Herne Hill Harriers won a team gold and two individual bronze medals at the South of England cross country championship as Parliament Hill lived up to its fearsome reputation.
Harriers’ U13G squad struck gold in wet and muddy conditions with Alex Brown finishing third, while Saskia Millard won a superb bronze in the U15G race. There were also outstanding individual performances by Ed Olsen (12th in the U17M race) and Karen Ellison (17th senior women).
Brown’s outstanding cross country season continued as she completed the 3km race in 12 minutes, 30 seconds – 13 seconds adrift of the winner, City of Portsmouth’s Josie Czura. Eloise O’Shaughnessy (seventh) and Kayak Wilks (13th) were not far behind, with Clarissa Nicholls closing the counting quartet in 17th.
Saskia Millard matched Brown’s achievement in the U15G race, finishing a comfortable third in 15.19 in her 4km race. The U15G squad, however, missed out on a team medal as they ended fourth, despite the best efforts of Kate Brown (28th), Daisy Setyabule (38th) and Zoe Tompkins (39th).
Harriers’ U13B were eighth team, with Turkay Korkmaz (18th) and Oscar Millard (23rd) the pick of the scorers. The U15B finished 11th as Paul Burgess (30th) led the team home. Although Harriers did not field a full U17M team, Ed Olsen once again impressed in finishing 12th in 21.44 for the 6km course.
With underfoot conditions worsening, Ellison (17th) led the senior women home in 33.51, with Julia Wedmore (97th) also running well over the 8km course. Sam Whiting (195th) and Jessica Winfield (288th) completed the counting foursome, with Harriers finishing 21st team.
In the final race of the day, the senior men’s 15km event, Harriers finished seventh, a frustrating 22 points behind Aldershot, Farnham and District AC in fourth. Irishman Mark Dooley led the Herne Hill charge in 30th in 54.30, with Alan Barnes second man in 51st. John Kettle (68th), Tim Elsey (83rd), Simon Coombes (97th) and Jonny Muir (194th) made up the six-man counting squad.
Following the cross country, Harriers’ annual presentation evening was held at St Boniface Social Club with Jade Johnson – Commonwealth and European silver medallist – distributing the awards and taking part in a question-and-answer session with 130 guests.
Johnson, who has an allergy to sand despite her long jump discipline, spoke of her passion for athletics from the age of eight when she told her mum she wanted to compete in the Olympics. Living in Liverpool at the time, Johnson was confronted by racism, and saw the black American sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner as an example of someone who could be accepted on the world stage for her athletic prowess.
It was this stage that Johnson aspired to, and her dreams were realised when she was selected for the British team for the 2004 Olympics, and made the Olympic final. This achievement was followed by another Olympic final in 2008. When asked who her heroes were, Johnson cited Harriers’ coach Ivor Northey who had introduced her to long jumping and coached her through her teens, and her subsequent coach John Herbert, himself an Olympian.
Tributes were also paid to Stan Allen, a club member for 62 years who died on New Year’s Day aged 79.
Age group award winners were: Katy Ann McDonald (Ron Gobey Trophy for U13G and Joan Allen Cup for U15G); Michella Obijiaku (D. H. Jacobs Trophy for U17W); Katie Snowden ( W.W. Hine Trophy for U20 women); Oscar Millard (Bert Smyth Cup for U13B); Kishon Allen (Smyth Cup for U15B); Fawwaz Okunola (Heywood Shield for U17M); Marvin Popoola (Warman Cup for U20M).
The Northumberland Cup for the best performance by a senior woman went to Aisha Naibe-Wey, while the Edgar Lloyd Trophy recognising the best performance by a veteran woman went to Penel Cummings. The Founders Cup went to Blade Ashby and the E.W. Haley Trophy for best performance by a veteran male to Ben Paviour.
McDonald was a winner again as she scooped the Parsons Trophy that recognises the outstanding achievements of junior cross country runners, while Ed Olsen won the Don Taylor Cup – recognising the same feat as McDonald but for boys. The Bert Jones Trophy for the best 5000m senior men’s performance went to Jorge Raso Gea, while Snowden was honoured for a second time as the club’s fastest female 800m runner with the Vicky Norris Trophy.
The final four awards were: the Boomerang Trophy for the fastest male 800m runner to Michael Dyer; the Mike Maynard Trophy for best male performance in cross country to Lewis Lloyd; the David Wheeler Memorial Awards to best young throwers to Dejean Marshall Brown and Obijiaku; and the Akplara Trophy to the young athlete displaying strong club spirit and sportsmanship to Ade Adeniran.