Week Ending - 2023/02/19



Eleanor Fowler

Mandy Stain

Sara Hawkins

Badgers travelled to the inaugural Ravenstone Cross Country race on Sunday in the penultimate round of the Derby Runner League XC Season 2023. The course was very different to the usual ones seen on the scene with long gravel straights and hardened paths characterizing a unique set-up which left many athletes on all teams reflecting on their footwear choices given the fast and hard underfoot conditions. Badgers were nonetheless brave, maybe a little too brave as they battled to stay in the fight to retain their men’s team crown of the past four seasons. 

The talismanic Danny Warren has been leading the Badgers team all season although his role was undertaken here by rising star Ryan Preece whose belligerent running approach proved beneficial. If Warren was the team’s spearhead, Preece was undoubtedly their hammerhead. The in-form speedster took fifth spot in a strong field with Warren still performing heroically in 11th overall. 

The scoring of the men’s team requires at least two of the eight scorers to be veteran athletes, giving rise to the term invented by former cross country specialist Dave Jackson “key men”. Luckily for Badgers, they had some of their very best at it on Sunday as firstly the brilliant Neil Russell stormed round in 23rd place overall, third Badger back irrespective of age, and the improving Chris Tweed worked his way through the field later on to take a quality 32nd spot. There was more than able backup too in the form of the industrious Sam Starkey who came home two places behind the Dordon Destroyer and with Eric Fowler (42nd) and Mark Coggan (76th) both impressing, more than half the finishing scorers were vets. 

Interspersed between these latter two were the former rising star Cameron Barnes and the craggy Adrian Payne, whose disappointment at finishing in a season’s low 63rd place was off-set by the news that he has a secret admirer on the cross country scene, even going as far as to writing him a grammatically challenged notice of interest, left on his car windscreen. True to form, the Badgeley bachelor avoided verbal contact as such, delegating the task to Badgers Runner’s Representative Jimmy Dewis, a man who has absolutely no problem in holding up one end of a conversation. 

Ashley Taylor was next back, just outside the top 100 with the returning Matt Green beating off the likes of Dave Jenkinson and the experienced Rob “Bugling” Boland in a frenetic fight to the finish. The doughty Rob Crow put in a dogged performance with Simon Payne, Paul Grubb and Eamon Thawley all clocking up more appearances in the Badgers vest for the men.  

The ladies' side was led home once more by the trusty Eleanor Fowler, who battled hard on her way to a superb 11th place. Liberty Underhill looked the real deal as she finished second Badger back with another solid run and fellow newcomer Kat Wilson also impressed four places behind her in 61st spot. 

Vice-captain Sharon Jackson continued her good form in 2023 with a 71st place finish ahead of the experienced equine enthusiast Steph White and the stylish salon owner Clare Whetton, who both ran well enough to ensure the ladies fielded a full compliment of runners after dwindling numbers crippled any title hopes at the start of the season. 

Meanwhile, the day prior at parkrun, there were some excellent efforts on show notwithstanding Kieran Coopey making his debut at Kingsbury Water Park in 31 minutes. Matt Green made the top ten and in doing so became the fastest Badger ever at Hadleigh parkrun, the faux-Dane clocked 24:05 to finish 8th male at the Essex course. Sharon Jackson ran a course best 25:27 at Long Eaton while Sam Starkey was the highest-placed male finisher of the weekend taking 4th at the Uttoxeter-based Bramshall Road event in 19:50 with wife Laura coming 10th in 28:47. Glyn Broadhurst ran 19:56 at Sandwell Valley where Nicki Bowman was narrowly edged out of first by a handful of seconds as she became the highest placed female of the weekend with her second spot, the former winner of the Abbott Trail 5K looks to have finally put her injury woes to bed with a barnstorming run of 26:04. The workmanlike Tim Gould ran a super 10th place finish at Kingsbury in 21:43, a great effort from him while Rachael Shelton and Andy Smith took 5th and 10th at Chasewater and Babbs Mill respectively.