Hinchingbrooke Park in Huntingdon provided the setting for one of the Frostbite cross country league’s muddiest ever set of races on Sunday, when Nene Valley Harriers prevailed over their rivals in both junior and senior events.
The course was frozen hard the previous day, leading many club runners into a false sense of security regarding their footwear, with large numbers arriving at the park in flat road shoes.
However, temperatures rose enough during the morning to melt the frost, leading to water-logged, muddy and often treacherous terrain for the 600-plus hardy souls who took part in the third league races of the season.
It was Bourne Town Harriers’ Cameron Everist who took the junior race, though, defeating a strong Riverside Runners, March AC and Hunts AC trio of William Forster, Luke Fenner and Joey Croft when he crossed the line first in a time of 9:25 for the 1.5m distance.
The Harriers packed in their first four athletes in the top twelve, though, with Nathan Davey leading the club to team victory, and Megan Ellison placing tenth overall to take the first female spot.
The positions gave them a comfortable 29 points lead over their nearest rivals on the day, PACTRAC, to keep them one point ahead of Riverside Runners in the overall league standings.
It was a closer affair in the senior race, as, although NVH won by 502 to Hunts AC’s 566, the Peterborough club did not dominate the top 20 positions as much as they have become accustomed to of late, with strong performances coming from athletes from every club in the league.
The 5m race was won with ease by PACTRAC’s Paul Vernon in 28:37, a time which reflected the atrocious conditions on the day. Only four athletes dipped under 30 minutes, with the slippery uphill section in the woods providing the most challenging part of the course, drastically slowing runners to times one to two minutes down on their usual clockings for the event.
Riverside Runners’ Matt Nicholson and Cambridge & Coleridge’s ever-reliable Michael Salt filled the second and third positions, while young Rhys Goddard was first across the line for the Harriers in fifth place overall.
Goddard, 22, only started competing a few months ago, in the Peterborough parkrun, and has seen his 5k personal best (PB) time tumble into the 16 minute range this autumn.
He received support from team mates Jevan Robertson, Nathan Tweedie, Mike Chapman, Jamie Toms and Sean Beard, the last of whom had raced less than 24 hours earlier at the South of England Masters’ Championships at Oxford, placing 31st in the V40 race, and 10th V45.
Tracy McCartney held true to her reliable first lady status in almost every Frostbite race she has contested so far, placing 54th overall.
C&C’s 17-year old steeplechase star, Diana Chalmers, was second lady, while Hunts AC’s Polly Smith, also just 17, was third.
McCartney was backed up by team mates Ruth Jones and Sophie Wilkinson to help the club stay one point ahead of their closest rivals in the league so far, Riverside Runners.
The next league fixture will be hosted by March AC on January 11 on their home territory.