Fabulous National Team Bronze Medals for Herne Hill Under 15 Girls

National Cross Country Relays, 4th November 2017, Berry Hill Park, Mansfield

Now established as one of the great events of the domestic winter calendar, I would recommend these cross country relays to anyone who has not given them a go. The Club covered more age groups than it has ever done, with the relentless high level consistency of our U15G team providing the one podium finish. In many respects, it was a day when our leg two runners did a lot of damage, scything through their respective fields.

Not as many podium finishes as in previous years, but very few other clubs would have matched the number of top 10 finishes that we enjoyed, demonstrating the depth and quality of the HHH squad across the age groups. In summary our A teams finished:

U13B 6th

U13G 10th

U15B 7th

U15G 3rd

U17W 5th

U20W 10th

SM 47th

SW 26th

The relays adopted their usual format. Sharp hills and tight bends with some mud in places but generally fast going underfoot.  Perfect tfor the track runner who doesn’t fancy much else, and the budding cross country athlete. The first leg is around 40-50m shorter than subsequent legs, hence as a proxy 8 seconds should be added to first leg times to establish an equivalent performance.

This is the last of the relays and the perennial headaches for team managers trying to pick their best three or four (from very competitive squads) during the relay season should now be behind us, as events from now on take the form of head to head cross country races.

Fortunately, with the U15G’s team, the selection was spot on, and all three girls in the A team produced excellent performances. Poppy Craig-McFeely justified her selection for the A team with a really well judged opening leg. Holding back in the early stages, Poppy moved through the field very well, using her strength on the hills.  She finished in 17th place, 7min 24, whilst Eva Holland produced a solid opener for the B team, 7min 36, to finish in 26th position. This set up Isobel Penniceard on leg two, who once again produced a storming relay leg to underline the massive improvements she has made. Along with Poppy, consistent hard work in training is reaping its rewards for Isobel, and the hills of Berry Hill Park must have seemed like molehills compared to the weekly slog up Streatham Common. Handing over to Maisie in 3rd position, 7min 33, Maisie took the pressure in her stride, befitting of an English Schools 1500m finalist. Maisie (7min 35) kept her head and had a bit in the tank for the final undulating straight, ensuring a fantastic 3rd position of the 101 complete teams. The B team did really well to finish 25th, and 4th of the B teams overall.

Our strong U17W squad produced our next best-placing finishing 5th. Although missing two of our top performers, Charlotte Alexander and Olivia Stillman, the team of three demonstrated the depth we have in this age group. Eimear Griffin ran the highly competitive opening leg, 9min 22, to finish in 17th position. Katie Balme underlined once again what a great team member she is, and used her strength on the hills to work through to 9th position, running 9min 27. This left Alex Brown, so often the stalwart of the final leg in our medal winning teams, to move the team up to 5th place. The gaps ahead were too great to make further inroads. Our B team finished a commendable 32nd,, and included Lily Newton’s 9min48 opening leg.

As our athletes gave their all, we remembered the tragic loss of two young women who had contested last year’s race, Stacey Burrows and Lucy Pygott. We will never forget them.

The U13B produced one of the Club’s performances of the day. Christo Chilton, who now seems like a veteran of the squad but remains bottom of age (I wish I had those anti-ageing properties) ran an excellent first leg, well-judged and moving past those who’d overcooked it in the first kilometre. With a strong aerobic base from his swimming, Christo is someone who generally gains rather than loses in the second half of the race. His 7min 02 secured 7th place.  Running like a boy possessed, Jacob Taylor took over from Christo and produced what was easily his best run so far, when it mattered.  He stormed through form 7th to 2nd on leg 2, 7min 10. When asked whether the team were seriously medal contenders I had though not, but on the evidence of this performance we were fully in contention. Zak Crowther had the unenviable task of taking over from Jacob, and ran a solid 7min 37, to bring the team home in 6th of the 97 teams.

Not too far behind the U13’s finishing position were the U15B’s team. As noted before, this squad is brimming with talent, and contains many who are bottom of age, including the all-conquering U13 squad form last year. Charlie Krammer continued his excellent season with a 6min45 opener, finishing in 20th position. The opening leg was ‘won’ in 6min 27, hence runners were crossing the line at a rate of >1 per second. This set Jaden Kennedy up perfectly for leg 2. When Jaden is on fire (as he normally is) there are few finer sights in young athletes’ distance running. Onlookers somehow knew that the guy who’d won the mini marathon was to be unleashed, and there were murmerings amongst the spectators in the woods as the lad was unleashed. Incredibly, with a 6min 35 clocking, he took the team into the lead. But the final leg was loaded, and Jacob Harrison committed early on with the aim of retaining a podium position. He slipped to 7th running 7min 10, but as always gave 100% for the team. All three boys will be U15’s next year, as will Ben Harrison who ran 7min 27 for the B team, following Luke Stevens-Cox’s 7min 05 and Jacob Alley’s 7min 17 for 46th place of the 106 teams.

Two teams at the opposite ends of the spectrum, U13G and U20W both finished in 10th position. The U13’s are another very strong age group which will mature over the winter and become serious contenders in the majors post-Christmas. Stella Thomas led the charge for the A team, running a well-judged first leg to finish in 15th place, 7min 43. Not far behind was Johanna Nicholson, 7min 54, who was 23rd. Phoebe Bowen ran a well-judged race on leg 2 to take the team up to 7th place, 8min 06, and Annabella Bailey anchored the team to 10th place, 8min 20, of the 104 finishing teams.

For the first time we fielded an U20W team, and it was great to see three athletes competing who have come up through the age groups, and should make an impact on our SW team. Ella Newton produced a solid opening leg for 20th position, 9min 17. Zoe Tompkins, as with a number of our other leg 2 runners, ripped through the field taking the team to 10th place, 9min 24. Tatiana Cooke completed the final leg and held 10th position, 10min 07.

Well done to all athletes, coaches and parents for your fantastic commitment. It looks like it will be another bumper winter season.  Roll on the next cross country.

Keith Newton, 5 November 2017

As a PS, This was also the first time Herne Hill have fielded complete teams in both the Senior Women’s and Senior Men’s races on the same day, as in past years at this event it has been one or the other or neither. The women finished in very good twenty-sixth of 128 complete teams in their race. Chloe Tighe was eigtheenth on first leg in 10.27, Fiona de Mauny then brought the team in twenty-sixth at the end of the second stage with 11.40 and then although slightly slower, the run of the day in our team belonged to Steph Mitchell who in her first race after some time out maintained this position to the finish in 11.58.

Herne Hill men placed forty-seventh of an incredible 178 complete teams of four, illustrating what a superb race this is and why clubs should be aspiring to take senior teams to Mansfield. Lewis Lloyd got off to an excellent start, handing over to M45 runner Simon Coombes in thirteenth in 15.43 for the undulating and twisting 5km course. Coombes hung in to reach the halfway point in the race in thirty-second in 17.34. Another veteran, Deron Fagan answered the call to help his team and clocked 19.15 to finish in forty-eighth after three stages and the team was completed in forty-seventh by Andrew Warburton with a split of 17.55.

This was an excellent day all round for the Herne Hill athletes, coaches and parents who demonstrated the usual great commitment in making the trip to Mansfield and Harriers now look forward to what looks set to be another bumper winter cross country season.

Geoff Jerwood