The annual pilgrimage to the Southern Road relays at Rushmoor Arena, 19/20 September 2015, once again proved a very successful championship for HHH athletes, at either end of the age spectrum.
Since James McDonald took up the reins as chief coach for the young athletes, the Club has become one of the powerhouses of distance running, regionally and nationally. The red and black vests are feared by our rivals. It was very pleasing to see HHH teams in all six young athlete age groups. In five of the six we had teams in the top ten finishers, and in two age groups we had two teams in the top ten.
In terms of depth, our reputation is rightly feared. The hosts, Aldershot, Farnham and District, secured eight top ten placings in the YA relays, following by HHH with seven. Next come Bracknell, Cambridge and Coleridge and Tonbridge on four, followed by several clubs on three. This suggests we are very much competing with the elite clubs in the South of England, U13 to U17, boys and girls.
Selection for this season’s opener is notoriously challenging, as there is little recent form to go on for many athletes. This was illustrated in the first event of the day, where Maisie Collis ran a superb race to ‘win’ the opening leg, running for the B team. Her time of 11.08 for the testing 3km course ended up being fourth fastest of the day of the 189 runners. Amy Miller ran a storming leg on 2, to move the A team through from 12th to 3rd, but was still behind the B team, who led going into the last leg. Amy’s time ranked her equal 11th fastest. Our respective final leg runners for A and B teams produced solid performances of just under and over 12 minutes, but unfortunately neither secured medals finishing 7th and 5th respectively, plus we had a C team in 30th. This is an age group where we have real depth and quality, as our athletes increase their fitness over the coming weeks.
There were similar issues in the U13 boys race where our B team runner came home ahead of our A team runner on the opening stage. Toby Reynolds’ 11.05 proved to be HHH’s second fastest U13 boy time of the day. However, when Jaden Kennedy hit the tarmac and ripped through the field from 18th to 7th, there was no possibility in this race that the B team (who finished 22nd) would remain ahead of the A. Jaden’s time of 10.41 was the second quickest overall of the 157 runners, and helped his team secure 9th position.
The U15 girls is also one of our strongest age groups. Lily Newton led the A team assault and produced probably her best run in the red and black, coming in fourth on leg one with 10.57 (9th overall quickest). She was closely followed by Eimear Griffin who was fifth in 11.07 (11th overall quickest). Kayah Wilks ran an excellent second leg to take the team to 2nd, 11.19, for 20th overall fastest time of the 211 runners. Unfortunately for Herne Hill, Josie Czura repeated her fastest leg of last year running 10.06, quicker than any of the U17 girls. This gave Portsmouth an unassailable lead, but no one told Lucy Olsen that, and Lucy gave it everything to close the gap to just 8 seconds at the finish. A fantastic second place, backed up by our B team in 8th and C team in 43rd.
Our U15 boys were led off by England cross country international, Mohamed Mohamud. On a high quality leg he finished in 7th with 9.37, and 10th on overall times. Just outside the top twenty times overall, were newcomer Ben Harris, 10.09, who produced a superb run in taking the team from 18th to 9th, and Oscar Millard, 9.58, gained one further place to secure 8th position.
Not to be out-done by her sister, Ella Newton stuck with the lead group of 7 or 8 athletes in the U17 girls’ race, and produced a carbon copy finish of 4th place. Her 10.43 placed her 11th of the 143 runners. Kate Brown, one of the Club’s most consistent performers over the last few years, finished the second leg in 6th position, recording 11.15 for her leg, with Tatiana Cooke coming up against some big guns on the last leg to finish in 11th place.
In a race that was dominated by a very strong Tonbridge quartet, the Herne Hill U17 boys produced a remarkably consistent performance, with their times ranging from 12.45 to 12.57 on the longer 3.85km course. It was great to see Laurie Pope making his debut for HHH in a major championship, backed up by strong running from Abel Tadesse, Paul Burgess and 800m specialist and English Schools’ medallist, Feysel Nadew.
M50s -Veteran Men Over 50
Although Aldershot would not be high on my list of weekends away, and certainly not Louise’s, I nevertheless returned to the Arena on Sunday in the hope that we could defend our M50 title. Running this race has a special poignancy for me, as my mother passed six years ago today, which was just a few days before the race that year. At the time I spoke to Dad and we both agreed I should race. After all, he along with mum had encouraged me so much to take up our wonderful sport, and it is one of the greatest things they have given me.
At 50+ part of the challenge is remaining injury free, and this year we had two new runners in the A team, vs last year’s winning team (albeit one of these, Tom Conlon, did run a very good leg for the B team last year). The format is the same as for the YA races, albeit we do 2 laps of the 3km loop. Tom Conlon led the charge for Herne Hill Harriers and, after a storming first lap of 10.08, finished in third place of the M50 teams, and 14th overall (including M40 teams). His time of 21.21 proved to be 8th fastest M50 time of the day. I took over from Tom, and had the advantage of chasing down the lead teams. Starting off just over 1 minute behind the leaders, I was alarmed to hear ‘the gap is 1 min 10’ after about 1km, and it didn’t close much on my first lap, 10.28. However, a 10.30 second lap (20.58, sixth quickest overall) ensured the lead M50 team, Winchester, were just 3 seconds ahead at the changeover. Dave Robinson, known to us all as Robbo, had said he was ‘pretty fit’ in response to Geoff’s email inviting him to run. If Robbo says that, we know it means one thing, and so it proved. He tore round the 6km course, producing the third quickest time of the day, 20.35. A time that I believe to be a club M50 record for the lap. Gary Ironmonger had agreed to anchor, as we believed his 2.10 800m pace would see of anyone. This was not needed, as Gary extended the lead to an overall winning margin of 2 mins 32 secs, running an excellent 21.08, 7th quickest overall.
Thanks as always to our team managers, parents and supporters for another fantastic weekend.
Senior Men and Women