Thank you to Rachel for her final match report of the cross country season.
And so, here we are at the end of the cross country season, one which spanned the wettest winter on record. But really, this last match was quite a different beast to those came before it – not the flat grey of Bicester and Banbury, nor the biting cold of Cirencester and Swindon, and certainly not the mud of the latter. Instead there were puffy white clouds at Henley, and even moments of blue sky and soft sun. Job done medal wise for most of the team, this last run was a chance to show what could be done, to battle for placings and really to enjoy – almost sweetly anticlimactic, requiring little of the blitz spirit that is sometime required at these events.
It was a somewhat surreal arrival, perhaps the boat in the field was there as a reminder of the season past (“There’s a boat in the field.” Don’t be silly. Oh, no, you’re quite right”), followed by a pleasant walk over to the club tent (sterling work on the repair there Mike), time for a chat and then over to the start where Tillie was lining up to represent the U9s.
Accompanied by the usual deafening soundtrack of tape in the wind, Tillie was out and cheered home, first to complete the season, taken home by a very proud dad.
Maisie and Juliet, U11G, were next to the line, removing coats somewhat reluctantly as the wind got up but cutting determined figures from the start. The last 200m was beautifully choreographed, silhouettes picked out against the lower slopes of the hill, gathering momentum to sweep down to the finish. Juliet was the first of the two white vests, with Maisey a few places behind to finish her first season for Witney, having only joined the club in January.
Four boys lined up for the U11, enjoying the extra challenge of the fallen tree just past the first bend. James squeaked in for a top ten finish, Rhys cemented a solid season with 15th. Tom W tore down the hill, and Jack fought hard , ultimately the two were only separated by a single runner from Newbury.
The camaraderie of the U13 girls is always a highlight. Henley was no different, with Skye and her very cute puppy encouraging her teammates from the sidelines. Ellie and Martha have battled hard this season, and it was Ellie who made her way down the hill first, with Martha finding a strong finish. Bethany was next, having swapped the trademark pink socks for a stylish black, and Macy completed the quartet shortly afterwards.
The U13 boys have not let us down this season, they have consistently had the highest turnout and so it proved again as seven boys lined up. It managed to rain slightly as they were lining up, which has also been a feature of their start line this season. Tree hurdle cleared, we waited with anticipation to see the distant figures emerge for the elevated straight before the sweep down. Will finished with his best place of the season to come 5th with Glenn and Lewis in 7th and 8th. The boys were going to give this final race everything they had, Calum next followed by Jacob, Tom & Ryan in succession.
The final race with a Witney interest was the U15/17 girls, represented by Lily, Harriet and Grace. The wind had dropped, the bizarre U13 boys rain shower had abated and there was a beautiful stillness about proceedings, finishing the season with a calm assurance, much like the girls themselves who brought the season to a close.
Thank you 2019/20, you were quite the season. Well done to all of our athletes, each of whom brought their own blend of determination, you all had your moments and overcame hurdles (literally as well as metaphorically). Finally, congratulations to our club champions:
Full results can be found on our results page here.
And so. Owing to sudden pressures of work, the final three paragraphs were written some weeks after the rest of this piece, in a changed world. Who knew that Henley would be the last competition for the foreseeable future? We took for granted the club tent, the enthusiasm and encouragement of the coaches. We chatted about swapping long spikes for track ones. We waved casually at friends on the way home, not knowing that we might not see them again, that the camaraderie of a Thursday night would, for now at least, be a thing of the past.
But it will come again. We will re-emerge into a changed world, where we will hold the things we love a little more dearly, sweat the small stuff a bit less (but still sweat obviously, training is the key). This club thrives on its people. The outdoor season will not be what we expected. But the coaches, the athletes and the supporters, will all be there when it comes round. In these uncertain, unknown times we will face the present with courage and determination, as our athletes showed throughout the season, but we will know that brighter times are coming. We will huddle under umbrellas again, we will hunt for safety pins again, we will cheer for our athletes again. Mike is making the long jump markers this very moment.