HOT PURSUIT The men’s team hold on to their title; Pictured from left to right are, George Duggan, Chris Olley, Ben Cole, Ryan Driscoll, Max Nicholls, Robbie Farnham-Rose

THE men’s team of Tonbridge Athletic Club retained their English National Cross Country title in style at Parliament Hill in North London on Saturday (February 24).

This time around it was an emphatic victory, with one of the lowest scores in the history of the event and one of the largest winning margins.

Last year at Nottingham the team had scraped their first ever ‘national’ win by just four points, with the last of the six scorers being Charlie Joslin-Allen in 145th.

This time around it was a completely different story as Joslin-Allen had a tremendous race for 37th, but wasn’t even in the Tonbridge scoring team.

A total of 2,328 finished the race and 162 clubs closed scoring teams, with Tonbridge finishing on just 131 points, far ahead of Bristol’s 291 and Aldershot with 314.

The team was led home by Chris Olley in fifth place, once again showing that he is one of the most consistent distance runners in the UK.

He recorded a time of 40min 19sec over the extremely tough 12km course and was just 18 seconds from securing an individual medal.

George Duggan was next home in 14th, returning to his very best form. The team win completed a remarkable sequence of medals for Duggan, who has contributed to nine consecutive Tonbridge podium places through the age groups at the championships – he also won individual titles at under-13 and under-15.

Ben Cole, the oldest member of the team, ran his best ever cross country race to take 18th spot and will now look towards the London Marathon as his next target.

Robbie Farnham-Rose was the fourth scorer and had to battle hard on terrain that he hasn’t been used to in recent years, having been based in the USA on a scholarship at Alabama University. He finished in 26th, with GB mountain runner Max Nicholls not far behind in 33rd.

Ryan Driscoll, the Tonbridge club record-holder for the steeplechase, completed the scoring team in 35th, finding his form after struggling in recent races.

Olivia Breed finished second for the Under-13 girls’ team, securing the only other medal of the day and helping her team to 12th place out of 51 entries.

Fraser Gordon finished fifth in the U15 boys’ race, helping his team to fifth position overall with over 500 runners finishing the event.

Lucy Reid put aside a recent bout of flu to record an excellent 18th place in the senior women’s race. With Nicole Taylor (25th), Maria Heslop (103rd) and Tin Oldershaw (145th) the team came eighth from 112 clubs.

Among the other Tonbridge teams taking part, the U13 boys were 12th, U15 girls 26th, U17 women 10th, U17 men eighth, U20 women sixth and U20 men fourth.