge runner. This time it was a young runner with whom Amy has had a number of close races with, Tonbridges’ Lucy Reid.
At the recent South of the Thames race, Amy was well ahead of Reid, but I believe Reid had been coming back from injury and in the intervening weeks had clearly made some fitness gains. And although Amy put everything into her run, she’d been a little below par in the lead up to the race which may have meant that after battling it out for over half the course, she just couldn’t respond when Reid turned the screw to establish a gap that ultimately couldn’t be closed.
Our second runner home was Teresa Murphy in 6th. Teresa has been in good form this season and on Saturday she once again ran strongly, particularly towards the closing stages. Our third scorer was under 20 runner, Isabel Bradley (13th). Isabel ran a controlled race, demonstrating a strong second half. The three runners who made up the six to score medalists were Jenny Smith (14th) who had been running alongside Isabel for much of the race, Lydia Blackmore in 23rd (complete with one of her blistering trademark finishes) and Ali Farrell (29th). Ali had apparently run a Parkrun in the morning, but I don’t think we’re supposed to mention that! As with the men, the scoring teams were backed up by some very strong, positive runs from other runners representing the club.
While the men’s team have certainly had their fair share of success in recent years, it was great to see the women claiming gold medals at the County Championships. Although they’ve had success in this event before, the standard and depth to the field on this occasion might have been a little stronger. So well done, not only to the runners for their commitment and hard work, but also to coaches Adrian Musson and Pete Boxshall for their role in the team’s success.
Apologies for any errors or omissions