Reports by Charlie Dickinson and Arne Dumez
With both the men and the women’s teams swerving the national XC relay championships in Mansfield, the claret and gold descended onto Reigate for the Priory Relays. This is one of our favourite fixtures entailing a short, punchy and sometimes absolutely brutal 4km course over the muddy hills. The women had run their first Surrey League match there a few weeks prior so they remembered what they were up against, but most of the men had never run there before.
The weather forecast had announced horrid winds and torrential downpours. While we got quite a bit of that during the morning, it had all calmed down quite nicely by the time our runners were warming up and gearing up. Nonetheless, Will Cockerell, our eerily accurate lap time and handicap calculator, warned that times would be about a minute slower than usual. All about racing the man/woman in front of us, our specialty.
THE BELLES continued their long run of medal-winning performances at Reigate. Indeed, the A team has finished either first or second there every year since our return to the event in 2014:
- 2014 – 1st (51:12) Rose O’Brien, Catherine Lovegrove, Keri Mackenzie.
- 2015 – 1st (51:43) Lizzie Goldie-Scot, Jojo Rhodes, Zoe Smith.
- 2016 – 1st (48:19) Sam Amend, Sally Underhill, Zoe Smith.
- 2017 – 2nd (49:26) Saron Haileselase, Katie-Ellen French, Sam Amend.
- 2018 – 1st (47:55) Keri Mackenzie, Sam Amend, Saron Haileselase.
First leg A runner Georgie Fenn used Cockerell as a marker all race long, starting cautiously then moving through the field keeping him in sight before finishing strongly to put her team in the lead at the changeover. Her swift 16:37 not only put her 2s ahead of Will, it was enough to claim 2nd fastest leg of the day. Mimi Corden-Lloyd made a good start for the B team in the difficult first leg. The mass start involves both men and women and can be quite chaotic, but she did a great job to stay out of trouble and got around in well under 20mins.
New member Camilla Barden took over from Georgie on leg two wearing her brand new spikes for the first time. Taking inspiration from Georgie’s tactics, she kept her eyes firmly on James Morris, only letting him get away with 11s. Her great racing nous kept the Belles in the lead, but this was far from over… the Stragglers had reduced the gap from 2nd to 1st to just 12s! How nice to see Felicity Cole back supporting the team. She has been extremely busy running fitness and yoga classes as well as overseas training camps, but managed to take time off. Lucky for us, as she caught no less than five runners for the B team!
Orna McGinley had the unenviable task of keeping the Stragglers’ Sophie Biggs at bay over the glory leg. Orna put in a fantastic shift to hold off the challenger for three quarters of the leg, but found the downhill muddy sections very difficult. Thats where she was finally overtaken. Despite a great closing surge, she couldn’t quite contend with Miss Biggs – who claimed 4th fastest leg of the day – and so the team had to settle for a second medal. Captain Mhairi Hall has been unable to completely shake off the illness that has been affecting her throughout the whole of October so elected to run in the B team. In a real ‘lead by example’ masterclass, she grit her teeth the whole way through to bring her team to an excellent 4th place, only 12s shy of a bronze medal! On top of that, her sub 18min clocking earned her a lovely 9th fastest run of the day place.
Women’s A Team: G. Fenn (16:37), C. Barden (18:11), O. McGinley (18:11) – 2nd place overall (52:59)
Women’s B Team: M. Corden-Lloyd (19:11), F. Cole (18:28), M. Hall (17:58) – 4th place overall (55:37)
THE BELS‘ A team was led out by Brad Courtney-Pinn, one of our most promising distance runners who had just finished off a phenomenal summer season. Having had improved his road 5k to 15:40 in Battersea Park and convincingly beaten the Steph Twell over 10Mi at the Cabbage Patch a few weeks prior, Brad was the obvious choice for the first leg of the A team. After a solid start at the front, he emerged from the forest quite a bit behind a dominant Guildford runner but right on the heels of Dorking in a brilliant 3rd place. He was not only the fastest Bel of the day, he was also 4th fastest leg overall! The B team fielded Will Johnson who has also been in terrific form and continues to improve with every outing. When we saw him attack the final flat segment, he was isolated and had apparently gone insane judging by his involuntary dabbing for the camera. He promised management he would go see a doctor about that. We wish him a speedy recovery and send our heartfelt thoughts to his family. And who better to kick off the C team’s campaign but resident ‘tough guy’ and club icon Will Cockerell?! Not quite sporting the form he had during his debut in Reigate last century, he still did a fantastic job ramming through the mud and running the fastest leg of our C team. Maybe this was because he had Georgie breathing down his neck the whole way? A bit of motivation never hurts, ey?
In prime position, new Bel Liam George was tapped in for the second leg of the A team. He had a spot of bad luck in the first Surrey League match in Effingham – his club debut – and apparently had a few more dues to pay… he twinged his hamstring during the opening ascent and came to a stop with about 3km to go, bleeding hugely valuable spots. However, thinking of the team, he managed to get himself around on a gammy leg to tap in his successor. We really hope to see Liam run a full race for us this season, as he is a hugely promising addition to our squad! Ben Ireland had just come back from injury and had recently lost his XC virginity in Effingham. He was representing the B team and had passed Liam on his way round. When he saw team manager Arne pointing a camera at him with about 1km to go, his first thought was to shout “Liam’s injured!” as he caught yet another runner. What a team player. Marathon man James Morris had decided he fancied a go at the shorter stuff and played his part for the C team. While he put in a very solid run, he struggled to shake off new Belle Camilla who stalked him the whole way around.
After watching the B team being relayed ahead of him, third legger Alex Miller set off on his mission – to collect as many scalps as he possibly could! While he set off quick and sharp, he finished in his usual style: unhurried but seemingly untouchable. He rejoined the cheerleaders with a very collected “ah I think I caught about ten? Is that alright?”. Yes, Alex. That’s very alright! Scott Mills brought back more than just a lingering tan from his holiday to Australia (where he met up with Belgrave hero and 2:23 marathoner Ben MacCronan). He attacked the first hill with the vegemite-fueled fury of a kangaroo before quickly disappearing into the trees. He was next seen sliding down the hill with surprising elegance before bring home the B team without leaking any spots. Ollie Young came down from his new home in Highgate to pull the C team through its third leg and once again proved that he has one of the smoothest forms in the business. So smooth, in fact, that Arne felt the need to shout “slow down mate, you’ve got a big f***king hill coming up!” as he pranced past. He looked exactly as controlled and mastered as he made his way into the funnel. What a guy.
Finally, the anchor legs were up. For the A team, all rested on the shoulders of Andrew Cumine. While it wasn’t enough to the outcome of the furious battle at the front between Guilford and Dorking’s Luke Caldwell, Andrew brought our A team back into the top 10 for a very respectable top 10 finish. The B team was therefore our leading outfit and trained its eyes and hopes on Robel Fesoom, one of the most promising youngsters on the team. Following on his impressive summer season, Robel ran the fastest B team leg to bring his squad home in 5th position. Club veteran and currently in-demand actor Rob Norville was to decide the fate of the C team. Exactly 17mins after setting off on his leg, Rob crossed the line in 12th place, thereby placing all of our men’s teams squarely within the top 15
The top 5 of this race is typically hotly contended between Guildford, Dorking, Walton, Tonbridge and ourselves, so considering the circumstances we can be very pleased with this result. Furthermore, it had been a long time since we fielded three full teams for the men so that in itself is a victory right there. With so much emerging talent keen to race over the country, we have every reason to be excited for the remaining three Surrey League matches; and the many more after those!
Men’s A Team: B. Courtney-Pinn (14:50), L. George (20:57), A. Miller (15:25), A. Cumine (16:00) – 9th place overall (01:07:12)
Men’s B Team: W. Johnson (16:18), Ben Ireland (16:28), S. Mills (16:43), R. Fesoom (15:36) – 5th place overall (01:05:05)
Men’s C Team: W. Cockerell (16:39), J. Morris (18:00), O. Young (16:54), R. Norville (17:00) – 12th place overall (01:08:33)
All in all, this was another great day for Belgrave. A special thanks goes out to Reigate Priory AC for organising this event every year and to all the officials and marshals for making it work so well. Also thanks to supporters Matt Welsh, Lizzie Goldie-Scot and Nick Buckle for making the trip down in the awful weather to cheer.