The Nene Valley Harriers cross country team were purring with delight as Cat Foley-Wray led them to an unexpected victory in the Frostbite League fixture at Bourne Woods on Sunday.
Not surprisingly the 29-year-old was first lady home, finishing 16th in a high-quality field.
More significantly she led the Nene Valley challenge, leaving the entire men’s team trailing in her wake.
With the English National Cross Country Championship just two weeks away, Foley-Wray is in the type of form which should help to cement her reputation on the national scene.
The points system employed by the Frostbite League, where the first seven men and the leading trio of ladies from each club score, means that a strong ladies squad is key.
The ladies made a huge contribution for the Harriers with Nicky Morgan, on her 46th birthday, and Chloe Pavey finishing among the leading ladies, adding valued support to Foley-Wray.
The race winner was Anthony Johnson who covered the hilly, muddy and windswept five-mile course in an impressive 27:19, a full 20 seconds ahead of James Mogridge who he pulled clear of mid-race.
PACTRAC’S Paul Vernon won the first three races in the series but was beaten into third place at Bourne, a further 24 seconds back.
Despite owing much to their ladies, the victorious Nene Valley team could not afford any slips from their men.
They did not disappoint with Mike Chapman, Nathan Tweedie, Lee Harthill, Drew Warnes and James McDonald grouping well for top 40 finishes.
Werrington Joggers’ Rachel Gibbs was second lady home, more than two minutes behind the outstanding Foley-Wray, with Bourne’s Claire Steels third.
Sarah Overington of Eye continued her fine start to the year – coming home as fifth lady, two places ahead of Nene Valley’s second scorer Morgan.
Nene Valley’s victory on the day cemented their fifth place in the standings, two positions behind Werrington Joggers who were second local team in fourth position.
With just one race to go in the series Hunts AC appear to have an unassailable advantage but good performances from Nene Valley or Werrington could see either club in contention for the runners-up spot.
The junior race was comfortably won by Hunts AC’s Joey Croft with Jonathan Oakley of PACTRAC second. Shannon Flockhart was the leading girl ahead of PACTRAC’s Flo Brill.
Nene Valley were second to Hunts AC at Bourne and lie third in the overall standings.
Meanwhile, Bourne’s James McCrae led a trio of young Nene Valley athletes at the British Universities Cross Country Championships in Gloucester on Saturday.
The 18-year-old Birmingham University student had an excellent day, finishing 28th in the 7.3km race with a time of 25:57, in a field containing mainly second and third year students.
McCrae’s 21-year-old club-mate, Ross Huskisson, came home 147th out of nearly 500 runners.
Emma Chan finished 240th out of 583 athletes in the ladies race.