Saturday’s English National Cross Country Championship took place at the iconic venue that is Parliament Hill Fields on a very cold, but gloriously sunny day and witnessed an individual racing performance from Lewis Lloyd of historic proportions in the context of his club, Herne Hill Harriers. Fantastic is a much over used adjective, but Lloyd’s exceptional seventh placing in the senior men’s field of 2,300 finishers genuinely merits that description. This was the first time since top international athlete of his day Don Taylor in 1963 that a Herne Hill athlete has finished in the top ten in the senior men’s race, with a number of other notable internationals having raced in the intervening years.
Lloyd has pedigree from his junior days, having represented Great Britain under 20s at the World Cross Country Championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2013 almost five years ago and now approaching the age of 24 his senior racing is starting to match his exploits from younger days. In his own, probably quite accurate estimation Saturday’s result was probably his best yet in any athletics event he has so far contested and will certainly have raised a few eyebrows of those in the know.
Racing indoors and for the second weekend in succession another star 23 year old Harrier Katie Snowden was racing against international opposition over 1500m. Live on BBC 2 television, the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow was the scene of Snowden’s latest big race and her tenth place in a time of 4.12.20 in a very crowded field for indoor racing provided her with further important big race experience as she rises towards the highest of levels.
Also competing indoors at the England indoor age group championship in Sheffield were two of Herne Hill’s junior internationals, long jumper Ore Adamson and sprinter Kristal Awuah. Adamson leapt to her season’s best of 5.85m to claim a national silver medal in the under 17 women’s category, defeating the top ranked UK athlete of the year to date, but falling 6cm shy of the winning jump on the day. Awuah meanwhile placed third in a very competitive final of the under 20 women’s 60m, a race which saw an Irish winner in an English championship. Both athletes will see their excellent indoor performances as strong stepping stones towards the all-important outdoor summer season to come.
Back in the mud of Parliament Hill there were also some excellent individual and team performances for Herne Hill athletes in the younger age groups. Foremost amongst these was Poppy Craig-McFeely, who produced the run of her life to finish a magnificent tenth in the under 15 girls race. Craig-McFeely committed from the outset at the sharp end and grew stronger as the race progressed. Also making the top 100 and contributing to a tenth team placing, Isobel Penniceard finished in 87th
The under 13 girls race saw the Harriers team performance of the day. Led by the excellent Phoebe Bowen, the girls were unlucky to finish an agonising one point behind the third placed team to just miss out on team bronze medals. Bowen placed 20th of more than 450 finishers, and was backed up superbly by Johanna Nicholson, 40th, Hebe Hunter, 61st and Stella Thomas, 63rd.
Christo Chilton has been another beacon of consistency this winter and still has another year in the under 13 boys age group. Chilton ran a typically brave race to finish a very good 22nd, leading the Herne Hill team to 22nd team position. The under 15 boys team have struggled following a very good start to the season. Hampered by illness and a shoe loss for last year’s under 13 winner, Jaden Kennedy, there were no top 100 finishers and a 28th overall team placing. Along with at least two more of his club mates, Kenndey gallantly finished the race with one shoe in his hand. Most of these under 15s are at the bottom of their age range this season and will be looking to bounce back next winter.
The under 17 women’s race saw Olivia Stillman, produce her best performance of the winter, running a really well paced race to finish in an excellent 32nd position. With three other scorers, the team secured 12th team position, while Harriers under 20 women’s team secured an excellent ninth placing in their race. Zoe Tompkins worked her way through the field to finish 44th, with Ella Newton 57th and the team was completed by Tatiana Cooke in 105th. All three athletes are first year under 20s which bodes well for coming years in this age group and we then hope into the senior ranks.
The Herne Hill men’s team led by Lloyd’s wonderful run placed a decent 20th, with the other team scorers being Jeff Cunningham 222nd, John Tayleur 289th, Simon Coombes 300th, Ben Paviour 306th and John Kettle 332nd. A further 13 finishers in Herne Hill colours in the huge field were Andrew Warburton 368th, Jack Brotchie 458th, Matt Robertson 532nd, Gavern Newsum 712th, Jonathan Ratcliffe 777th, Fraser Hagell 821st, Ed Turner 877th, Richard Keeble 878th, Dan Hallam 924th, Deron Fagan 930th, Sam Knight 988th, Trevor Chilton 1,062nd and James Ward 1,179th of the 2,300 finishers.
Prior to the men’s race the Herne Hill women’s team, who like the men were short of some A team regulars finished a very solid 22nd of 84 complete teams. Northern Ireland athlete Katie Moore travelled from her study base in Loughborough to make a welcome return to the team and ran superbly to place 62nd of 1100 finishers. Ever present team captain Karen Ellison was next in 121st, followed in by Stacy Wheat and Lara Langston completing the scoring quartet in 256th and 288th respectively and backed up by Monika Gajek 373rd, Shannon Sinclair 422nd and Evie McDermott 556th.
Returning to indoor athletics, competing at the combined South of England Masters and Veterans AC Champs at Lee Valley was M55 athlete Gary Ironmonger who achieved a double treble, winning from the front his 800m in 2.17.12, likewise his 1500m in 4.45.32 and he then rounded off with a sub 10 minute 3000m as 1st M55 in a combined age group race against younger veterans. Ironmonger therefore claimed gold medals in each of the three events in each of the two championships up for grabs and looks forward to the British Masters Championship in March.
Congratulations also to Allan Long, who had a really good day at the South of England Masters indoor championships, running his 60 m in 9.09, followed by 3.87m in the long jump and then a superb UK all-time age group record of 8.51m in the triple jump in his new 75-80 age category. Long enjoyed a well deserved Guinness or two in celebration. Great job!