Herne Hill Harriers and Clapham Chasers hosted the third of four Surrey League cross country fixtures for men, women and young athletes on Mitcham Common on what was an initially cold and foggy, but then clear and dry Saturday.
A very busy day saw action in seven races spanning more than four hours of exciting action and with the final event of the day featuring a very high quality senior men’s field, with the meeting organisers combining well to ensure the proceedings went safely and successfully.
Harriers had a strong turnout in all of the races, with the Under 13 boys and Under 15 girls both emerging as winning teams, with the Under 13 girls placing second, the combined Under 15 and Under 17 boys coming fourth, the senior men sixth and senior women seventh of the A teams.
The U13 boys ran one lap of the main circuit which was a little under 3km. Herne Hill were led emphatically with an individual 1-2 from Caspian Holmes, winning his race just two seconds ahead of team mate Jack McLennan in what was a well fought battle between the two. Backed up by Edward Cunniffe in 11th and Lucas Heath 13th, this quartet claimed the team victory on the day. Others to finish prominently were Will Perry 25th, Alfie Bryan 27th and Felix Joliot 29th.
Earlier in the day the U15 girls also won their team event and were again led by the individual winner as Orla Carroll was the outright winner in a race which also included the U17 women but with the results scored separately. With her closest pursuers being in the older age group, Carroll was twenty seconds ahead of the next U15 girl with a very strong run. The remainder of the scoring four runners packed superbly with Vivi Marshall sixth, Eva O’Hanlon seventh and Grace O’Hanlon eighth. Very good depth was in evidence as the B team placed fifth overall with Rosalie Laban 13th, Martha Brennan 16th, Anna Forster 17th all providing excellent back up.
Herne Hill’s U13 girls came second, courtesy of Sophie Jack in fourth, Florence Mills tenth, Lily Kitto 11th and Summer Mackay 21st.
The other young athletes race was a combined U15/U17 boys race in which Harriers placed fourth team. Fabien Whitelock was ninth overall, but third of the U15s, followed in by another U15 Oak Buchan 14th, then U17 David Aisa Miller 25th and the team completed by Samuel Maloney in 47th.
The senior women’s Division 1 race was the first of the day with the fog having lifted in time and saw 18 Herne Hill finishers. The first five formed the A team which was seventh and the next five to finish placed eighth among the B teams.
Sarah Grover had suffered from Covid over the Christmas period, but has clearly recovered well as she led her team with a good run in 15th, her highest position in this league to date. Not far behind and with easily her best run so far was Grace Leyland in 18th. Natasha Lodge re-emerged at last weekend’s Surrey Championship and this week raced well again to place 25th, with Suzanne Swaine 44th and Martha Reynolds 85th completing the A team. The B team comprised Monika Gajek 105th, Samantha Whiting 118th, Jennifer Nandi 121st, Jemima Hayward-Bhika 125th and Mary Setyabule 134th.
The final race of the day was the senior men’s Division 1 which by coincidence had 221 finishers, the same number as the women’s first division. This league seems to grow stronger with every race as Belgrave Harriers, Hercules Wimbledon and Guildford & Godalming are all pulling out all the stops this season.
The Herne Hill turnout was numerically good with 31 runners, but achieving high finishing positions is becoming increasingly difficult, as much as the athletes will strive to do so in the final fixture next month. The A team placed sixth on the day, but still lie seventh overall of the nine teams in the division, whilst the B team were fifth among those teams on Saturday.
Lewis Laylee has endured an interrupted winter with injury, but raced well to finish 23rd as the first of the large contingent of red and black clad Harriers. Next was Brandon Dewar in 33rd, then Andrew Warburton 56th, Jeff Cunningham 58th and M45 Andrew Perfect in 60th and first of the over 45s in the race. The scoring A team of 10 was completed by Jack Dickenson 63rd, Eoin Brady 67th, Andrew Grigg 69th, Simon Coombes 70th (and second M45) and Daniel Shaw 72nd as the team packing was very tight.
Close behind and leading the B team was Mike Cummings 75th, followed by George Withers 80th, Ross Brown 91st, Joe Elliott 96th, Billy Herklots 104th, Jonny Whittall 108th, Josh Pewter 126th, Under 20 Jacob Alley 145th, John Foxall 146th and Keith Collins- Achong 150th who were all top 150 finishers in a field stacked with fast men throughout.
In other cross country leagues, Saskia Millard placed an excellent second in the senior women’s race at the very high quality Midland Women’s League Division 1 at Burton Dassett in Stratford-on-Avon and Ella Newton was seventh senior woman in the North Midlands League in Berry Hill Park in Mansfield.
In road racing Bryn Reynolds placed a good fourth in the Tadworth 10 miles road race on Sunday morning with 58:10, while further north in Helsby Jordan Foster continued her comeback after giving birth as she was fifth female finisher at the Essar Four Villages Half Marathon, clocking 87:41 on a tough course.