With the pandemic continuing to present challenges for athletics competition providers it was last weekend the turn of cross country to return in a revised form to meet social distancing guidelines. The venue for the first England Athletics pilot cross country races was Lloyd Park in Croydon on an afternoon of strong winds and occasional horizontal rain and the event was the East Surrey League race which was run around a 4km lap for the young athletes and a new 5km lap with small groups of runners seeded according to predicted times starting in waves at intervals of three minutes, fastest first.
The boys of Herne Hill Harriers emerged as team winners across the three male young athletes age groups with four Harriers athletes in the first ten and the senior women notched up another victory, with the girls team placing third and the senior men fourth.
Under 15 boys Robin Bebbington and Oak Buchan led their team in second and third place overall with both clocking 15:18 for the twisting 4km circuit. Fellow under 15s Alexander Spaul (16:07) and Fabien Whitelock (16:14) were seventh and tenth respectively to complete the winning scoring team.
The girls team finished third with U17W Phoebe Bowen (16:27) racing well for second place and well backed up by U15G Vivi Marshall (17:20) tenth, another U15G Rosalie Laban (18:05) 15th and U13G Orla Carroll 16th (18:07). Carroll was second of the under 13 girls to finish based on times.
The individual results from the senior race show Herne Hill’s Mike Cummings eighth in 17:50 and Chris Busaileh tenth with 18:08. Steph McCall, whose marathon preparations were wrecked by wholesale race cancellations came 23rd overall and was first woman by a clear margin with her 19:09. Just behind her Bryn Reynolds was 25th (19:18), followed in by Jonathan Boyle 39th (20:14), Julia Wedmore who was fifth woman (21:11) and M50 Trevor Chilton (21:41) ahead of Karen Ellison (21:59) who was seventh woman.
A feature of the Harriers turnout in Lloyd Park was the opportunity to race given to a good number of athletes who had not been in the club teams for the 5km road race in Wimbledon a week earlier. Our women’s team win was therefore an illustration of our current strength in depth in our ranks as Grace Leyland backed up McCall, Wedmore and Ellison superbly placing 16th woman and 3rd under 20 in her cross country debut clocking 23:05.
Saturday also saw an excellent performance from Olivia Zeltner at the Endurancelife Suffolk Trail “Marathon” where she finished in fourth place overall and was the winning female athlete. Her time of 3:37.32 was strong running on a very challenging and over distance course.
Richard Keeble ran the half marathon and Lara Langston and Shannon Sinclair the 10km races that were all part of the same event.