If you heard the phrases ‘Lincoln’ and ‘giant killers’, cross country might not be the first sport to come to mind – however the runners of Lincoln Wellington Athletics Club have proved they’re even better than the football team at punching above their weight.
The junior women from Wellington have brought their excellent season to a close with a silver medal at the National Cross Country Championships.
For their coach, Rob Lewis, this was everything the team could have dreamed of. “That event was a phenomenal achievement for a small club like us, we really punched above our weight. We like to think of ourselves as giant killers like Lincoln City, but in league terms, we were probably at an even greater disadvantage than Lincoln vs. Arsenal.”
The Junior Women’s team was comprised of Abbie Donnelly (5th), Bella Williams (6th) and Rebekah Ward (51st). Donnelly and Williams finished the 8km course just ten seconds apart, at 23:30 and 23:40 respectively.
Both have been in excellent form all season, with Donnelly winning Bronze in the Northern Championships and Williams winning the Lincolnshire County Championships. Ward’s training was disrupted as she briefly switched to triathlon training before returning to cross-country.
Rob was confident of his team’s abilities before the races, saying: “I told the girls we had 50:50 chance of getting a medal, but I didn’t know what colour. Historically, if a team manages to score 90 points or under, they’re guaranteed a medal, and I was pretty sure we could do that.”
As cross country is scored based on position with lower being better, the 5th and 6th place finishes earned the club just 11 points, meaning Ward’s 51st place finish easily brought them under that threshold and earned the team the Silver medal.
The Championships were held on 25th February in Wollaton Park in Nottingham, a popular cross country venue.
“The conditions were very demanding. European cross-country courses tend to be ‘manicured’ and easy to run; this one definitely wasn’t. It started hilly and muddy, and only got wore. People looked like they were collapsing over the finishing line. That’s why I recommend cross country events for all runners, they’re very character building.”
To put Wellington’s achievement into perspective, the only club to beat them was Aldershot Farnham and District, a constant presence at the top of league tables. This is their fifth consecutive win in the category and they boast 400 endurance runners – a far cry from Wellington’s modest line-up.
“We only have four or five girls we train for the cross-country events,” Rob explains. “But they train consistently – twice a day, six days a week. This is a sport where that it doesn’t matter how much natural talent you have, you can’t get to the top without dedication.”
Rob coaches all of the under 20’s at Lincoln Wellington Athletics Club, with about 30 young runners currently under his tutelage.
He is philosophical about the small club’s future beyond the season, and whether they can continue achieving this level of success.
“We’ve lost some good runners in the last year to other clubs as they’ve moved away or gone to University. Next year’s line-up won’t be quite as strong, however we have an enormous pool of talent waiting to start competing. On some nights, there can be 50 nine to eleven year olds training. If just a few of those stay on, we should be looking good for the future.”