On a Richmond Park course that was wetter under foot than is the norm following heavy overnight rain, Herne Hill Harriers men’s cross country team went into the second race in defence of our Surrey League title in third place chasing a relatively small deficit and again with some key men missing from the squad that had won the year before.
Starting the race 45 points behind Kent AC and 23 behind Thames Hare & Hounds, we were happy enough to emerge still within chasing distance of both teams as on this occasion Thames were the victors and HHH turned the tables on early leaders Kent. The scores on the day were THH 215, HHH 239, Kent 281 and cumulatively after two races are THH 431, Kent 475 HHH 478. HHH are still in the title hunt, albeit with much work to do in the remaining two fixtures as we are now 47 points behind Thames and only 3 behind Kent. We must look forward to the next race at Ham Lands on 12th January as an opportunity to put our challenge back into our own hands with a strong turnout on that day and in the final league race in early February.
Although we were lacking one or two sharp end guys we did enjoy an excellent turn out of those available and able to race, with some going beyond the call of duty, none more so than veteran Francis Marsh, who flew in from, and back to Belfast on the day and was in our scoring ten men despite problems with his back. Indeed Francis and Alan Barnes helped to close our scoring team while both carrying injuries as they knew we needed their input to stay in contention. Another who started the race with an injury was Joe Morwood, our lead man from the first league race, but unfortunately a recurrence of his knee pain meant that Joe was unable to complete the course on this occasion.
At the front of our team Richard Henderson, in his first race in a HHH league team had a superb debut with fearless running that saw him mixing it with a quality top ten before eventually leading our team in 11th position. With no runners in the first ten we needed tight packing of our next nine runners to get a decent on the day score and our men obliged, with Mike Cummings 13th, a resurgent Tim Elsey 15th, Ben Paviour 16th on the day after his 40th birthday, another veteran Dave Taylor 17th all came in rapidly behind Rich. With Mohammed Ismail in 23rd we were packing well and with our remaining scorers – Matt Donnery 32nd, Francis Marsh 35th, young Jordan Stokes 37th and Alan Barnes 40th – in the first 40 we had limited the damage for the second time in this league so far this season.
Following a disappointing 19 HHH men at the first league race, our numerical presence on the start line at Richmond was more impressive on this occasion with 28 starters in red and black vests. As a result we had better back up with men of the calibre of veterans David Robinson, 46th and Simon Coombes 53rd unable to score in our team in this race, but as with everybody who toed the line whatever their finishing position, their presence and contribution to the HHH cause was as valued and appreciated as ever.
Having won at the first fixture our under 13 boys will have started as favourites in their race and they did not disappoint with another team win. Led by another fine run by the very young Oscar Millard, who was 2nd under 13 and an impressive 9th overall in the young athletes race which also included the under 15 and under 17 boys. Oscar was supported by a good run also by Kingsley Ezeh, 4th under 13 and Abdul Hakim, who on finishing at the rear of the field received a round of applause from around 200 men who were lined up and about to start their race, as well as the spectators. Our older boys were 2nd in the combined team event for under 15 and under 17’s, with Paul Burgess winning the U15 boys race. The four lads who scored in this team were Paul, who was 4th overall behind three U17’s, Nick Clanchy, a U17 who was 5th overall, Tom Singholden, who was 10th in the combined race but 3rd U15 boy and Callum Barker, who was 12th, but 4th U15.