Snowden Leads Herne Hill to National Road Relays Silver Medals while Tighe is champion Down Under

Herne Hill Harriers club women’s teams arrived at the National Road Relays Championship at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday with new confidence as the recently crowned South of England Champions. However this was to be another step up in quality as this is an event that is one of the biggest distance racing days on the British road running calendar

As with South of England team medals, Harriers have been striving to achieve at this fixture for a number of recent years and with a best team position of 11th there were high hopes of top 5 at least on this occasion. At last the stars aligned as the best six Herne Hill women based in this country on current form and fitness all combined wonderfully to produce a phenomenal A team performance and win national silver medals and were only beaten by an exceptional Leeds team who broke their own course record. 

Steph McCall, who had been a late withdrawal from the winning Southern relay team due to illness ran a superb first leg, a long stage around the undulating Sutton Park of 8.9km. First leg is traditionally stacked with international athletes as the top clubs seek a strong start and other clubs with less team depth often put their best runner out first, so McCall’s excellent eighth place at the end of her stint timed at 30.03 (tenth fastest long leg overall) was the start the South London club needed to set up a challenge.

Irishwoman Jessica Craig, the London Cross Country champion from last winter ran well to overtake three women on the second leg, a short stage of 5.1km as she recorded the third best time on this leg and the 11th fastest overall on the day, clocked at 18.03.

The fastest overall short stage came on leg three, as Harriers’ GB middle distance international, Commonwealth 1500m finalist Katie Snowden took over in fifth place and handed over at the end of her fabulous run in the lead at the halfway stage of the six stage relay race. Snowden looked determined, composed and strong throughout her race and her time of 17.02 was not only the best of the race, but was more than a minute quicker than anyone else on the leg she actually ran.

Stacey Ormerod had the unenviable in many ways task of leading off on the fourth leg, the second of the two long stages as she had three international athletes in hot pursuit. Although not quite keeping the lead, Ormerod used her experience to do a fine job for her team as her 30.29, the 13th best long leg overall, left the team in third place and still right in the medal hunt with the leading four teams now a long way ahead of the rest.

18 year old Liv Stillman improves with every race and she again ran with great maturity as she paced herself beautifully over the early hills and pulled away from the fourth team and by the end of her run had edged the team back into second. Her 18.00 was third fastest on her leg and the tenth best short stage of the day.

Georgie Grgec was always going to be one of the best anchor leg runners in the race and so it proved. Second best on her leg only behind the runner from the team already ahead, Grgecstrongly consolidated the silver medal placing as her time of 17.54 was seventh fastest of all short legs on the day.

Amazingly with four of the fastest eleven short leg runners and two of the fastest thirteen on the long stages the Herne Hill A team of six still finished behind Leeds, but the team ran around ten minutes faster than last year’s cumulative time and were backed up by an amazing women’s B team.Sarah Grover (32.42), Ella Newton (19.05), Katie Kedward (20.12), Fiona de Mauny (33.41), Katie Balme (20.08) and Zoe Tompkins (19.24) were also second among the B teams and placed 13thoverall, a position the A team had only previously bettered on one or two occasions and with such a strong squad there is additional cause to feel confident of further progress. 

Before this on the same Saturday, as they are tenhours ahead of us in Sydney, the Athletics Australia track and field championship saw Herne Hill’s Chloe Tighe win the women’s 1500m national title with a beautifully executed victory in 4.11.77, hitting the front with a lap to go and quickly creating a gap over her rivals which ultimately proved to be unassailable.

Currently a full time primary school teacher in Dubai, Tighe lived in Tooting for two years in 2016 and 2017 and her return to competitive athletics after several years of “retirement” was first triggered by her participation at the Tooting Common parkrun and then joining HHH. She is still coached remotely from London to Dubai by Harriers’ Geoff Jerwood and plans to return to Tooting in July and August with the aim of attaining the World Championship qualifying time which as the new crowned Australian champion would give her automatic selection for Doha later this year.

In a momentous weekend for the club, another member in superb overseas action was MichaelaObijiaku, who set a new Herne Hill Harriers club women’s hammer record of 54.66m with her PB on Saturday in Towson MD USA. With yet another great performance, the Harriers women are on fire all around the world at the moment!

Herne Hill’s male runners were also in running action in good numbers on the weekend. The men’s 12 stage road relay team did well to place 37th in Sutton Park with great thanks to Andrew Clarke, Mike Cummings, Simon Coombes, Angus Butler, Jeff Cunningham, Andrew Warburton, Carl Delaney, James Ward, Matt Cartwright, Keith Newton, Bryn Reynolds and Ed Crowther for ensuring good representation in a race where other local clubs Hercules Wimbledon, Thames Hare & Hounds, Blackheath & Bromley and Belgrave Harriers were all unable to field men’s teams this year.

In longer distance racing Jack Brotchie (73.10) and M40 Raj Paranandi (74.32) both ran great PBs at the Paddock Wood Half Marathon, while at the Rotterdam Marathon Matt Robertson ran a PB 2.35.45 (another good Aussie run last weekend) and M45 Robin Jones was only a minute outside his lifetime best with 2.39.37.

The stand out run was Jonathan Ratcliffe, who was fourth M50 in the Rotterdam race with his 2.42.40, which currently sees him at the top of his age group in the UK marathon rankings for 2019. It is now the spring marathon season and at the Manchester Marathon M40 Rob Peacock ran 2.47.32 for a PB, Jon Key, also M40, ran 2.50.40, Rob Edwards ran 2.56.22 and Nick Clarke ran 3.05.02.

Young athletes from the club were in track and field action at the Lee Valley open on Saturday and the Hercules Wimbledon hosted young athletes open meeting on Sunday. Highlightsincluded Harvey Kande (U15B) after having his first winter equalling his 800m PB with 2:09.75 and then on Sunday improved his 1500m to 4:25.91 (within 5 seconds of the English Schools qualifying time).

On Saturday there were also new 800m PB’s for Freddie Hake with 2.28.96 and Izzy Perry running 2.52.04. On Sunday nearly everyone doing the 1500m had huge improvements in their PB’s with Lily Rose Brown (U13G) and Charlie Maiden (U13B) setting new marks in the 800m with 2.28.60 and 2.46.88 respectively. Also on Sunday Charlie Krammer (U17M) ran a good 4.18.56 in among some very competitive 1500m races.

Geoff Jerwood