Midland Women's XC League Round 2 - Wolverhampton and Bilston

05 December 2023

Round 2 of the Midland Women's Cross Country League took us 90 minutes North to Aldersley Stadium for the fixture hosted by Wolverhampton and Bilston AC. 
With thick freezing fog for most of the journey there was some trepidation among the athletes about to endure the sub zero temperatures. However, luck was on our side as the sun did, as forecast, make an appearance for the race and made the sub zero temperatures a little more bearable along with hats, gloves and base layers for the race. 
The start was quite congested and several Harriers struggled to find the space to run their pace early on, wishing they had found a better place on the startline or gone off harder to avoid getting stuck behind slower runners. The course quickly entered some narrow sections and a bottleneck frustratingly brought sections of the field to a standstill at a sharp bank section. By lap 2 some space opened up enabling the team to all get into their running and pick back some of the places lost in the early stages. Nicole Frith, leading the charge for the Harriers was able to work through the field making up 7 places on the 2nd lap, Jo Wilkie also had the motivation of passing other runners as the race went on. 
Even with the bit of sun we had, the ground remained pretty frozen solid throughout and was very unforgiving on the ankles but all runners navigated the two lap, 6.5km course safely. Although not as strong a team finish as the home fixture in November where we finished 5th, a 7th place ensures we remain well inside the top half of the table as the league progresses. 
The scoring team was made up of Nicole Frith,10th, Jane Fairbairn, 37th, (10th Master), and Petra Vymetalova who hadn't even expected to race until that morning when we lost one of the team at the last minute due to illness. Not in full health herself Petra exceeded expectations to finish in 58th position (17th Master). Next home was the in-form Ellie Balfe, 62nd (19th Master), the latter 3 also making up the Masters scoring team and ensuring another 4th place finish. 
Jo Wilkie followed in 88th and Orla Haigh in her debut league outing continued to show great promise dipping into the top 100 (99th) despite suffering with a stitch on lap 2. Mell Schofield and Angela Pippard were not far behind, both running strongly in 109th and 113th consolidating another great team performance. Final highlight of the day was the awesome chocolate brownies we enjoyed at the finish, made by Nicole!
Most of the Harriers improved on their positions from the 1st fixture but it seemed that the early enthusiasm of the students had already waned as there were fewer Birmingham Uni and Loughborough Uni athletes racing and unlike the last outing they didn't dominate the front of the race. 
Next week the team are back in the more local Gloucestershire League, which this year will also include the County Championships, for Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon & Somerset.