A HUGE field of 176 runners took to the forestry terrain at High Vinnals for the opening round of the 2018 Herefordshire Summer Off Road League.

The runners were tested over a demanding hilly course, containing a tricky downhill section and a steady long uphill slog towards the finish line.

The individual race saw Herefordshire- based runners at the sharp end of the race with three runners in the first four positions.

The early leading group of runners was broken up about one kilometre into the race when eventual winner Jonny Pugh (Builth & District RC) used his strength on the uphill section which saw him break away to establish a big lead as he romped home with a winning margin of almost a minute over Hereford Couriers' Matt James, with Andy Salt third.

This result replicated the positions that the same rivals had produced at the Magic Roundabout race just three days previously.

Teams in the Summer League consist of four male runners plus two female runners and it is often the female contingent who prove to be the most influential factor.

This proved to be the case here with host club Ludlow Runners taking advantage of their knowledge of the course to dominate proceedings largely thanks to their leading two female competitors.

League newcomer Fern Cotterill produced a commanding performance to finish in 14th place overall and former winter cross country league champion Amy Fulford provided strong backup with an excellent 22nd place.

Croft Ambrey RC finished second team, 40 points adrift. They were spearheaded by Salt's third place and he was closely followed home by Mark Lamonby in fourth, with Mark Thomas and Toby Austin in eighth and 10th places respectively to complete the men's unit of the team. This was bolstered by a determined Irina Dale in 57th and the prolific Kelly Bowen in 63rd.

Reigning champions Wye Valley Runners finished a further 19 points behind in third place as they were led home by their two individual reigning title holders Sam Mayglothling in fifth place and Laura Tootell in 44th.

They were well supported by Steve Flowers in 11th, Dan Lewis 15th, Jeremy Jehan 17th and Becki Ansfield 72nd.

The second race in the series will be held at Hollingwood Farm near Abbey Dore on the evening of Wednesday, June 27.