Kent County Vets Championships – Central Park, Dartford, 30/11/2019
Neil Phillips just misses out on victory but we still claim a selection of team medals
Once again Kent AC had a very successful day at Central Park, Dartford, at what now seems to be the customary venue for the County Vets Cross-Country Championships. There were individual medals and team medals for both our men and women. In a very exciting race at the end of the day Neil Phillips made a bold bid to win the V40 race. He just lost out but had the compensation of being a member of the winning team. Although the personnel may change, we are serial winners of this race.
On an extremely cold morning it was the male V50’s who got things underway. This year the team had a slightly unfamiliar look – there was no Luke Armitage in the line -up. Unfortunately, he’s been side-lined by injury for quite a while. However, it was a very familiar figure who led the team home – a man who needs no introduction, of course it had to be Len Reilly (15th). He’s really been a model of consistency in this event- not only as he’s moved through his 50’s but also when he was a regular in medal winning V40 teams. Our second finisher was Roger Beardsworth (19th) just nine seconds and a few places behind Len. Top twenty in this big field is good going – especially when you consider Roger is right at the end of the V50 age category. Making up the team, and third scorer, was a cause of great celebration as it was Jules Gevers. As most Kent AC members will be aware, at this fixture last year, while warming up Jules took a tumble on one of the steep banks that are a feature of the course. He sustained a really serious leg injury that required a lot of rehab and physio in order to get back running. Supporters were delighted that Jules (24th) ran so well and seemed to have no fear of the banks that had been his downfall last year. Unfortunately, in the team stakes we just missed out on securing the bronze but in the circumstances a good showing from the team. The full results show that we had a number of other V50’s having very decent runs.
The second race sees the men of a mature vintage compete in the same race as the women in their various age categories. Just as last year, strong packing secured our V60’s silver medals. They were beaten by an impressive South Kent Harriers team. John Barron was first home in eleventh with Gary Sullivan, thirteenth and the ever- reliable Bernie Hutchinson in (17th).
Although there were separate categories, the women were all in the same race. If they are declared to run in another age group, teams can have older women run in the V35 race. We didn’t choose to do this as we clearly had a talented group in the V45 category. However, it meant in the younger age group we had just two runners so we weren’t contesting the team competition. Both our runners in the field of nearly fifty ran well though. Teresa Murphy was an impressive fifth, not too far off third spot while Zuzana Nemeckova was well inside the top twenty (15th). The quality of the W45 field was very high. Our talented trio were edged out of bronze medals by the narrowest of margins. In fact, we finished with the same points as Cambridge. They were awarded third place as their last scorer was four places higher than ours. Ali Farrall was a fine fourth, with Victoria Buck (9th) and Andrea Barber (22nd).
Whilst the field may have been relatively small, and only two clubs closed in with a three to score, we should still be proud of the fact that it was our three women who were the first club in the W55 race. Nicky Hayes took a bronze medal and not too far behind was Kate Williams in fourth. Completing the team was Zoe Gaffen (15th).
Unsurprisingly Clare Elms was a very clear winner of this race. A club colleague was second, but Dulwich didn’t have a third runner in this section. Again, it won’t surprise many to know that on the day in all the women’s age groups there was only one quicker than Clare and that was her club colleague, Elkie Mace, who won the W35 race.
The last race of the day saw our male V40’s continue an incredible run. Our domination of this division goes way back. In fact, our men have been team winners every year since 2011. Some years the margin of victory has been quite tight. However, the 2019 team were comfortable winners. Kent AC’s four scorers total was 21 while second place Medway and Maidstone’s total was 60. This year’s low total was achieved by Neil Phillips in second, Rob Laing in fourth then Phil Sanders, sixth and Will Pitt, eighth. As reported earlier Neil, who had gained his England representative vest a fortnight earlier, ran really well. On the third big lap of four he apparently opened a gap of ten metres. However, the eventual winner, a runner from Medway Phoenix, hung on well and fished very strongly to just get the better of Neil. Rob Laing narrowly missed out on an individual medal, finishing fourth, while there were excellent runs from both Phil Sanders (6th) and Will Pitt (8th). Phil had been out of action for quite a while but this run showed he’s right back on track. Will’s top ten finish was possibly his best run for the club. As with our V50’s there were a number of other runners representing us in the V40 race who performed well. This winning run is really something special. I guess the longer it goes on though there is a bit more pressure on the team that turns out for us. Pressure or not, I’m sure next year’s V40 team will be up for the challenge.
The full results are on the Kent County Athletics site
Many of the runners competing at the Dartford fixture will be turning out for the next targeted race for the club, South of the Thames 7.5 Championship at Lloyd Park, Croydon, Dec, 21st.