Coming down to the last control on Day 1

Well the time had finally come for the big one, the JK! For some it meant all that time spent training through the wet and windy winter would finally reap some reward, whilst for others it was just the opportunity to participate in one of the best atmospheres at an orienteering event in Britain whilst catching up with friends new and old. The West Midlands Orienteering Association had put together what promised to be another great Easter orienteering festival some top quality areas with brand new maps, a thriving event centre complete with banter evening courtesy of nopesport.com, campsite adjacent to the event center unfortunately the weather couldnt be guaranteed, but despite this nothing could ruin the atmosphere at the first major event of the year.

The weekend kicked off with the training event and MTBO on Friday at Tackeroo, Cannock Chase. It was great to see Warwick University OC put on this event, and despite there not being much technicality in the siting of the controls, it was a welcome leg stretcher after some long journeys for many people. A hardened group of individuals decided to give the opening Peel Adventure MTBO race a try, with over 80 people working there way round a new format for the series. The race consisted of an initial cross-country style course round some fantastic purpose built single tracks, then having completed this there was the opportunity to complete a mini score event (the Mens Open course had just 6 controls) so that the fitter competitors could get a longer ride in. The Mens Open course was won by last years series winner Steve Heading (TCA), although Andy Simpson (OD) was just over a minute behind, with Liam Corner (MDOC) just another minute further back. In the Womens Open Janine Hensman (FVO) had it much easier, winning by over 13 minutes from Karen Heppenstall (CLOK).

Then came Saturday, with the first days orienteering being held at Brown Clee Hill organized by HOC and WRE. A steep walk up from the car park up to the assembly area gave people a small taste of what was to come on their course, but this was worth it with a fantastic arena round the finish run-in giving spectators a great view of finishers and elite runners at the spectator control on the far side of the assembly area.
Some people hadnt quite understood the No Whislte No Go rule and attempted to start without having a whistle, and despite some people being handed a spare one at the start a number of people were late for their starts whilst trying to acquire one. But the organizers were right to enforce this, and it was made clear both in the programme and at the event that there would be no exceptions, especially as inclement weather headed in for the latter part of the day. Many people found the terrain exceedingly tough, steep uphill climbs and tough energy-sapping moorland combining to make the courses particularly hard going. But this meant that the winners were truly worthy athletes, both being able to master the rough terrain, but also navigating perfectly through some very technical areas on the tops of the moor.
Unfortunately the elite event was marred by the decision of the jury to void the Mens Elite courses. A protest had come in from a competitor that the 2nd control was misplaced, and having inspected the rogue control site to discover that this was correct, the only thing that could be done was to void the course. (See the forum for peoples views on this). Despite this Oli Johnson had put in a fantastic run to get the advantage of starting last on the classic race (the middle race results, despite being voided, were used for seeding for the following day), whilst Scott Fraser had won the M20E by a massive 6 minutes from Edinburgh Uni team-mate Oleg Chepelin. The womens race was not affected by the misplaced control and Heather Monro showed that her move to Britain has not affected her training, winning by a fairly comfortable 1.40 from last years British Elite champion Helen Winskill, with Jenny Whitehead a further 2 minutes back in 3rd place. Cerys Manning took the W20E, finishing in 14th place overall on the course. Impressive wins on the first day came from Jack Wood (M16A), Duncan Coombs (M18L), Mike Smithard (M55L), Mike Murray (M60L), Bill Vigar (M70L), Joy Hodkinson (W10A), Lesley Ross (W35L), Carol McNeill (W60L) and Mary Fogo (W70L) who all won their courses by more than 3 minutes.

In the evening entertainment was provided at the event centre in the form of a quiz night, superbly run by Liz and Paul Furness. The eventual winners were JOK who won with a fantastic score of 102, with the Nixon family 2nd on 90 and Oxbridge winning the tie-break from NATOC who both finished on 90 points.

The second days orienteering was organized by WCH and POTOC and was held on Cannock Chase, encompassing some areas previously unused for orienteering. Another great location for the assembly area giving great views of competitors running down to the last control and along the run-in, which combined with the excellent commentary from the ever-popular Andy Monro and Chris Poole provided yet another great days spectacle. The terrain provided much faster running than the previous day, with the forest allowing for much faster speeds to be reached, and nearly everyone found this day a lot easier physically than the previous day. However, due to the nature of the terrain the elites were given some rather long courses, with the M21E covering over 15km with more than 600m climb! But after the first few starters had finished it was apparent that the estimated winning times were going to be beaten, particularly on the women where the top half of the field all went quicker than the 75 minute EWT. Even so, the cream of British orienteering was present and it was Heather Monro who prevailed again, but her vivtory was not as comfortable as the previous day, Helen Winskill again finishing runner-up but only 39 seconds behind Monro, who won by just over 3 minutes. Sarah Rollins and Jenny Whitehead swapped positions from the previous day, Rollins catching up enough time to take 3rd place overall. Cerys Manning won the W20E again, catching up the 3 runners in front of her and winning the day by 6 minutes to take victory by just under 9 minutes. In the M21E the JK title was going to the winner of Day 2 after the voided courses the previous day so everyone was on a level playing field going into the race. Some good times early on from the likes of Andy Middleditch and Mark Nixon showed that the 85 minute EWT was likely to be beaten but it wasnt beaten until Dan Marston finished in just under 84. This time was winning for the latter part of the day, but towards the end of the day there were 3 runners, Jamie Stevenson, Jon Duncan and Matt Crane who had gone through the spectator control in faster times, all within 40 seconds of each other. But at the finish it was Jamie Stevenson who managed to retain his JK title and beat JD by 31 seconds, with Craney just over a minute further back. In the M20E, Scott Fraser with the last start had just a few seconds advantage with 5 controls to go, but with a storming effort over the last few controls nearly caught his 3-minute man Oleg Chepelin, and took the title by 2.40.
There were some close battles for JK titles on other courses, none more noticeable than on the M10A, where Zachary Field of EBOR overtook the overnight leader Aidan Smith (SYO) to win by just 1 second! The majority of winners from Day 1 held onto their advantage, but there were some noticeable improvements on Day 2. Peter Gorvett (SYO) had finished 79th on Day 1 on M55L, but put the nightmare of the previous day behind him as he came home in 3rd place on Day 2 and climbed 39 places. Karen Blackburn had another similar performance on Day 2, climbing 17 places from 56th on Day 1 after finishing 2nd on Day 2 on W55L. Julia Blomquist on W14A was the only person who finished outside the top 3 on Day 1 to win overall, as she climbed all the way from 9th place having won Day 2 by a massive 5 minutes.

The Best Male Performance for the weekend went to Mike Murray of SLOW who won the M60L class by more than 9 minutes. The Best Female Performance went to Cerys Manning of SWOC who won the W20E course by a similar margin of just under 9 minutes.

The evening saw the BOF AGM, followed by the nopesport.com banter evening with many musical performances from young orienteers, which was greatly appreciated by the crowds.

For full results, including links to Winsplits and Splits Browser, as well as Simple Results for the 2 days click here

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