CLARA Evans has secured the Herefordshire League individual women’s title after another success in the penultimate round at Monkhall Farm, just south of Hereford.

But there was a new name at the head of the men’s finishers with Wye Valley Runners’ James Richards leading the field home and going onto spearhead a team success for the host club.

The course proved testing with strength-sapping mud, fallen trees and long uphill slogs as well as a lung-bursting climb to the finish.

Series leader Eliot Taylor, of Hereford Couriers, took an early lead but hit a bad patch as the runners entered the first woodland section.

And Richards, who ran for Hereford and County AC in his younger days but has only recently returned to the county running scene after a long spell in the army, began to assert his authority.

He was chased by his team-mate Luke Mason and Mike Pfeiffer, of Builth Wells, who kept him under pressure every step of the way.

Richards finally powered his way up the final incline to win by just four seconds from the determined Builth runner with Taylor battling back into third place. Wye Valley were convincing winners of the men’s team event thanks to Richards’ win, Mason’s fourth place and John Pullen’s fifth position. Mike Fawcett completed the team in 11th.

Hereford Couriers finished second thanks to Taylor in third, Luke James sixth, Mike Link ninth and Russell James 14th.

Croft Ambrey had four runners in the top 20 to secure third place with Simon Norwood returning to form in eighth place and receiving good support from Stacey Morgan in 12th, Mark Lamonby 15th and a returning Neil Powell in 18th place.

Wye Valley’s latest win makes them strong favourites to defend their men’s league title.

Evans again dominated the women’s race with another commanding performance as she made light work of the heavy conditions.

The teenager was shadowed by Croft Ambrey’s Suzanne Turvey but revelled in the sticky conditions to gradually pull away to secure her win by a margin of almost a minute.

Turvey finished well clear in second place with Ludlow Runners’ Claire Thomas completing the top three with another strong run.

With Croft Ambrey able to field their strongest women’s team for the first time this season, the north Herefordshire club dominated the event with five runners in the first 11 home. Turvey led the victorious team with captain Sue Davies holding off two determined Wye Valley opponents to take fourth place.

Gemma Mallett, who is finally beginning to get a taste for the winter conditions, completed the winning trio in ninth position.

Wye Valley, who are still strong favourites to defend the women’s title, finished just eight points adrift thanks to solid performances from Katherine King in fifth, Jane Rowlands, sixth, and Becci Ansfield, 12th.

Hereford Triathlon Club took third place with Kylie Mansfield in seventh, Sarah Holton, eighth and Jenny Papworth, 14th.

The final race in the series will be held at Presteigne on Sunday, February 3 starting at 11am.