After a year of no national cross country championships due to Covid restrictions, Herne Hill Harriers were able to resume their usual strong attendance and representation at the English Cross Country Relays in a very windy Berry Hill Park in Mansfield on Saturday.
This event is always a festival of the highest level of club competition with a good number of internationals present, including a couple of Tokyo Olympians in the senior women’s race, so to come home with high team placings is a great achievement and to win medals is immense. Herne Hill’s Under 15 boys team managed to do just this as they claimed silver medals in their race, only five seconds behind the winning team.
Harriers were represented in almost all of the age groups. In addition to a superb second place U15 boys result, Herne Hill teams placed ninth U13 boys, 17th U15 girls, 20th senior women, 42nd U13 girls, 50th U20 men, 54th senior men and 55th U17 men, with B teams also racing in some age categories.
The highlight was undoubtedly the U15 boys placing second of 65 complete teams as they did themselves and their coach James McDonald proud on the day. On first leg Joshua Lee-Baum handed over in a good seventh clocking 6:39 around the 2km undulating lap. Fabien Whitelock took over and ran an excellent second leg to move into a medals position, completing his stint in third place in 6:49. English Schools 800m champion Keeran Sriskandarajah set off in pursuit of the leaders and at the end of a strong run crossed the line in second place, his 6:49 falling just yards shy of the gold medals. Harriers illustrated good strength in depth as the leading B team, placing 19th overall, courtesy of Warren Wilson (7:09), Alexander Wilson (7:04) and Freddie Hake (7:19).
The U13 boys team also excelled to finish in the top ten teams, as Dylan Gillies (7:21), Jack McLennan (7:46) and Caspian Holmes (7:15) came home in ninth position, with Holmes moving through from 16th on a good anchor leg. Herne Hill also had a B team in 34th and a C team in 57th of the 65 teams.
The U15 girls were another top twenty team in 17th place, their successful trio being Vivi Marshall (7:35), India Blakey (7:59) and Sophia Sahai (8:09), with a B team placing 28th and a C team 46th of 77 finishers. The U13 girls A team of Sophie Wright (8:46), Sophie Jack (8:31) and Jasmine Nkoso (9:04) finished 42nd of 59 teams, with a B team in 51st and the U20 men, Jacob Alley (10:51), George Rates (10:56) and Sam Camenzuli (10:36) were 50th. The latter raced a bigger lap of 3km.
From a senior age group perspective there were frustrations, but outweighed by the positives. Herne Hill fielded their youngest ever senior women’s squad with U20 Poppy Craig McFeely running a very good first leg for the A team (10:29), then U23 Alexandra Brown (10:29) on second stage moved through from 23rd to sixth on a storming leg.
Last leg runner Charlotte Davies (11:47) was unfortunate as she looked likely to finish the team in 13th or 14th until sustaining a calf strain at the bottom of the final hill in the last quarter of a mile of a 3km lap. Davies was close enough to the finish to hobble in, but lost around 30 seconds and 6 places as the team nevertheless held onto a top twenty placing.
The women’s B team with more U23s Annabel Hobday (11:17) on first leg and Ella Newton (11:56) on third leg, with Hannah Edwards (11:47) running second, also ran very well to collectively place 37th of 106 full teams. Jemima Hayward Bhika (12:51) ran first leg for an incomplete C team.
In the final race of a very action packed day, Herne Hill’s one senior men’s team placed 54th of 144 complete teams with Mike Cummings (17:13), Andrew Warburton (17:58), Simon Coombes (18:00) and Jeff Cunningham (17:48). Their stages comprised two laps of the 2.5km circuit, so each man ran 5km per leg.