This year’s South of England Cross Country Championships saw two outstanding runs in Saturday’s senior men’s race from Antonio Silva in 3rd and Chris Smith in 6th place.

With the race coming back to Parliament Hill this year both Valley men were in their element on the tough 15k course, as strong runners over the hills and through the ever present mud they put in an excellent performance and many congratulations to both on such a fine race and to Antonio on winning a bronze medal.

Southern XC Champs 2016 Antonio Silva Bronze Medal
Southern XC Champs 2016 Antonio Silva Bronze Medal

They were well supported by a 10 man TVH team on the day that performed well to finish in 21st place out of 70 finishing 6 man teams and a large field of 1026 finishers.

In the senior women’s 8k race Sarah Johnson lead the line for the TVH ladies team with a strong run to finish in 54th place out of a total of 501 finishers, while the 4 to score team finished in 45th place out of 53 finishing teams.

Robert Vallance had a good race to finish in 43rd place out of a finishing total of 94 junior men in the U20 men’s 8k race, however with a 2 man team on the day the Valley junior men were unfortunately unable to finish a complete 4 man team.

After a trip to Stanmer Park in Brighton for last year’s championships a return to Parliament Hill this year was welcomed by most, if only for the reduced distance to travel to the race, though it’s still questionable as to which is the tougher cross country course.

Despite a cold wind the weather was fine, dry and bright with blue skies and even some mild sunshine early on, though rain earlier in the week and overnight had ensured that the obligatory strength sapping mud that has come to be associated with Parliament Hill was there in abundance on race day.

For the senior men facing 15k in the longest cross country race of the season, it was 3 long laps around Parliament Hill, including a number of hill climbs and descents with muddy conditions underfoot for most of each lap over the undulating heathland and woodland, plus a few minor changes due to construction work taking place around certain parts of the course.

Ahead of the men’s race a shorter but by no means less challenging 2 lap 8k course stretched out in front of those racing in both the junior men’s U20 race and senior women’s race.

Senior Women’s Race Report

Four TVH ladies were brave enough to take on the 8km South of England cross country course at Parliament Hill on Saturday. All four completed the course which is one of the toughest races of the season.

First to finish, despite having sustained an ankle injury earlier in the month, was Sarah Johnson. Sarah looked strong all the way round and finished 54th out of 501 athletes (34m 40s).

Jess Bass was second TVH lady to finish. Looking comfortable and even (someone said) smiling on this gruelling course, Jess finished 312th (43m 26s).

Barbara Maddison found the mud difficult but kept going to finish 434th (50m 00s). Christine, also finding the conditions and distance difficult, managed to finish 496th (1h 01m 10s).

All four TVH ladies counted towards the overall points score as the team placed 45th. With a few athletes from our 2014 & 2015 Southern bronze medal winning team due to return, TVH ladies will be looking to be challenging for medals again at the   National at the end of the month.

The spectators didn’t let the side down either. There was some well earned cheering for the runners from the sidelines.

 Senior Men’s Race Report

As the race began over 1,000 men charged up the first hill and both Antonio Silva and Chris Smith made a strong start to establish themselves in the middle of the leading group of around 10 men that had broken away by the end of the first lap.

During the second lap the eventual race winner made a move that took him clear of the chasing group, leaving Antonio and Chris well placed in a group of about 6 or 7 men all in contention for the silver and bronze medals.

On the third and final lap having run a very strong and well paced race Antonio put in a sustained effort that took him past Chris and up into 3rd place, which he maintained to the finish to win a well deserved bronze medal in a time of 50m 18s and achieve his best ever finish in the championships.

Meanwhile Chris was still running well and had Antonio and the other leading athletes in his sights and in a very close finish he crossed the line in an excellent 6th place in 50m 27s, his highest finish in this race after a 4th place in 2011.

Southern XC Champs 2016 Chris Smith 6th place
Southern XC Champs 2016 Chris Smith 6th place

It was an exciting race to watch for all the Valley supporters and to underline how close the finish was there was just 20 seconds between Chris and the 2nd placed athlete.

Having travelled down from Scotland the night before, Mark Haskett was determined to have a good race and he didn’t disappoint with a strong top 100 finish in 92nd place to be the 3rd man home for the Valley in a time of 56m 02s.

Building on a strong performance in the London XC Champs and making his debut over the 15k distance James Ellis once again proved his worth over the Parliament Hill course, with a very good race to finish in 97th place in 56m 24s to make it 4 Valley men inside the top 100.

Alex Warnakulasuriya was not only making his debut over the 15k distance but also over Parliament Hill and he handled the course and conditions well to finish up in the top half of the field in 416th place in a time of 1h 05m 04s.

In comparison, Christian Nielsen knew exactly what to expect from the Parliament Hill course and paced himself well around the 3 laps to finish as 5th scorer for the team in 551st place in 1h 08m 22s.

Carrying an injury into the race Manuel Da Silva knew it wasn’t going to be an easy race, yet he somehow managed to run through the pain to finish as 6th and final scorer for the team in 608th place in 1h 09m 52s, to give the team a final finishing place of 21st team out of 70 finishing teams.

Paul Woodgate continued his run of good form to record a championship best performance with a very good race to finish in 719th place in a time of 1h 12m 56s.

Not too far behind and taking on Parliament Hill for the first time was James Malcolm, despite this only being his first cross country season he didn’t let the 15k distance or a disintegrating spike shoe stop him from putting in a very good performance to come home in 742nd place in 1h 13m 46s.

A good knowledge of the Parliament Hill course saw Richard Bell give a steady and assured run to the finish in 791st place in a time of 1h 15m 23s.

The 15k distance around Parliament Hill will always take it’s fair share of casualties on the day and unfortunately bad luck struck Chris Thomas’ race when he was forced to pull out after a lap due to illness, though thankfully he has now just about recovered.

Ahead of the senior men’s and senior women’s races it had been the turn of the Valley’s junior men in the U20 men’s 8k race over 2 laps around Parliament Hill.

Robert Vallance made the most of his final season as an U20 athlete, now in his first year at Manchester University he had a strong race to finish in the top half of the 94 man field in 43rd place in a time of 30m 20s, his best ever finish and an improvement of 25 places on last year’s race.

The only other Valley junior man racing on Saturday was Louis Marriott, but an unfortunate turn of events meant that he started the race without his time chip and he was unable to record a race position or race time despite finishing the race.

For the Valley men there were a number of good performances on the day to point towards further success in the future and it was great to celebrate the first senior men’s medal in the South of England championships for a number of years and hopefully the first of more to come.

With that in mind there are now just 2 more races before the end of the cross country season, the final Met League race for everyone is at Alexandra Palace on Saturday February 13th, so make sure you clean your spikes!

Then it’s the English National XC Champs at Donington Park on Saturday February 27th, and a chance for everyone to shine in the biggest race of the season!

Up The Valley!

South of England Cross Country Champs Results, 30-01-16

 Senior Men’s Race Results – 15k

Race PositionTime
3     Antonio Silva50:18
6     Chris Smith50:27
92   Mark Haskett56:02
97   James Ellis56:24
416 Alex Warnakulasuriya1:05:04
551 Christian Nielsen1:08:22
608 Manuel Da Silva1:09:52
719 Paul Woodgate1:12:56
742 James Malcolm1:13:46
791 Richard Bell1:15:23

1026 Finishing Athletes

 Senior Men’s Team Results – 6 to score

Team PositionRace Points
1   Highgate162
2   Serpentine186
3   Bedford206
21 TVH1357

70 Finishing Teams

Senior Women’s Race Results – 8k

Race PositionTime
54   Sarah Johnson34:40
312 Jess Bass43:26
434 Barbara Maddison50:00
496 Christine Munden1:01:10

501 Finishing Athletes

 Senior Women’s Team Results – 4 to score

Team PositionRace Points
1   Aldershot56
2   Serpentine156
3   Herne Hill188
45 TVH1296

53 Finishing Teams

Junior U20 Men’s Race Results – 8k

Race PositionTime
43 Robert Vallance30:20
       Louis MarriottNo Time Recorded

94 Finishing Athletes