MORE than 200 athletes took part in the Herefordshire Cross Country League season opener at Fforest Fields near Builth Wells.

The men’s and women’s races were respectively dominated by home club Builth Wells and Croft Ambrey running clubs as athletes splashed their way over two laps of rain-sodden fields and muddy woodland.

The early pace was set by Croft Ambrey’s international triathlete Mark Lamonby with the home club’s Summer League champion Jonny Pugh soon taking over as the yellow vest of Builth became prominent at the front.

At the start of the second lap Builth’s Tim Iveson, the reigning men’s league champion, took control of the race with only Ludlow Runners’ Matt Yapp responding as the two scampered over the mud to build a substantial lead.

Iveson created a small gap to lead his Builth team to a comprehensive triumph with Pugh third behind Ludlow’s Matt Yapp while Lamonby was fourth and Tim Davies of the Newtown based Maldwyn Harriers ended fifth.

The women ran the same testing course with Builth’s fell running specialist Natalie Taylor, making her league debut, storming to an emphatic victory ahead of Croft Ambrey’s Gemma Mallett with Maldwyn Harrier runner Jenny Evans ending sixth.

Builth currently lead the men’s team table ahead of Maldwyn Harriers who are also second in the women’s team rankings with Croft Ambrey leading the way.

The second event in the five race series will be held on the traditional course at Croft Castle on Sunday, November 10.