Leamington C&AC began 2020 with a strong performance at the Warwickshire Cross-Country Championships in Smethwick on Saturday.
A full event of races from under-13s up to and including masters for both men and women saw the Red, White and Blues secure a first senior women’s title since 2006 and second places for the men’s under-20s and masters.
Over an undulating and surprisingly dry course at Warley Woods, all five senior Leamington ladies finished inside the top 13.
With only three to count in the team award it was this packing which ultimately secured gold for the club.
Hannah Thorne, in her first county race and only third cross-country race, worked her way through the field after a conservative start to finish fifth in 21min 43sec and was supported by Megan McDonald (6th in 21:59) and Natalie Bhangal (9th in 22:17).
Just outside the team counters were Megan Rothman - in her first cross-country race - who was tenth in 22:31 and Zara Hadfield (13th in 22:57).
Kenilworth Runners’ Marie Matthews was 12th in 22:49.
Running alongside the seniors were Leamington’s women’s masters who, deprived of Kelly Edwards through illness, could only finish fourth.
Monica Williamson led them home in fourth in 23:17, with Jenny Jeeves, after a recent injury, running strongly for fifth in 23:47.
Sara Atkins (46th in 28:22) completed their counters.
Spa Striders’ masters, meanwhile, picked up silver medals thanks to excellent packing from Michelle Hutton (6th master in 23:49), Claire Davidson (7th master in 24:10) and Susie Stannard (9th master in 24:25).
Emma Garnett, in 49th in a time of 24:58, led Kenilworth’s masters team to fifth overall.
Leamington’s men’s masters were unable to retain their title from 2019, finishing second in the final race of the day.
Paul Andrew (5th in 31:52), Phil Gould (10th in 32:45), Bill Andreoulakis (13th in 33:18) and Stephen Hundal (28th in 34:54) secured the medal, which was Hundal’s first county honour at the ripe old age of 53.
Chris McKeown was the leading Spa Strider, finishing seventh master in 32:09.
Had he turned out for the senior team, however, they would have picked up bronze.
As it was, Steven Taylor (33;24), Richard Spear (34:47), Luke Bennett (36:19) and Gethyn Friswell (36:20) had to be content with fourth place.
Henry Morton was the first senior man home for Leamington, finishing 13th in 31:45. He was followed by Dean Mawby (18th in 33:09) and Josh Hough (33rd in 35:11).
Jonathan Harrison was first home for Kenilworth Runners in 70th position in a time of 33:41.
He was closely followed by their first masters’ athlete, Dewi Williams, who was 75th overall in 33:57 and 17th master.
The day had started off with the younger age groups in which Leamington could only muster one team, the under-15 girls of Mel Gould (22nd in 20:26), Eva Fitzpatrick (28th in 21:25) and Megan Marsh (31st in 24:16) finishing eighth.
New member Oliver Wetherall (11:06) was the first club runner to finish on the day, running strongly for 13th in the under-13 boys’ race, supported by James Gould (28th in 12:04).
In the under-15 boys’ event, Rauric Winston was 28th in 16:00, with Harry Bailey just three places and 17 seconds back.
New member Emily Wilson was the only junior running the under-17 women’s race, finishing 12th in 22:04.
There were high hopes for Leamington’s under-20 men’s team and they duly returned with a silver medal.
Bristol University student Dom Priest led the three-man team home in fourth place in 19:15, with Frazer Knowles working his way through the field for eighth in 21:08 and Alex Ibbs tenth in 21:28.