Ealing Eagles had much to celebrate as the curtain came down on another cross country season with a challenging double header last weekend.
As the temperatures fell in the week, snow followed rain and challenging conditions were assured. All the talk was of 15mm spikes, mud and guts as the men went for promotion in the Met League at Alexandra Palace. There was no let down as a tremendous turn out of twenty-five Eagle men toed the line, eagerly awaiting the starters’ pistol.
After a false start (did he forget to load the gun?) we were off, feet squelching through the mud with every foot step but already going at quite some speed as the frontrunners set a frightening pace. The course took us up the steep hill to the palace three times and hurtling back down the hill past runners and supporters cheering us on. The only thing missing was some good honest booing, which perhaps explains why Tom Easten decided not to renew his love affair with Cross Country.
As ever, José Manuel Pabon led the Eagles’ charge and was first to finish the five mile course in 98th place. He was shortly followed by John Foxall and Ewan Fryatt, who made sure not to let the club down by finishing in exactly 120th place as promised. Next home was the returning Ricardo Agostinho. The Eagles’ scoring eight was completed as Kieran Santry, Philip Evans, Chris Lambert and Kieran Morrisroe crossed the line in quick succession.
The men won promotion by topping division 3 by a significant margin and the mens’ veterans likewise by finishing in second place in division 3.
After promotion last season, the women finished in a solid 6th position while the veterans also gained promotion. Jennifer Watt finished in an excellent 48th place and the scoring five was completed by Marion Bolster, Sophie Foxall, Sarah MacKenzie and Emily Schmidt.
On Sunday, it was an early start and the Eagles were met with bitter cold and snow more akin to a biathlon competition than a XC fixture. Royston is perhaps the most testing XC course of the season and it seems like you are always running up a punishing hill or throwing yourself down a steep descent. Runners adapt tactics to suit their strengths, as evidenced by Frank Doyle and Melissah Gibson, taking it in turns to overtake each other time after time on the hills and descents!
After 9km and 250m of testing hills, Melissah was first home for the women in 4th place overall. Jen Watt was next in 5th place. Hannah Copeland has returned from injury to look as strong a XC runner as ever and finished a minute later in 9th place. Another convincing victory was secured with Ellen Easten (11th), Maria Fitzgerald (13th) and Yvonne Linney (16th).
After finishing 2nd placed senior team last year, the Eagles women went one better this year. With 338 points from the 5 fixtures to Heathside’s 688, they won by a country mile in the end!
Just for good measure, the Vets finished second in the league after last year’s first place. Hearty congratulations to all those women who contributed to a successful season. A more serious Eagle would name them but I’m too lazy to check.
1. Well done to all those Eagles who did the double over the weekend – you are hard and you know it.
2. Well done to all those Eagles who took their first steps in XC this season. I know you loved it and if you didn’t … well just keep quiet about it. In all seriousness, dozens of you lot decided you fancied giving XC a try and most people though it was reasonably fun and something a bit different!
3. XC offers you a chance to get to know your city better. Parliament Hill on race-day is quite a sight and you can now say you’ve been to Cockfosters, Claybury, Ally Pally and more. The sun was out when we ran at Wormwood Scrubs … enough said.
4. The standard of competition is ridiculously high, especially in the MET League, which celebrated its 50th season this year. The souvenir towel was a nice bonus. You can toe the line alongside runners who have represented their country, but everyone still has to traipse through the mud and up the hills! It’s great fun and if it’s good enough for Hawkins, Butchart and Farah it’s good enough for us.
5. You can sense a growing camaraderie in the club when you see how many of us turn up to XC fixtures. We can barely all fit in the team photos now. Many thanks to Kieran Santry, Sarah Mackenzie and Thom Martini for rallying the troops and organising us throughout the season. We couldn’t do it without you!
6. Forget the watches, plans and don’t worry about your pace. Just get over the hill(s) and through the mud! XC is gloriously simple. Mud is awesome… obvs.
7. Let them eat cake. The club has some exceedingly good bakers. But you need to do XC to find out just how good…
On a personal note, I’m not ready to give up on mud just yet. I’ve signed up for Orion 15 in March. No doubt I’ll see some of you there.