Now that the cross country season is coming to close it’s time to reflect on how the season has gone and how we are progressing as a club.  As the Manchester XC is our local regular competition, it is an important indicator.  To start with let’s go into Mark Twain mode – STATISTICS!

One of the measures that I think we should be judging our success by is the numbers competing.  This year saw a significant increase in the number of athletes taking part.  We had more than double last year – 28 different athletes compared to 13 last year.  This also dwarfs anything the club has done before.  I made it 66 total performances compared to 33 last year.  So double again!

I also think we need to look at how well our teams are doing.  Most of last year’s U11 girls had moved up to U13, but this was still our best performing category.  This year they finished 4th overall again, mainly led by several great performances by Holly Newton and Charlotte Stansfield.  Jessica Forrest, Eleanor Nicholson, Thea Prattley, Carys Bucknall, Sara Herceg-Millington, Ella Farquhar and Ava Allman also contributed to this successful category.  We also managed to finish a team in every match, with a highest placing of 2nd.  Holly Newton was our star individual junior performer over the series, finishing an incredible 3rd in one race and 5th overall.  Gold star for her!

We had a huge improvement in the U11 boys.  Last year we had zero performances.  This year we completed teams in two of the events, unfortunately not managing to do this a third time and missing out on a final place in the series.  Their highest finish was 7th, with Will Johnson, Cameron Scott, Dominic Gibson, Josh Mulholland-Wells, Zach Thompson and Dylan Hanrahan taking part.  This emerging team is as a result of the great work that Mark Newton has been doing with the boys in training.

In the U13 girls, the team showed what they are capable of in finishing 3rd in one event, but struggled for consistency and finished 7th team in the series.  While I would say this was a disappointing position, it should be pointed out that this is well in excess of the club’s previous performance in this category.  It also compares favourably to how our U11 girls did two years ago – then we only had one complete team in the series!  The best individual performance was by Aisling McHale in finishing second at University Playing Fields with Esme Pearson the most successful team performer over the series.  Others participating during the season were Kate Fitzgerald, Eva Bucknall, Orla Flynn, Beth Robinson, Hannah Gregg and Grace Adams.

There was also an improvement in the U13 boys section.  Best performer was Angus Morris, but with the contributions from Louis Tranter and Sam Fogarty, we were successful in completing a team that finished 15th in one event.

In the U15 and U17 categories we were very thin on the ground.  Thomas Egan was our most successful athlete here, completing the series in the U15 boys, with Thomas Pavey also having a go.

So overall, much, much better!  Still, it can definitely be improved upon.  At the moment we are spending some time on a strategy review with a particular emphasis on how we can try and retain athletes and engender a team spirit.   While it’s very important to look towards the future, it is also important to take stock and look at how much progress has been made.  If anything, this suggests that there’s the potential to make massive improvements in the future.  The challenge is to make that happen!

Andrew.