THE fight to be crowned Herefordshire Summer Cross Country League winners heated up at a challenging second round at High Vinnals.

The second round of the series saw a record 222 runners complete the hilly forestry course hosted by Ludlow Runners.

After winning the opening round Croft Ambrey RC were pipped in the second round by a single point by Builth & District RC.

For the second successive race Builth's reigning league champion Jonny Pugh ran a solo run at the front of the field to win with some comfort.

However, he was never able to relax as Hereford Couriers' former league champion Matt James threatened to close on the substantial lead that Pugh had established.

Eventually James himself had to be wary of a fast finishing duo just behind him as Builth's remarkable 53 year-old Mike Pfeiffer just fought off MonRoss Trailblazers' Gavin Jones in an intense sprint finish.

Builth's three male runners, in the team competition comprising of three male and two female counters, were all home in the top eight places and it was left to their female contingent to finish in 62nd and 67th positions to just claim victory with 141 points.

In the women's event Croft Ambrey's Katie Ayers, running in only her second league race, started quickly and continued to extend her lead to win in 40th position overall, by a margin of over a minute.

A number of female runners attempted to go with Ayers' pace in the early stages but were unable to maintain contact with the relentless speed and commitment of the winner.

Wye Valley's Jodie Newell determinedly worked her way through the field to finish second, 51st overall, with Ledbury Harriers' Holly Gourley third and 58th overall.

Ayers' forceful display was well supported by international triathlete Mark Lamonby in sixth, reliable Gareth Leek in 10th and home from University Toby Austin in 11th, plus a spirited run from Hannah Fletcher in 75th to take Croft Ambrey to within a single point of Builth's team score. Wye Valley stayed in contention with a strong third place, a further 15 points adrift.

At the halfway stage of the four race series, Croft Ambrey still hold a strong lead of 51 points over Builth with Wye Valley a further nine points behind in third.

The next race in the series will be hosted by Wye Valley Runners and held at Queenswood on Wednesday, July 10.