GVH Men Caught Short While Women Excel

On the weekend where the World Cup got serious, Gade Valley Harriers took part in the third match (of five) of the Chiltern League Cross Country season at Stopsley Common in Luton on Saturday afternoon.

Earlier on Saturday there were a handful of GVH runners, those that couldn’t, for various reasons, make it to Luton in the afternoon and those that wouldn’t normally run in the cross country races. Roland Kendall was one of those who would normally have been in the cross country team but he was away for the weekend and was spotted running at Minehead Parkrun, finishing 11th in 22:51. Back closer to home, Vince Ellerby finished in 7th place at Black Park while Gareth Tucker led a small group of 4 Harriers at Gadebridge Park, finishing 2nd overall in 20:57.

The main business of the weekend, however, was at Stopsley Park in Luton where 24 Gade Valley Harriers made up the team for the third fixture of the Cross Country season. In recent fixtures the women have been consistently supplying more starters than the men and, for the first time in recent memory, the club was unable to field a full team of men as only 9 lined up to start. There is no penalty for being short of runners, but it does mean that only 9 finishers, rather than 10, can score points.

Where is everybody???

There were no such concerns for the GVH women as they fielded a numerically strong team of 15 women including the Social Secretary, Holly Beckett, who was tempted to run by being told that she wasn’t allowed to join the others in the pub in the evening if she didn’t come. Despite running strongly to finish the 5.5k course in 31:48, Holly declared later (in the pub) that cross country “isn’t for me, I didn’t enjoy it”.

Any of you fancy running at 2:00 as well?

Finishing slightly earlier, Teresa Reason again led the GVH women home, completing the muddy, strength-sapping course in 19th overall place, 6th in her category, in 23:38, scoring 121 points in the process. Kathleen Smith, having recently returned to running after the birth of her child, was next for the Harriers, 24 seconds and 5 places back. Club legends Vicky Crawley-Wise and Clare McDonnell were next for the Harriers while Sam Raffety and Sue Crowther filled up the 6 scoring positions.

Runner, Leader, Legend.

Finishing just outside the scorers was Kitty Cole just 10 seconds and 2 places ahead of Susie Ivin. Jackie Eskdale, Helen Cook, Isabel Wilson (finishing 2nd in her age category) and Ashleigh Taylor all finished within a minute of each other while Christeena Mooney and Mary McCluskey, running her first cross country race since her maternity break, completed the GVH women’s team.

Don’t wave, run!!!

The men’s race got underway shortly after the women’s race finished. With only 9 men representing the club, this was the lowest turnout for the men since February 2009 in a division 2 fixture, and the first time the club failed to field enough men to fill the scoring places since December 2007 (thanks Andy). Despite the poor turnout, the 9 that did compete ran well enough, together with the stellar women’s performance, to keep the club above the relegation line.

Never sweats while running (like Prince Andrew)

Finishing first for the Harriers was Matt Ashby, he finished in 60th position in a time of 36:38 for the 9.5k course and picked up 171 points, just over a minute ahead of Michael Linden, who was 21 places further back. The third finisher for the club was James Birnie, he enjoyed his best cross country finish since 2018, scoring 125 points, as he continued his return from the long term injury he suffered last summer.

Need to get to the tiffin at the end, Mary has it!

Just behind James was a clutch of GVH runners who had kept each other close company throughout most of the race. James, Andy Wells, Martin Pike and Nick Crowther had run the first 2 laps of the 3 lap race close together, trading places several times, before the order settled down with James pulling ahead at the start of the final lap. They still finished closely together, separated by only 34 seconds and 14 places, each picking up over 100 league points.

Better than the men’s team

Steve Newing was some distance further back, picking up 50 points for his efforts, while Merlin Allan was next, finishing 8th in his age category to stay in contention for personal honours at the end of the season. Phil Mercer was the 9th finisher for GVH, picking up 38 points in the process.

Despite the disappointing turnout from the Men’s team, GVH remain in 13th position in the overall table, but with the gap to 12th placed Watford Harriers having grown from just over 250 points to over 600. On the upside, the gap to 14th placed Redway Runners also grew, from 248 points to 329, leaving the Harriers fairly comfortably above the relegation line. The men’s team, meanwhile, dropped from 12th to 15th place, while the women’s team climbed from 12th position to 10th, leapfrogging Tring and Northampton in the process.

Women’s Team at Stopsley Park

Position Finish Time Age Category Category Pos Points
39 Teresa Reason 23:38 F45 6 121
44 Kathleen Smith 24:02 FS 27 116
71 Victoria Crawley-Wise 25:43 F35 19 89
85 Claire McDonnell 27:00 F45 12 75
88 Samantha Raffety 27:56 F35 25 72
89 Sue Crowther 27:58 F55 6 71
108 Kitty Cole 29:01 F35 32 52
110 Susie Ivin 29:11 F35 33 50
125 Jacki Eskdale 30:46 F55 15 35
126 Helen Cook 30:54 F55 16 34
127 Isabel Wilson 31:12 F65 2 33
132 Ashleigh Taylor 31:32 FS 50 28
134 Holly Beckett 31:48 F35 37 26
137 Christeena Mooney 32:17 F45 29 23
145 Mary McCluskey 33:32 FS 52 15

Men’s Team from Stopsley Park (those that turned up)

Position Finish Time Age Category Category Pos Points
60 Matthew Ashby 36:38 MS 44 171
81 Michael Linden 37:52 M40 19 150
106 James Birnie 39:04 M40 27 125
108 Andrew Wells 39:13 M40 28 123
111 Martin Pike 39:20 MS 65 120
120 Nick Crowther 39:38 M40 37 111
181 Stephen Newing 44:12 M40 58 50
190 Merlin Allan 45:37 M60 8 41
193 Phil Mercer 46:10 M40 64 38