Katy-Ann McDonald entered the annals of Herne Hill Harriers history on Saturday after surging to a sensational victory at the National Cross Country Championships. The 12-year-old defied snow and quagmire conditions at Sunderland’s Herrington Park to strike gold in the star-studded U13 girl’s race. The winner of McCain UK Cross Challenge races in Liverpool and Belfast this winter, McDonald broke clear after about 450 metres to set up a 50-metre lead and had enough strength to retain her lead in the energy-sapping conditions.
Herne Hill’s newly-crowned national champion was followed by Saskia Millard in fourth, Alex Brown (11th) and Eloise O’Shaughnessy (26th), with the quartet clinching a stunning victory in the team race – the first time a junior Harriers’ squad has ever won a national cross country title in the club’s 124-year history.
At one point, there were two black and red vests leading the rest, with McDonald and Millard dominating the field. Brown also played a crucial role in overall team victory, having returned early from a skiing holiday to race at Sunderland. Big congratulations to the girls and to Katy-Ann’s coach Phil Kissi and to James McDonald who coaches the other 3 winning team members. Kissi says Katy-Ann will now focus on the last two big races of the cross-country season, being the Inter-Counties and the English Schools Champs.
Harriers’ U15 girl’s squad finished close to the medal positions, with Alice Setyabule (34th), Daisy Setyabule (45th), Skye O’Shaughnessy (61st) and Francesca Reid Lloyd (64th) running the team into fifth position overall. The U17 girl’s team had to settle for 14th, with Izzy Broughton (117th), Billie Barbour (124th), Ashleigh Campbell (127nd) and Georgie Hay (128th) making up the scoring four. Harriers’ U13 boy’s team could not outdo their age category counterparts, but solid runs from Sam Cohen (30th), Oscar Millard (46th), Kingsley Ezek (87th) and Ethan Vinton (131st) lifted the club to eighth overall.
Ed Olsen, who claimed a bronze medal at the South of England Cross Country Championship earlier this month, was once again the standout performer in the U15 boy’s team, finishing in 20th place. The team would ultimately finish 11th, with Billy Black (100th), Feysel Nadew (124th) and Nathan Bekele (139th), closing the scoring quartet. Although Harriers could not muster a full team in the U17 men’s race, the club’s leading individual was Merhawi Yemane who finished 74th. Harriers were also unable to close a team in the senior women’s competition, but there were strong individual performances from Julia Wedmore (95th) and Penel Cummings (317th).
After a disappointing performance at the Southern xc championship, Harriers’ senior men went some way to making amends by finishing 18th out of 79 clubs at Sunderland. Herne Hill’s scoring six were Jeff Cunningham (133rd), Tim Elsey (140th), Mike Cummings (158th), Simon Coombes (271st), Keith Newton (329th) and Deron Fagan (409th.
Away from cross country, a string of Harriers’ track athletes were in action at the England Athletics U15/U17/U20 indoor championships in Birmingham and the British University and Colleges Sport (BUCS) championships, also indoors, in Sheffield. Nottingham University student Katie Snowden won a gold medal at the BUCS event by four hundredths of a second, clocking 2.10.63 in her 800-metre final. With 100 metres to go, Snowden sneaked through a gap to the left of Carolyn Plateau, the then leader, and burst ahead. Plateau came back in the home straight but could not quite catch Snowden. Meanwhile, Jessie Knight won a fine 400-metre bronze in 54.97, her fastest indoor time. Lewis Lloyd missed out on making the 800 metres final by two hundredths of a second after clocking 1.54.69 in his semi-final.
At the junior indoor championship, leading performers were Michelle Obijiaku (third in the shot with a personal milestone of 11.57m), Denisha Marshall-Brown (third in the U15 women’s shot, also with a lifetime best of 10.11m, and fifth in the U15 women’s 60m), and Kishon Allen (fifth in the U15 men’s 60m).
On the road, James Mason made a welcome return to racing with a time of 73.44 at the Tunbridge Wells half-marathon, which was good enough for eighth place. Robert Edwards clocked 17:03 and was second overall at the Brockwell parkrun, Matt Donovan ran a 17.26 personal best at the Dulwich event for third place, while Cathy Ansell continued to edge her way back towards racing after illness with a time of 17.38 to win the Richmond parkrun.