Wild, wet and windy weather greeted the athletes for the 22nd Annual British & Irish Masters Cross Country International at Perry Park, Birmingham last Saturday (14 November). This fixture is very much the highlight of the pre-Christmas Masters Cross Country scene, and the standard is invariably very high. The previous post detailed the Croupiers representation for the weekend.
The ladies race was first, and encountered the worst weather, with heavy horizontal rain at times. Libby O'Duffy had a sensational race, placing 7th in her age category (W40), and was the all-important third scorer for Wales behind Marilyn Kitching (3rd ) and Ann Thomas (4th). Wales thereby had an aggregate score of 14 points, one better than the Republic of Ireland and five better than England.
The enormity of this achievement can perhaps best be highlighted by the fact than this was only Wales's fifth ladies team win in 22 years, and the first in this particularly competitive age category.
But more good news for Wales was to follow. Sandy Johnston represented Wales in the M60 section as a late replacement. This was due to him having to miss the first Gwent League due to work commitments, but he took the opportunity with both hands, winning the individual bronze medal, and finishing only 12 seconds behind the individual age category winner, Welsh team mate Griff Owens. These two, along with the ever-reliable Dic Evans (8th), closed in on 12 points, a decisive victory over the English 22 points. Again - history reveals the scale of the achievement - as it is not only Wales's 4th male team win ever, but the first since 1989 (when the event was only contested by three nations).
Full results for Croups athletes were as follows:
W40: 7 Libby O'Duffy 25:48
W55: 11 Edwina Turner 31:54
W60: 6 Ann James 32:24
M40: 23 Phil Cook 31:34; 28 Lee Aherne 34:34 (finished in some distress with achilles problems)
M55: 11 Mick Tabor 34:04
M60: 3 Sandy Johnston 35:00
Open Race: Ladies: 8 Maria Zubizarreta 28:28; 16 Julie Scholey 32:37; 20 Gill Murphy 37:03.
Open Race: Men: 28 Rob Jones 33:56
NB All ladies races above were 3 laps (described as 6 km, but probably more)
All mens race above were 4 laps (described as 8 km, but probably more)
Well done to all concerned for the ultimate honour of representing their country, but special congratulations to Libby and Sandy on superb performances.