GALLERY: Matthew Spencer and Liz Davies take victory at Ipswich JAFFA cross country
Ipswich JAFFA tightened their grip on the 53-12 Cross Country League title with another dominant performance, at their own event, on a new course at the Suffolk Food Hall, in the shadow of the Orwell Bridge.
Once again, JAFFA were spearheaded by an in-form Matt Spencer, who completed a hat-trick of individual wins at this fourth meeting in the six-strong series.
Club-mate Tom Fairbrother had won the first event at Hylands Park in Chelmsford, in his only league appearance of the season, but since then Spencer has taken up the mantle.
Fresh from league successes at the Harwich and Halstead races, Spencer tasked victory on home soil ahead of Harwich Runners’ Graeme Knott (second) and the consistent Tom Cammack, of Springfield Striders. Cammack repeated his third place finishes from Harwich and Halstead.
The top five, over a testing multi-terrain five-mile course, was completed by Colchester Harriers’ new signing Jordan Middlemist and Harwich’s Robert Reason. Army man Middlemist had looked on course for victory at the mid-point, but had to slow down due to his quads tightening during the closing stages.
Meanwhile, there was a rare defeat for international marathon star Helen Davies in the ladies’ race.
Having won the previous three events, Davies had to play second fiddle to namesake Liz Davies, of Springfield Striders, so reversing the one-two from the previous event held by Halstead. Harwich’s Kate Hodgkiss was third, followed by Emma Gorwood, of Hadleigh Hares, and Colchester Harriers’ Laura Shewbridge.
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In the team stakes, JAFFA had a crushing victory in the men’s section, ahead of the Harriers and Springfield, while their ladies finished joint top with the Harriers.
Overall, JAFFA have stretched their lead at the top of Pool A to 22 points, five ahead of both the Harriers and Springfield Striders, with two races to go. Colchester Harriers, the defending champions, have been hit by fixture congestion this season, and once again their leading runners were in action at the previous day’s Essex League meeting, rather than at the 53-12 League.
Even so, they are strong contenders to finish second behind JAFFA. In addition to Middlemist, there were strong runs from John Fryer (seventh) and Paul Spowage, the newly-crowned Southern veteran over-50 champion, who was 15th.
Shewbridge was Harriers’ highest-placed ladies’ finisher in fifth, despite running in the Essex League just 24 hours earlier. She was backed up by Lyn Higgs (seventh), Amanda Henry (eighth) and Andrea James 12th).
Witham Running Club will stage the next event at the Discovery Centre, Great Notley Country Park, on Sunday, February 2. The final race is at Hadleigh on February 23.