READING Athletic Club’s veterans braved the chill to race in the SEAA Masters cross-country championships at Horspath last weekend, with Sarah Unwin-Mann proving the pick of the squad with a fine seventh-place finish.

Although it was a bright and sunny day, the temperature did not rise above three degrees, and shaded parts of the course were frozen underfoot.

Injuries meant some team members had to withdraw before race day, so Reading had a full scoring team only in the women’s 40-49 race.

The women’s 6km course included playing fields, grass tracks and a rutted wooded section, and Urwin-Mann proved she is back to excellent fitness after a long layoff with injury.

Sue Francis and Julie Rayfield had a close race all the way, a strong finish from the latter resulting in an 11th-place finish ahead of Francis (13th).

With Belinda Tull also scoring well (19th), the team finished in an excellent fourth place, just five points away from the bronze medal position.

In the same race, Debbie Taylor, Reading’s sole representative in the W50-54 category, continued her consistent form to finish 16th in that section.

The men raced over a 10km course, which was similar to the women’s route but also included two testing hills.

In the first race, for men aged 51–69, saw Reading’s Duncan Prior and Gerry O’Driscoll lead the way.

Prior, whose training has really paid off in the last year, had a strong run to finish 56th in the M50–54 category.

O’Driscoll, back in action after a recent injury, also ran extremely well to finish 37th in the M55-59 category.

Reading also had two good performances in the M40-49 race. Marathon runner Nick Huskinson was 42nd in the M40-44 category, while Darren Stevens gained on his team-mate in lap two to finish only three places behind (45th).

Many of the club’s veterans will be back in action this coming Sunday at the Berkshire County cross-country championships on their home course at Prospect Park.