Cunningham leads Herne Hill men at the double while youngster impress at London Youth Games

Herne Hill Harriers senior runners had the dual challenge of a regional championship event on both days of the weekend, while many of the younger athletes in the club were representing their London borough teams in the London Youth Games Cross Country. Saturday saw the London Cross Country Championship held in conjunction with the Youth Games at Parliament Hill in north London, then on Sunday the South of Thames 5 Miles Team Race took place in Aldershot. 

From a senior team perspective, competitive resources were spread a little thinly across the events as the Herne Hill turnout comprised ten men and seven women on Saturday, followed by four men and four women on Sunday.

There were some missed opportunities. Those who did race on Saturday took the chance to experience the iconic cross country venue which will host the National Cross Country Championship in late February, arguably the biggest race on the club winter season calendar, whilst the Sunday event was one at which team medals could have been claimed with a stronger squad of regulars. This certainly appeared to be the case in the men’s race where three Harriers finishing in the top twenty needed one more colleague of similar standard to have joined them to have potentially brought home team bronze medals. 

The Herne Hill men’s teams were led by their only athlete who ran in both races, as Jeff Cunningham was first man in red and black on Saturday in 37th place and then had a very good run the following day to finish ninth at Aldershot.

The men’s team placed eighth on Saturday and fifth on Sunday. The latter saw three HHH men highly placed and Cunningham’s efforts ensured a complete men’s team of four when he worked his way strongly through the field during laps of the woodland course for a top ten position after having raced hard the day before on the challenging terrain that Parliament Hill offers. 

Behind Cunningham on Sunday there were also strong runs from Jack Dickenson, 16th, the day after he ran two indoor track races for his university team at Lee Valley, Mike Cummings in 18th and Chris de Mauny in 50th.

Harriers women also completed a team of four with Fiona de Mauny 12th and Sue Swaine 15th of the female finishers, supported well by Jemima Hayward-Bhika and Flora di Carlo.

The Herne Hill women finished 14th team on Saturday, led by Karen Ellison in 36th, followed in by more good runs from Hannah Edwards in one of her longest races to date, 57th, Monika Gajek 85th and Martha Reynolds 90th to close the team of four. The men’s scoring four man team after Cunningham on Saturday was completed by Joseph Fenwick 54th, Joe Elliott 62nd and Ross Brown 86th.

Other Herne Hill men’s finishers at Parliament Hill were Jonathan Boyle 146th, Tim Kerr 197th, Trevor Chilton 217th, Tom Irish 244th, Deron Fagan 276th and Ian Jack 317th. Harriers women’s representation on Saturday was completed by Annes Stevens 106th, Alexandra Marginean 192nd and Jessica Winfield 202nd.

In the London Youth Games races there were a good number of well placed Herne Hill athletes, with Caspian Holmes winning an individual medal in second place in the Under 13 boys race. Under 11 boy Edward Cunniffe, Under 13 girl Orla Wright and Under 15 boy Keeran Sriskandarajah all placed fifth in their categories, encouraging results to see them all very prominent in different age groups.

The U15B race saw the strongest Harriers grouping, as Sriskandarajah was ahead of Fabien Whitelock, seventh, Alex Wilson 13th, Warren Wilson 15th, Oak Buchan 22nd and Freddie Hake 29th. Behind Holmes in the U13B race Lucas Heath was 12th and Dylan Gillies 19th, while in the U13G Wright was followed in by Sophie Jack 11th, Florence Mills 20th and Lily Kitto 23rd.

The U15 girls race saw good finishes for Orla Carroll 12th, Vivi Marshall 14th and Lucy Wright 24th, while Sofia Mendes was 12th U11 girl and Robin Bebbington was 23rd in the U17 men’s race.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, the British Masters Athletics Federation held their 10km road race championship at Cyclopark, near Gravesend, at which Jonathan Ratcliffe raced well to place 31st overall across the veteran age groups and prominently placed among the M50s, clocking 36:26 around the undulating circuit. 

Over in the USA, British Junior international Phoebe Anderson placed 124th  in an exceptionally competitive NCAA Division 1 Cross Country Championship Finals in Tallahassee, Florida to add this big race experience to her racing CV. This coming Saturday she will be hoping to secure a place in the Great Britain Under 20 women’s team for next month’s European Cross Country Championship in Dublin as she will be racing in the British Cross Challenge and European Trials races in Sefton Park, Liverpool.

Geoff Jerwood