National Cross Country Relays silver medals for Herne Hill under 20 women in Mansfield

Photos from Mansfield 2019 & 2012 – 7 years apart Alex and Saskia on medals podium

Herne Hill Harriers were well represented at the National Cross Country relay championship in a very wet Berry Hill Park in Mansfield on Saturday. This event is always a real eye opener and featured a British Doha World Championship athlete in the senior men’s race along with many of the best distance runners in the country in all age groups in one of the biggest and best events on the athletics calendar. Herne Hill always regard these relays as a priority race on the big stage, ranked above the more local fixtures which some rival clubs prefer to target.

Harriers athletes were racing in almost every age group through the day, with pride of place going to the national silver medal winning team in the under 20 women’s race at the start of day’s proceedings and during the worst of the wet and windy weather.

Katie Balme put herself on the line on first leg, despitelittle recent training after injury and her 26th place set up Alexandra Brown and Saskia Millard to chase down those in front of them on the remaining legs in awesome fashion. Balme clocked 9:43 for the slippery and muddy 2.5km circuit. Brown then overtook no less than twenty teams as her time of 8:44 was one of the fastest of the race, with Millard then chasing magnificently on the final stage moving up from sixth to second with 8:46. Millardso nearly got there in her chase for the gold medals, as Herne Hill finished a tantalising three seconds behind the gold medal team from Wolverhampton and Bilston.

The Herne Hill under 13 athletes in both the boys and girls races were also excellent and were equally frustrated as both teams finished fourth, superb results in such strong national competition, but so close to the team medals.

The boys were led off by Josh Lee-Baum who was sixth on first leg with 7:11, handing over to Oak Buchan who ran the fifth best time of the second leg runners, 7:21 to hand over in fifth place. The anchor leg was run by Keeran Sriskandarajah who came home in fourth place as the boys did themselves proud on the day. A Herne Hill B team placed 28th of 79 complete teams to finish.

The under 13 girls were even closer to the bronze medals, falling just one second short of the podium. Eva O’Hanlon ran first leg, clocking 8:01, followed by Lily-Rose Brown whose time of 7:56 moved up from 18th to third with the third quickest split time on her stage. Sophia Sahai was then so narrowly beaten to the finish line in a great battle with the last leg runner from Stockport Harriers, but it wasn’t quite to be. Fourth in the country is nevertheless an amazing achievement for these girls and Sahai in recording 7:54 was also third fastest on her leg in the race. Here the Herne Hill B team also finished a very good 16th and a C team 52nd:

The under 15 boys A team finished 23rd, with the B team 60th, the under 15 girls A team were 32nd and the B team 86th, while the under 17 men’s team placed 74th. Maisie Collis ran a good first leg in the under 17 women’s race, but was the sole representative from the club in this category.

The senior teams enjoyed their big race experience with a fine top 30 placing for the senior women’s team thanks to Sarah Grover, Molly Pocock and Julia Wedmore, All three women ran well while they are still working towards their full race fitness following the summer season as they worked their way to 30th of 127 complete teams to finish the race.

The Harriers men’s A team of Angus Butler, Nick Dewar, Andrew Warburton and Brandon Dewar placed 46th of 161 complete teams (that’s how popular this race is!) while Duane Matthews, Simon Coombes, Josh Pewter and Henry Brown combined very well as the B team as they placed 70th overall, also in the top half of an exceptionally strong field.

This was another very successful day at the races for Herne Hill in almost all of the age groups as the relays will have provided a good sharpener before this coming weekend’s Surrey League cross country races which see the women race on Mitcham Common and the men on Wimbledon Common.

Geoff Jerwood