Reading the title to this post some of you will be saying to yourself “what’s this?” Well it is about two of our young athletes who are working hard to establish themselves in the senior ranks and are doing quite nicely this cross country season. Alex Brecker and Kate Holt were selected to represent England at this International cross country meeting in Spain on Sunday 12 February.
Just by chance we were chatting with Tania in the clubhouse on Tuesday last and she mentioned that they, that’s Tania and Bill, were going to Spain to watch Alex race. You should come too to support Kate it will be fun. And so it transpired that after rapidly booking flights and hotel on the Wednesday, at 6:30 on Saturday morning we, Tania, Bill, Iris and Alan, were sitting strapped into our Easyjet seats, tray tables stowed and luggage secured in the overhead lockers as the flight lifted off from Liverpool for the two and a bit hour flight to Madrid. I don’t remember much of the flight, I may just have nodded off, but as the wheels touched down on a soaking wet runway at Madrid I was glad I’d packed my rain wear. Picking up the car was straight forward and we were soon heading out of the airport Bill piloting and myself as copilot/navigator. It wasn’t long before we realised that we were actually travelling in the wrong direction, oops where’s the sat nav ? No worries whip round and we were soon eating up the 200km drive to our hotel in Villenueve Da Vera, 25 minutes from the team hotel and course. It’s amazing the difference between the very early Saturday morning drive from Stoke to Liverpool which was dogged by road works, motorway closures and tons of HGVs lumbering along roads which were barely suitable and this journey west from Madrid. Here in Spain despite the rain there were no HGVs and few cars on the wide motorway as we ate up the kilometers to our destination. A short pit and food stop, tapas and coffee no beer or wine, half way and we were back on the road to our hotel. The hotel was a dream place set at the base of the mountains in open countryside, brilliant choice Bill. No one at the hotel spoke English, we could not speak much Spanish, but up steps Professor Bill to be our chief interpretor and it was fine. A short rest, back in the car for the short drive for a shufftie at the course, the team hotel and a quick chat with Alex and OMG, OMG I cant believe you’ve come to watch me race, Kate. I had been a little naughty, I hadn’t told Kate that we were going to Spain when we dropped her at the airport on Friday.
Back at the hotel for a lovely evening meal and a few bevvies before retiring for a good nights sleep. Sunday morning dawned to the sound of falling rain, great breakfast and it was time to say goodbye, hugs and kisses, you don’t get that at a Premier Inn, and we were on our way.
The course, set between holes 9 and 10 on a golf course, was not a typical European affair, flat and fast, but rather more UK style with hills, mud, standing water courtesy of the rain which continued to fall unabated. A small lap of 1000m and a large lap of 2000m with the senior women running 2x small and 3x large (8670m) and the senior men 5x large (10k). Good for spectators again a significant contrast with the current UK courses, which are as spectator friendly as an exorcet missile. Our junior women and men’s teams were first off, poor competition here with both the England men and women having to race each other, no other competitors anywhere near, and finishing 1 to 4 in both races.
Onto the senior women’s race, which featured Ruth Jebet, Barhein, (Kenyan actually but Lord Coe is going to put a stop to athletes moving for convenience) OG gold and world record holder for steeplechase, Juliet Chekwell, Uganda, Trihas Gebre, Spain, (really another import), Spanish XC champ and a host of other tasty performers from Spain and this was the opposition for our senior women. Not unexpectedly the main protagonists took off at a fast pace and quickly established themselves at the front of the race. Hannah Walker, Kate and Juliet Potter stuck close to the chasing group of 8-10 runners through the first two short laps. Into the first long lap the chasing group split with Hannah and Kate holding position and Juliet and a couple of Spaniards dropping slightly off the back. The second large lap saw Hannah establish herself at the front of what was now a group of 5 athletes which included Kate losing ground a little on the downhills but pulling back on the up hill sections and Juliet becoming slightly further detached. Into the final 2km the race was really on as the pace quickened again. Hannah still maintained her position closely followed by Tania Carretero Carnerero, Gemma Martin Borgas, Garcia Grimau Elena and Kate. at the start of the final hilly section Kate overtook Garcia and on the final series of climbs to the finish, dispatched Gemma Martin and just overhauled team mate Hannah Walker on the line to secure 5th place in a time of 29:58 just 2 seconds behind 4th and first England runner home. An excellent performance on a difficult course against good opposition.
The senior men’s race featured El Hassan Elabassi and Phillip Kipyego, the former an international 10k runner and the latter a high standard Ugandan cross country and middle distance runner together with several high quality Spanish athletes. The race got off to a rapid start with Elabassi and Kipyego quickly establishing a commanding lead over the first couple of 2k loops. The chasing group contained all of the England athletes in a fairly tight bunch. Into the 3rd lap Alex Teuten moved clear of the group into 3rd with Pinto Rui and Espana some distance back and Alex battling with Jack Goodwin and Patrick Dever and a couple of Spaniards in the third chasing group. Over the fourth lap Goodwin and Dever and one of the Spaniards broke away slightly from Alex leaving him slightly detached from the group but Alex continued to battle hard and up the final series of climbs to the finish closed with the group to finish in 11th place in a time of 31:55, a creditable performance on a tough course against some quality opposition.
We should not forget that these outings are a massive learning experience for our young senior athletes. It is part of a very long learning process and I am sure both Alex and Kate will take away some important lessons from this weekend and become stronger and better athletes as they mature into the senior ranks.
Congratulations to both of them on their performances this weekend and so far this season.