Stunning debut league runs from Will Stockley and Callum Stewart plus some serious squad depth scored us our best Surrey League placing since promotion to the top flight in 2017.
Conditions on Wimbledon Common were cold and wet, with a tricky combination of sludgy flat sections and narrow, rocky climbs and descents. Add to that an elbowy, root-laden tree-dodge and a perilous slip-n-slide dismount of the Big Alp; this course was no walk in the park.
Division 1 mudslide pic.twitter.com/48P13r4oRE— Surrey Cross Country League (@SurreyLeagueXC) November 9, 2019
But that was no bother for Will Stockley, who started strongly and finished strongly to end up one place ahead of Surrey League great Paskar Owor and become the first Bel to break the Goolab-Wicks-Owor-Jaksevicius Big 4 monopoly since…well, I got as far as 2014 and then the internet ran out:
|Season||Venue||Bel 1||Bel 2||Bel 3|
That’s some Surrey League debut, and all the more exciting considering Will’s an 800/1500m specialist only recently considering stepping up in distance.
It could have been even sweeter, too, if a rocky section near the lake hadn’t claimed the ankle of fellow St Mary’s boy Euan Campbell, who had been neck and neck with Will for the whole of the first lap before his DNF. According to science, if Euan had stayed in that position we’d have been 50 points (70th-20th) better off and leapfrogged THH into third. But I’m getting greedy now.
Not far back from Paskar was another new joiner in Callum Stewart – something of an unknown quantity if his curious 15:59 / 32:09 Po10 combination was anything to go by – but this performance shows he’s got way more than that in his locker, besting XC masters Jaksevicius and Buckle on his Surrey League debut. What a find!
Next was a slightly off-form Andrius Jaksevicius, suffering from a combination of a course not to his taste and three marathons (Berlin, Vilnius and Frankfurt) in his legs since September – not to mention a 15:55 parkrun the same morning. Still extremely valuable points as fourth scorer, though, and what a treat to have three scorers ahead of powerhouse AJ even without Goolab and Wicks on the teamsheet.
Positions five to 10 make for a glorious demonstration of our vastly improved strength in depth. At Effingham’s Match 1, your correspondent scored fifth, but here was more than happy to sneak in as 10th scorer, with returning captain Nick Buckle running typically well on the mud, Brad Courtney–Pinn with his best ever XC display, and Alex Miller in a welcome return to form following a long injury sojourn. In 8th and 9th scoring slots were Conall McNally, proving that his heroics at Effingham Common were no fluke, and another debutant James Nutt with a properly gritty run to hold off a trio of Kent assailants in the final dash.
And what a luxury to have such strength outside of the scoring positions, so vital given the spattering of inevitable but unpredictable pre-race (or in-race) niggles or bugs. All of Visick, Fesoom, Edgar, Young, Mills and Hurley are quality racers with important roles to play – and all of them improving, too.
|Bels scorer||Runner||Race pos||Pts|
So to the overall scores. TM Arne Dumez’s pre-race instructions were something along the lines of “you see a green Guildford vest, you scalp it. You see a red and black Herne Hill vest, you scalp it.” Well: we did that, and got him South London for good measure too. We’re some way off dominant Kent (five men in the top 10 is ridiculous, even if two of them were 2C), but if Euan’s ankle held out we’d have been third, and if Goolab (Portugal training camp) and Wicks (glute strain) were there we’d have been right up there with last year’s title-winners Hercules Wimbledon.
Fourth, I should say, is our best match result since promotion back to the top flight in 2017. Well done Bels – now to keep up this quality for rounds three (Jan) and four (Feb).
Surrey League Div 1, Match 2, Wimbledon Common
All photos by TM Arne Dumez, currently off XC in his Valencia Marathon build-up.