BICESTER Athletics Club enjoyed a record turnout for the first round of the winter long Oxford Mail Cross Country League staged at the traditionally challenging Ascott Under Wychwood course.
The 47 Bicester runners were confronted with atrocious weather and underfoot conditions as the best turnout was in the U11 girls event, run over a 1200 metre circuit.
And there were best ever performances from the two leading Bicester competitors with Mollie Acton achieving a podium finish in third place clocking 4.23 minutes, just one place ahead of Amy Gould (4.25).
There was also an improvement from Maisie Silvester, who recorded her first ever top 10 finish after running 4.34mins and coming ninth.
Millie Couzens continued her fine form from the track season as she placed 13th in 4.41 while Amelia Cox came 20th in a time of 4.50, a huge improvement from last year.
Not far behind her was Lauren Garside (29th in 5.05) with Mollie Bird finishing 35th out of the 69-strong field having ran in 5.12.
Lucy Stowell and Emelia Simms had a good battle for 43rd with Stowell coming off best in 5.24 – two seconds and one place ahead of Simms.
Other Bicester finishers, which included a number of newcomers, were: Katie Ford (50th), Syndey Mcdiarmid (53rd), Nicole Heiymes (54th), Paige Scarlett (55th), Beth Hipwell (56th), Natalie Cox (58th), Erin McWhinnie (66th), Tia Faulkner (67th), Yoanna Hekimova (68th) and Caitlin Lovell (69th).
In the U13 girls race, last year’s U11 starlet Sophie Wheeler made a solid start to her U13 career as she came 11th of the 38 finishers, clocking 9.15 minutes for the 2000 metre circuit despite coming up against many girls a year older than her.
The fastest 800 metre girl in the club, Jennie Procter, made her club debut on the country and came back in 23rd place (10.46).
Another debutant Errin Higginbottom placed 30th in 11.25 and the team was completed by Kerry Hickman (34th in 11.50) and Ellie Laurie (37th in 12.32). The team finished sixth out of 14.
Tom Couzens once again demonstrated his versatility as he swapped throwing the howler for cross country and placed a highly creditable 10th in the U11 boy’s, running 4.14mins.
Billy England ran one of his best ever cross country races to come in eight seconds behind Couzens in 14th.
William Sims continues to progress and he was 17th in 4.06 while James Rendell (4.45) and Samuel Worfolk (4.50) came 25th and 27th respectively.
Other Bicester finishers were: Henry Lay (43rd), Cameron Scarlett (44th), Michael Scarlett (45th), Joseph Rayner (51st), Joseph Nuyent (53rd) and Daniel Lovell (57th).
There was a strong start made by the U15/17 boys team as they finished 10th after race one despite all three Bicester runners competing in the younger age group.
Dan Heiyink was first home in 19th place with a time of 20.33 mins, Tom Gould ran 21.07 for 24th and Jonty Renk was 43rd in 24.12.
Meanwhile, Fergus Jones made his debut in an older age group and finished a respectable 23rd in the 2000m and Kieran Bird placed 35th having run 25.16.
Bicester achieved a first in the U15/17 girls race as they completed a team with Orla Welby (34th in 24.13), Sophie Gunn (35th in 25.12) and Emma Wagland (36th in 25.16).
Finally, Bicester’s sole competitor in the senior men’s race, James Minchin, came 171st in a field of 300 after running 42.12.