Southern Cross Country Silver medal for Georgie in Beckenham Place Park 

Photo credit Steve Smythe

For the third successive weekend there was another big race day for Georgie Grgec, this time at the South of England Cross Country Championship in Beckenham Place Park on Saturday.

Grgec claimed the women’s silver medal behind a recent former National Champion and is now the first ever Herne Hill Harriers senior women’s individual medalist in this annual area championship, a proud achievement for both athlete and her club.

A deliberately intense January racing schedule has seen three excellent performances in the month. This will now be followed by a block of training before the World Athletics Cross Country Championships at the end of March in Serbia, where she will be racing for New Zealand. 

In the youngest race of the day, Ed Cunniffe emulated the feat of Grgec in also winning a silver medal at Beckenham. He only lost out on the gold medal in the under 13 boys race by the narrowest of margin in a very tight finish, having run much of his race wearing only one shoe! 

The Herne Hill under 15 boys claimed a set of team bronze medals, with the four team scorers all in the first 29 of 181 finishers. 

The medal winning U15B scoring team was Caspian Holmes sixth, Tommy Clerkin 24th, James Clement-Nash 27th and Leau Roch 29th. They were backed up by a good turnout with Archy Atkinson 64th, Zachary Morris 72nd, Jack McLennan 89th, Alfie Bryan 106th, Noah Turner 120th, Askia Mulimba 157th and Herbert Clark 160th.

Cunniffe led his U13B team to fourth place, the others in the scoring quartet being Luca Boulton 30th, Henry Kucerov 59th and Arnold Duan 67th. Others to finish were Josaih Aldham 97th and Patrick Jacques 170th.

Herne Hill’s senior women were the next highest placed team from the club, finishing seventh. Grgec led the way in second place, then Annie Dalton, in her first cross country season 51st, W40 Karen Ellison 94th and team captain Julia Wedmore 103rd. They were followed in by W40 Suzanne Swaine 114th, Holly Mammatt 171st, Alex Marginean 252nd and team manager Jess Winfield 287th of 362 who completed the tough hilly 8km course. 

The U15 girls team were ninth, courtesy of Florence Mills 32nd, Maeve Minielly 42nd, Lily Kitto 47th and Summer Mackay 149th. The U17 men finished 14th team with Alex Wilson 35th, Daniel Julius 78th, Warren Wilson 95th and Vincent Peake 140th. 

The senior men also finished 14th, but in a six to score contest. The scorers were Andrew Clarke 50th, Ben Warren 66th, M40 Jeff Cunningham 113th, Max Rose 171st, Scott Morrison 173rd and M50 Ben Paviour 200th. Another nine Harriers men completed the course which was around 14km. These were Chris Speed 237th, Tom Irish 279th, Jack Coy 297th, Stephen McLeod 315th, M55 Jonathan Ratcliffe 343rd, M45 Jon Key 375th, Leon Kong 499th, James Breen-Norris 619th and M45 Ian Jack 622nd, with a total of 720 finishers.

The U13 girls, U17 women, U20 women and U20 men’s teams were incomplete, the highest placed individuals among these being Sofia Mendes 18th U13G, Kaitlin Hewitt 22nd U20W, Hebe Hunter 35th U20W, Harry Bell 39th U20M, Isobel McLennan 40th U13G and Isobel Carter 48th U13G.

Over in the USA a couple of HHH Uni athletes were racing indoors to good effect. Both Phoebe Anderson and Annabel Hobday raced one mile for the first time as seniors. Phoebe clocked 4:35.89 to place 8th at the Dr Sander Invitational Columbia Challenge in New York, while Annabel won her mile debut in 4:52.21 at the Robert Platt Invitiational in Houston, Texas, which she then followed with 2:15.87 for 7th in an 800m race. Anderson had run 5:18 as a U15 girl in 2016, so she ran a PB by over 42 sec and her latest time puts her second on the HHH female all time list behind English indoor women’s mile record holder Katie Snowden.

On Wednesday evening Harriers athletes occupied high category placings in the RunThrough Chase the Moon road races in Battersea Park. In the 5km race Alex Jack was fifth overall and first U20 in 16:34, Charlie Wood was 12th and second U20 in 17:08. Lucy Jones in her first race as a Herne Hill Harrier was 14th overall and first female in 17:20. In the 10km race at the same time, Jonathan Ratcliffe was 22nd and second M55 in 36:32, while W40 Leonie Biemolt in 24th ensured that the club provided the winning female in both the 5km and the 10km and was frustratingly close to sub 37 with her PB of 37:02.

The Serpentine Last Friday of the Month 5km road race in Hyde Park saw some strong performances in the older age groups. Paul Calver was the first man in red and black in 19th overall, with his 17:04 seeing him eighth M40. Next was former Commonwealth Games marathon fourth placer from back in 1998, David Taylor, who rolled back the years to clock 17:28 in 33rd overall and astonishingly his time was “only” good for a second place in the M60 category, albeit this will also rank him second in the UK, for now at least. Ratcliffe raced again after Wednesday night and before Saturday’s cross country, with his 17:50 in 40th overall on Friday seeing him third M55. 

On Sunday morning at the Bromley 10km, prolific cross country racer Jenny Nandi turned her hand to road racing and came home first female in a big PB time of 37:09. 

Geoff Jerwood