Commencing its 89th season of winter competition for 50 clubs drawn from across the Midlands region, the Birmingham Cross Country League returned to its now traditional season opener at Newbold Comyn, Leamington Spa on Saturday 10 November. In this initial fixture the three league divisions merged into one combined race, over a traditional and challenging cross country course, providing stunning viewing points for spectators, including the steep inclines (and declines!) of Beacon Hill and a tricky ditch crossing on each of the three laps.
With over 720 finishers, individual league results for the three divisions are often slightly delayed provisional indicators suggest a good performance from local Coventry & Warwickshire clubs.
In Division 1, Coventry Godiva Harriers league champions for three consecutive seasons between 2008 - 11 gave early notification that they are well positioned to reclaim the 'Mercury Trophy' at the end of the season with a third place finish at Leamington, just behind Loughborough Students and Birmingham University. As both student clubs sometimes struggle to maintain their opening momentum across the remaining three races, Team Manager Pete Banks can take heart with a turn out of 25 athletes and a significant lead on customary rivals Tipton and Birchfield Harriers. Kenilworth Runners who have set a target for their best ever league result in 2012 - 2013, aiming to break into the top ten teams, began the season with a 7th position and a strong turnout of 31 runners. Rugby & Northampton, returning to Division 1 competition, finished 12th of the sixteen club teams. The individual local performance of note came from Matt Armstrong a final year post graduate medical student at Warwick University running for Coventry Godiva and finishing 4th overall.
In Divison 2, University of Warwick AC, relegated last season, caught the eye, finishing 2nd in the team competition, indicating a probable early return to the premier division for the Coventry based student side. Knowle & Dorridge Running club formed only five years ago and newly promoted last season, finished 8th closely followed by Leamington C & AC (9th) and Sphinx AC (14th).
In Division 3 local rivalry inspired Nuneaton (1st Team), Massey Runners (2nd) and Northbrook (4th) to dominate the team competition.
The next Birmingham League fixture takes place on 1 December with Division 1 racing at Cofton Park, Birmingham, Division 2 at Gloucester and Division 3 at Burbage Common, Hinckley.
Saturday's fixture also staged the Midland Women's Cross Country League and although official results are still to be published, there were strong performances from Godiva pair Frances Briscoe and Rowena Cole, in 1st and 3rd place respectively.