Katie races on big stage at London Anniversary Games while Herne Hill Young Athletes win Seven English Schools Champs Medals in Birmingham

Herne Hill Harriers athletes enjoyed another epic weekend, with members competing in big events in both London and Birmingham. Star senior athlete Katie Snowden raced at the London Anniversary Games Diamond League meeting in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, together with two young sprint relay teams who took part in the Club Connect races on the iconic track. On Friday and Saturday no less than twenty eight young athletes were in Birmingham for the English Schools Championship, for most their biggest meeting of the season. They didn’t disappoint, with PB performances featuring four gold medals, one silver and two bronze over a very successful couple of days of non-stop athletics.

The only HHH club running record to fall over the weekend was set was in arguably the biggest race of them all, as Snowden​ smashed her PB and her own senior women’s one mile record by almost fourteen seconds. In one of the main feature TV events of the afternoon with Laura Muir’s British record attempt, Snowden’s time of 4.25.89 placed her thirteenth in a world class field. Her official 1500m split en route to the mile was 4.06.39, only just outside her recent PB for that distance and this will count as a second qualifying mark for next year’s Commonwealth Games, for which England team selection is a possibility.

It is wonderful to see one of our Herne Hill athletes who has come through the club ranks from the age of twelve now competing on this sort of stage. We may dare to hope that some of our athletes who followed in Snowden’s footsteps competing at the English Schools Championship may also one day progress to this level or beyond. Striking a nice balance of the athletics disciplines and age groups, Harriers’ four gold medals were won by a sprinter, a middle distance runner, a long jumper and a thrower, one in a senior age group, two in the intermediate girls category and one junior boy.

Kristal Awuah, although still a schools athlete, has already won a national title in the under 20 women’s age group and broken the club senior women’s 100m record this season, so started as favourite to win the senior girls event in Birmingham. Awuah duly won both her heat and final to claim her place on top of the podium, her winning time in the final of 11.65 being her second fastest and also the second fastest ever run by a Herne Hill Harriers female member.

Alex Brown is no stranger to winning national medals and despite a less than ideal build up to these championships delivered her first English Schools track gold in the inter girls 1500m in 4.31.87, having won silver in the same age group last year and in the junior girls race two years ago. Brown is a consummate racer, something that is not always easy to coach and a joy when an athlete possesses this as an innate skill. Brown’s collection of national championship medals holds an astonishing total of ten individual medals and twelve club team national medals including road and cross country relays and still at the tender age of sixteen!

Ore Adamson, like Awuah, went into her event with golden expectations and in an exciting inter girls long jump final she prevailed by just one centimetre, with third place only 5cm behind her. Adamson’s best jump of the day was measured at 5.88m, 10cm below her recent PB and a mark which proved to be just sufficient to hold her nearest challengers at bay.

The fourth, the youngest, but by no means least of Harriers’ London Schools team gold medallists was junior boy Andre Parker in the shot put. Parker produced the performance of his life to date to throw a big PB of 13.93m, a mark that by contrast won him gold by almost 30cm and elevates him to second in the national age group rankings, just 1cm below an athlete who placed fourth in the final in Birmingham.

Charlotte Alexander won the only silver medal from among the Herne Hill competitors, racing for Surrey Schools in a high quality inter girls 3000m. In any other year Alexander’s exceptional run would have earned her gold, but despite a very valiant front running attempt to defeat her strongest rival, she eventually had to give way to a winner who set one of the fastest times in the long history of these championships. Indeed Alexander’s time of 9.34.05 was the third fastest ever in this event. Unfortunately for her, this also makes it the fastest time not to win a gold medal, but this was a great performance.

From the same training group as Alexander and also representing the Surrey Schools team, Mollie O’Sullivan claimed a bronze medal in the senior girls 800m in her second fastest time to date of 2.08.55. Harriers’ other athlete on the medals rostrum competed for Buckinghamshire Schools in the I inter boys discus, as Alfred Mawdsley placed third with a best throw on the day of 46.68m to just miss out on a place in the SIAB Schools Home Countries International match next Saturday in Dublin. Selection for the England Schools team of intermediate age group under 17 athletes is reserved for the first two, which means that Brown, Adamson and Alexander will all be representing their country next weekend.

Others who didn’t quite get onto the podium in Birmingham included Maisie Collis, who ran a PB of 4.35.38 in the junior girls 1500m heats and then placed fourth in her final with a run just a fraction slower in 4.35.60 and Monae Winston fourth in the junior girls 100m, while another good fourth placed athlete with a PB time was Cara Russell with her time of 25.11 in the junior girls 200m. Well done to every athlete from the club who qualified for and took part in these championships, a unique athletics experience, and credit too to the coaches who have guided them along the way thus far.

Back at the Olympic Stadium, two young 4 x 100m relay teams from the club were invited to race in the Club Connect sprint relay races on the morning of the Anniversary Games, providing them a rare opportunity to compete at such a venue on the track where the London 2017 World Championships are soon to begin. The Herne Hill under 15 girls team of Cara Russell, Chyna Stewart, Jen’ae James and Michealla Pottinger were third in their relay after having competed at the English Schools within the previous couple of days. Noah Ojumu, Memphis Ayoade, Kai Broadbent and Morgan Lewis formed Harriers’ fifth placed team in the under 15 boys relay with a new PB of 47.18 seconds.

Meanwhile Herne Hill young athletes won the Ebbisham League title for U13/15 boys by finishing second in the final match at Woodcote School on Sunday. This was the seventh time in ten years we have won this league which provides ideal competition for newcomers and regular club athletes. Given that there were clashes with the Club Connect relays as well as the London Youth Games this achievement is all the more meritorious as a team performance. Harriers won one match and came second in two over the course of the three match League season.

On Saturday evening at the BMC Grand Prix meeting at Loughborough Herne Hill club members produced more fine performances. Fiona de Mauny​ improved her lifetime best 800m from 2015 by over a second and her previous best for this season by 2.69 seconds with a great time of 2.09.07 for third in the women’s C race. Chloe Tighe ​finished just one hundredth of a second outside her recent 1500m PB, also placing thirrd in the women’s A race in 4.18.33. In the men’s BMC races it was great to see Lewis Lloyd​ return to racing with a clear win in the men’s 800m F race in 1.53.20 following injury issues, while Mike Cummings​ is – like de Mauny – another athlete in his thirties who broke a PB from two seasons ago with his 3.53.88 in the men’s 1500m D race as he continues to put together a strong series of races.

At the Southern Athletics League at Aldershot it was more about scoring points for the club team, but nevertheless some 1500m PBs were recorded as under 20 Abel Tadesse won the men’s A string race in 4.09.4, backed up by Alex Hobley​ second in the B string with a big PB of 4.16.3. An even bigger PB came in the women’s A string 1500m where Natasha Lodge​ placed second and clocked a great 4.46.2 to improve by a whopping 5.5 seconds.

Eric Sapac​ with 1.57.1 and Feysel Nadew 2.00.5 scored a win double in the men’s A and B 800m races while Jeff Cunningham​ and Sam Knight​ scored a double second place in the 3000m steeplechase with Cunningham’s 10.28.6 being another season’s best, while Knight’s 10.58.0 was a big PB and his first time under 11 minutes. Harriers other event winners were Esther Fuja the women’s A string 200m in 26.0, Jemima Hayward-Bhika the 1500m steeplechase in 6.18.5, Chira Hussey the B 100m and 200m in 12.8 and 26.5 and Steph Mitchell the women’s B string 400m after having placed third in the A 200m, plus in the men’s races Michael Kale won the A 200, in 23.3 and the 4 x 400m relay team. The combined men’s and women’s team again suffered from not being able to fill some events and placed third in what was a strong match for this division.

Geoff Jerwood