HEREFORD COURIERS' Eliot Taylor raced to victory in the opening round of the 2014 Herefordshire Summer Off Road League at the new venue of Hollingwood Farm at Abbey Dore.
After a day of continuous heavy rain, the underfoot conditions were saturated as the runners splashed their way over sodden fields and woodland tracks that had turned into fast flowing streams.
A proposed crossing of a brook had to be re-routed to avoid the hazard of a raging torrent.
Despite the challenging and strength-sapping conditions, there were some excellent performances with Wye Valley Runners dominating the event.
Teams in the Summer League are composed of 3 male and one female runners and the Wye Valley outfit registered the first 5 female runners across the finish line to give themselves a huge advantage and they recorded the first 2 teams home.
Taylor made his intentions clear from the start as he forced the pace aggressively to build an early lead as he splattered through the surface water.
Once he had established this leading margin he was able to relax slightly before he strode up the final steep hill to the finish to record a comprehensive victory. His stable companion, Matt James, made sure that Taylor could never fully relax as he proved that he is re-discovering his best form by finishing just 21 seconds behind.
In third place, Dan King recorded his first ever top-three finish in a league race and he spearheaded his Wye Valley team to an emphatic victory to build a big lead at the outset of the series.
He was well supported by the evergreen John Pullen in 4th place and the improving Jim Masters in 5th.
The Wye Valley team was completed by Laura Tootell who finished first woman in 38th position overall and celebrated her first Herefordshire League triumph in style as she made light work of the gruelling conditions.
The strength in depth of the Wye Valley squad was well illustrated by also having their B team finish in second place thanks to a strong run from the returning Christian Jones in ninth place with staunch support from Mike Fawcett in 11th and Steve Flowers in 16th place.
This team was completed by Nicki Childs who was second woman home in 41st place and showed clear signs that she has recovered the kind of form that saw her crowned Herefordshire Cross Country League champion 15 years ago.
Just one point adrift in 3rd place were Croft Ambrey with Simon Norwood in seventh place just beating Stacey Morgan, who was hampered by having to twice replace his running shoe having lost them in the cloying mud, with Sam Mayglothling finishing 10th on his debut in the Summer League and winter league champion Sue Davies in 53rd position.
Plus a photo of the massed start and Eliot Taylor ( no. 1) finishing the race.