Incredible national medal return for Saskia and a Herne Hill club record for Chloe

Despite the frozen weather of the weekend, last Saturday featured two stunning racing results as the top end standard of Herne Hill Harriers female running continues to progress to new levels. The first was in warmer climes on the other side of the world, courtesy of an athlete currently living in Australia who retains her Harriers registration after spending two years with the club in London, while the second, arguably even more remarkable performance came from an athlete maybe written off by many, but who returned to national medal winning ways at the English Schools Cross Country Championship in Leeds.

A very chilly day in Temple Newsam in Leeds witnessed an incredible England Schools Senior Girls bronze medal for Saskia Millard after a long time in the athletics wilderness having been blighted by persistent injury spanning much of the past two or three years. Millard’s recent win at the London Schools Cross championship was her first race of any description since June 2016 and four years have gone by since she claimed the English Schools Junior Girls title at Donington Park.

This fantastic return to top national level performance is a credit to both athlete and coach Wayne Vinton, who has been instrumental in bringing Millard, now aged 17, back to racing, having overseen her injury rehab this winter. After the race a justifiably proud Vinton said “I think most athletes would have given up way before she was able to train again. Although she has had dark days this winter and doubted whether she would ever get back, at no point has she given up. As well as being a lovely young woman and an absolute pleasure to coach, she is an inspiration to everyone who knows her story.”

Chloe Tighe has done her recent racing back home in Australia, but she is still fully eligible to have become the latest holder of the Herne Hill club senior women’s 3000m record with a big PB of 9.09.82. Tighe placed fifth in a high quality international field at the Sydney Grand Prix Track Classic meet in the final race of what has been a superb season for her.

Tighe has surprised many observers with her own return to international standard racing, almost a decade after representing her country at the World Junior (under 20) championship. After winning a 1500m bronze medal at the Australian Athletics Championship on the Gold Coast last month, Tighe has now broken a Harriers record that was held by Herne Hill’s England star Katie Snowden, who herself is now in Australia in preparation for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Back in Leeds and led by Millard, the London Schools team enjoyed tremendous success. The Junior Girls team came second with strong contributions from Herne Hill team scorers Poppy Craig-McFeely in 19th and Phoebe Bowen in 35th, while the Intermediate Girls also placed second and the Senior Girls were fifth, close behind the third team on the day. Harriers athletes who scored in the Senior Girls team were Millard in third place, Zoe Tompkins 59th and Ella Newton 71st. These performances enabled the London girls to win the overall aggregate trophy almost 300 points ahead of Hampshire and Vectis.

The Junior Boys team that finished sixth was almost entirely a Herne Hill team, with five of the six scorers being Jaden Kennedy 21st, Jacob Harrison 37th, Joe Roberts 77th, Ben Harrison 107th and Jacob Taylor 131st.

On Sunday the Herne Hill senior athletes had hoped to challenge at the Southern Road Relay Championship scheduled to take place in Milton Keynes, but this event was sadly thwarted by the unseasonal weather. The Harriers women’s team in particular had looked strong on paper and will now hope for a good performance at the National Road Relays next month in Sutton Coldfield which will now also incorporate the postponed Southern Championship.

Before then, this coming Sunday, 25th March sees the rearranged Herne Hill Harriers organised annual Frank Harmer Memorial 10km road race in Brockwell Park, another event that had fallen foul of inclement weather on its original date at the beginning of this month. Race entries are still being received online and further additions will be welcomed before the weekend or on the morning of the race. See the Herne Hill Harriers website for the entry link.

Geoff Jerwood