Saturday 8th February saw the final Midland XC League race of the season take place in Leamington Spa. Clubs and University teams from across the Midlands competed over four races between November and February with this year’s league taking us from the rolling hills and icy rain of Burton Dassett to a very hilly and boggy course in Stratford, then onto a challenging trail race in Trentham and through the infamous ditch of Leamington! The BRAT women have been out in force this season, welcoming old faces and new to XC – and what a season it has been!
The season opener in November could not have been in worse conditions with heavy icy rain and a muddy hilly course it really was about as tough as XC gets. Anne Kenchington led the team home with a superb start to the season taking on the hills and conditions no problem to finish in 3rd place. Next through was Molly Browne in 9th followed by Beccy Payne in 15th and Eloise in 31st as our scoring quartet -setting the team up for a brilliant start in the overall standings. BRATs came in thick and fast as everyone battled the weather but still managed to smile (possibly grimace) crossing the line – Rosie Davies in 47th, Helen Pike in 84th, Daisy Wilson in 100th, Rachel Brown in 124th, Margaret Kenchington in 137th, Anne Virden in 145th, Helen Close in 169th, Melissa McCalla in 184th, Christine Hirsch in 191st, Catherine McNicholl in 194th and Liz Painter in 200th – fantastic runs from everyone!
Onto race two and a much brighter day in December but as equally hilly and muddy, BRAT men were also at the venue which made for a great day of BRAT team spirit and plenty of support! Molly brought the team home in 4th place with Anne K close behind in 6th, next through the finish funnel was Mel James with a brilliant run in 46th and Rosie in 57th to keep BRAT in a top 5 position overall across two races. Amy Brammar had a great run in 61st with Helen P in 88th. Anne V finished in 114th and Rachel in 118th both improving on their places from the first race. Danielle Bogue came storming to a 147th place which was very impressive given she stopped to give first aid assistance on the first hill and didn’t set off again until the leading group were almost on lap two. Christine finished 151st and Liz 154th with fantastic runs placing them higher than race one. BRAT ladies were on a roll!
The first race of 2020 for many was at Trentham, a new course for the women and a trail race rather than true XC race which was a cause for excitement. After a stroll around the course and many debates about wearing spikes or trail shoes team BRAT lined up ready for a challenging but very fun trail course. Looking around, teams had runners out in force, particularly the university teams with their BUCS trial race meaning we would need to work hard to maintain our top 5 team spot. Navigating the undulating course together, Molly and Anne finished in 6th and 8th, backed up by Beccy in 13th and Eloise in 55th – that team score was looking good! Hazel Murray had a brilliant run to finish in 58th leading a stream of BRATs with Helen P closely following in 66th, Amy in 80th, Danielle in 92nd, Rachel in 105th, Helen C in 109th, Christine in 131st, Sophie Dalley in 132nd and Hannah Ludford in 136th. Despite it being a tough course everyone said how much they enjoyed it which probably explains the set of fantastic runs from Team BRAT.
All too quickly it was time for the season finale. The stats were out … BRAT were sitting in 4th, 14 points behind Loughborough University. It was an ambitious target to sneak a medal but we had to go for it. Despite the pre-storm wind, it was a beautiful sunny day which made a change for XC! We were in for a tough course with two ditches to navigate, a couple of hills and some really muddy patches – it was going to be fun! Team BRAT made their way to the start and soon they were off. The race started in bizarre fashion, a leading group of 30 bunched up with no one wanting to take on the race and battle the wind. As the group headed up the first climb and took on a challenging steep descent the race spread out. Molly fought hard to claim her highest finishing position of the league taking 3rd place, with Anne closely following in a brilliant 7th, Beccy in a super 12th and Eloise producing the sprint finish of the season to pip Loughborough’s fourth scorer in the final straight and with their second and third scorers only just ahead it was looking like we might have done it! Cheering on the rest of the team next in was Helen in 52nd to take her highest league position, then it was Rosie in 64th, Danielle in 89th, Megan Artemova-Thomas in 94th, Margaret in 99th, Rachel in 102nd, Christine in 150th, Sophie in 152nd and Liz in 155th. There were smiles all round and everyone gave it their all on a tough course.
We gathered at the presentation and in third place …. Team BRAT! We had done it! Molly finished 3rd overall in the individual standings with Anne in 4th and Beccy also making top 10 overall – a fantastic achievement for the team. A big thank you to everyone who has supported the team this season!