Team facing huge challenge to win title again, says boss Down

Class of ’22: Bristol & West AC’s senior men’s champions last year.

SO can Bristol & West AC’s senior men retain their Midland Counties Cross Country Championships team title at Leamington Spa today?

That was the club’s first success in the event in its 140-year history – and many excellent teams in the past had tried and failed in this event – so it was a landmark achievement for the squad.

On paper they certainly stand a chance but, as always, all the scoring six will need to perform near or at their best while the strength of others teams, in particular multiple champions Notts AC who were knocked off their throne last year, will also be a factor.

“Retaining it at Leamington Spa on Saturday presents another massive challenge,” said team manager Mike Down.

“Unfortunately the squad we are fielding is not as strong as originally anticipated, with two of last year`s victorious team Ben Robinson and Joe Connors out injured as well as Andy Watt, who may still turn out if a recent knee problem improves.

“Besides those three our recent Australian recruit Tim Lefroy and marathon internationals Johnny Thewliss and Pete Le Grice are all on the comeback trail from injury problems and not available.

“However, on a more positive note our three recent South West medallists – champion Jack Millar, Felix McGrath and Max Davis – are all down to run and will head the team, which will certainly be strengthened by the presence of the club`s current top road runner Kurt Taylor, who is taking time out from his preparations for his international debut for England in the Armagh international 5K road race next month, to refamiliarize himself with the challenge of a 12K cross country race before the forthcoming National.

“But unlike the recent South West championship, it`s six not five to count in the team race, and it looks as if it will be up to team captain Owain Jones and anyone of Adam Stokes, Will Christofi, Andy Salmon or even super vet Graham Breen to complete the scoring team on the day.”

For the women in-form Chelsea Baker will have high hopes and will get solid support from Jessie Sanzo, Catie O’Donoghue, newcomer Katie Strange, Cadie Hibberd and Kat Baldwyn.

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