English Cross Country Championship - Tony Phillips' Perspective (01/03/2016)

Tipton Harriers travelled to a new venue for the National Cross Country Championships at Donington Park motorsport racing circuit near Derby. The cross country course planned in the park was in open countryside, and a change from the usual parkland courses. It was a course of 12k with three 4km laps, consisting of some good grassland, though conditions were soft underfoot with muddy stretches, with testing lengthy uphill slopes, sharp hills, and some fast flats, altogether a tough course expected of a National.

It was a fine but cold day, fortunate conditions considering some courses over the years with snow, ice and thick deep mud, found more recently at Parliament Hill, Alton Towers and Sunderland.

Tipton were below strength, missing a number of key team members. On the day Mike Aspinall led the team home. He has been the club's leading performer this season, and placed 78th out of 1790 finishers, after a good, hard effort, among the top of the field for most of the race.

Unfortunately the team lost Ian Williams, our best runner in the league this season, somewhere on the first lap. Shaun Barnsley showed his potential by having one of his best races to finish second counter for the team in 245th place, and he is the youngest senior team member. It was a fine run on a long testing course. Chris Gillespie was third counter after a good, hard run, in 282nd place. Dean Bate ran a solid race, 432nd, and Tom Holden put in a reliable, hard performance, 438th, and Chris Fullerton completed the team count 484th, putting in much effort but probably lacking some racing fitness and background league races. Zabie Hassan 597th, ran a brave race for one inexperienced at this level, but is showing improvement.

The Tipton Harriers team finished 26th out of 123 teams completing the race. A below par performance for the club after its National record, but in the same situation as a number of leading clubs of the past, with Aldershot, Farnham and District, 21st, Blackheath H. 22nd, Belgrave Harriers 25th, just in front and Coventry Godiva Harriers just behind, 29th.

The club's aim should be to to put in place conditions that will improve the club's future results. Its members on the day gave of their best, and are complimented on doing so.