Herne Hill Harriers athletes enjoyed another medal winning day at the South of England Cross Country Championship at the iconic race venue that is Parliament Hill. Harriers’ successes spanned the age categories, with team silver medals in both the under 13 and under 15 girls’ races, while the senior women placed third, the first time the club has ever won team medals of any colour in this age group.
Two club athletes made the podium as individuals as well as collecting team medals. Our successful under 15 girls’ team was led by a very gutsy run from Alex Brown who finished second to add to her remarkable and ever increasing major championship medals in her young running career to date.
Before Alex had raced, another Harrier had placed an excellent third in the under 13 girls’ race as Lulu King’s 800m track speed at the finish took her to within inches of silver, albeit bronze was the verdict on the line. Other Harriers runners who placed in the top ten in their races were Jaden Kennedy, who was fourth in the under 13 boys’ event, only one second shy of a podium position, and Stacey Ward, who finished seventh in leading our women to an unprecedented team medal success.
Our team medals roll of honour was: under 13 girls Lulu King 3rd place, Rosie Hammond 19th, Maisie Collis 21st and Jessica Tabraham 40th; under 15 girls Alex Brown 2nd, Eimear Griffin 13th, Katie Balme 15th and Clarissa Nicholls 32nd; senior women Stacey Ward 7th, Karen Ellison 34th, Katie Moore 72nd and Annes Stevens 75th. The women’s team result was a perfect illustration of the importance of battling for every position to the finish, as the fourth placed team were just one point behind Herne Hill after our own team had missed out by a very narrow margin at last year’s championship at Brighton.
Harriers other complete A teams on the day achieved placings of fifth for our under 17 women, sixth for both our under 13 boys and senior men, twelfth for our under 17 men and fourteenth for our under 15 boys. Although our men’s team “only” placed 6th in the main 6 to score team contest for which the medals are awarded, we displayed impressive strength in depth and were winners of the Odling Smee Trophy for the Surrey club with the highest placed 12th man to finish the gruelling 15km senior men’s course.
In the evening there was a celebration of the club’s achievements during 2015 at a Presentation Evening at Tooting, where the year’s best individual performances and team efforts were rewarded. There was an exceptionally high standard in some of the age categories, indeed one award was shared by two athletes who were both ranked number one in the UK in their respective events last year.
A fitting finale – especially in view of the earlier successes of the day – was provided by the richly deserved award of Life Membership of the club to the amazing coach of our young middle distance athletes, James McDonald. The transformation of our youngsters from also rans to consistent and repeated winners since James took the helm back in 2003 has been truly incredible, and the award criteria of “exceptional and meritorious club service” is a massive under statement when it comes to the contribution made by James.