At the start of the season the South of Thames 5 miles team race was not one of our men’s priority target cross country races, but following an exciting, but ultimately disappointing narrow defeat in the London Championship a week earlier there was a sudden urgency to win some silverware as befits a squad of our quality. With historic shields for the best 4 man and 8 teams up for grabs and despite being up against a strong Kent AC squad we did not disappoint on this occasion and came home from Wimbledon Common with both titles, winning the 4 man shield for the first time since 1976!
At the half way point in the race there was a certain feeling of deja vu, as Kent’s best quartet were narrowly ahead of us on points and the 8 man team race was probably even closer to call. However a strong second lap from almost all of our best 8 brought us home 8 points to the good in the 4 man team race and a rather more comfortable victory in the 8 to score contest.
Individually Chris Busaileh bounced back from an indifferent run the week before to place an excellent 2nd to win his first championship medal since moving to our area and his run led home some great performances by Chris Peach in 7th, Brian Wilder in 9th and Ben Paviour in 14th, the latter just holding off Keith Newton only 3 seconds and one place behind him who led home the rest of our triumphant 8 man team.
Good runs by Tim Elsey in 22nd and Sarwar Khan in 26th virtually assured us a win double, while Sam Knight’s determined finish kept Basil Wallace at bay in much the same way that Ben had fought off Keith’s late charge as Sam closed our team. In the 4 to score competition not only did our A team win, but our B team placed a very good 7th, our C team 11th and a D team placed 24th of 29 complete teams. In the 8 man contest our A team won and our B team placed 6th of 9 teams who closed in and we were the only club to have an 8 man B team as 18 HHH men finished the race.
It was a very good day for the club as we also had the first woman to cross the finish line as Suzie Richards put in a quality run to finish 15 seconds clear of her closest female pursuer and she was well supported by Helen Hadjam, Katy Yarnall and Sarah Allen, who were 8th, 14th and 24th women to finish a fast, but frozen course on a day when you needed to keep moving to keep warm.
Our next team target must now logically be the next South of Thames championship race over a 7.5 miles course on Farthing Down, near Coulsdon on 18th December with men’s titles for the best 6 and 12 man teams as we defend the cup for the latter and aim to win back the prestigious (and enormous) 6 man shield, just in time for Christmas.