Two Exmouth Harriers Women’s cross country teams added their names to a growing list of recently successful locally based sports teams at the Devon County Cross Country Championships in Exeter last Sunday, writes Dave Eveleigh.

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The course is on the steeply sloping Eastern Fields behind Exeter Arena, the basic lap for the event measuring about 2km, but looping in such a way that there were two climbs in that circuit.

The women’s race took in two and a half laps for just 5km of racing. This is compared to nearly 9km for the men and the question has to be asked, why this inequality? One answer is that it is likely the longer the race is the fewer women will contest it; an interesting discussion for the trip back from the next Cross Country fixture. Whatever the distance though the Exmouth Harriers women were up for it!

The County Championships are incorporated in a Westward league fixture so, with Cornish runners there as well there were decent sized fields. Getting on for 100 finished the senior women’s race.

For Exmouth the winning trio, comfortably retaining their champions status was Ellie Sutcliffe, in sixth place overall, and second senior woman, Cathy Newman eighth overall in 18:01 and first woman over-50, and Hannah Bown, 19th in 19:16 and second woman over-35. In the separate veterans (over-35) competition Cathy, Hannah and Lisa Hatchard (55th in 22:13) made up the first placed team. A little younger, Alice Kelly was 39th in 21:00, and also second placed woman under 20. New women’s team captain, Carly Miller was 45th in 21:18 while her predecessor, Dawn Teed was 63rd in 32:51 and Nicki Kelly, starting alongside daughter Alice, 67th in about 34 minutes.

In the men’s race the veterans team title was also won by Exmouth Harriers. That team was Tony Hatchard, 27th in 30:05, Dave Stone, 32nd in 30:10, and Adam Miller, 41st in 30:49. There were high hopes too for the Men’s Team but the forecasters had forgotten how strict the first Claim Rule is in athletics. So Tom Merson won the race in 27:13 band and Andy Chambers was third in 28:04, both second-claim members wearing Exmouth vests but, while they could score for Exmouth in the incorporated Westward League (special permission) they could only race in the championships as individuals. There was the small consolation of the team remaining in third position in that league. Further down a field of getting on for 200 Marc Cox (74th in 32:30) just held of Mike Musgrove (76th in 32:32). Dave Eveleigh (167th in 42:09) gradually pulled back to Lee Russell (166th in 41:43), but Lee fought back for a first win over Dave in a long time. Jim Wyatt battled round in 48:54 to take the County Over70 Gold medal.

A successful day for Exmouth Harriers and impressively the team from Erme Valley Harriers who manage the Westward League had those results out in detail within 24 hours. While acknowledging their hard work it was unfortunate that the County officials chose to make the presentations to the female medallists during the men’s race!

This meant fewer people there and no male club-mates to offer their appreciation of their women club-mates. In fact this timing meant that the Exmouth women were not there either, they were on the side of the course offering much appreciated support to their male club-mates!

So, the senior men missed out, but three out of four senior team trophies available were won by Exmouth Harriers, ahead remember of teams from much bigger towns. Surely success to rank alongside that of the town’s football, rugby and cricket teams!

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