National Cross Country Champs Parliament Hill Fields – Young Athletes Report

There is no greater sight in cross country running than the National at this iconic North London venue. Sunshine, bumper fields and a cold easterly wind, colourful banners and excellent commentary made this a special event, witnessed by legends of our sport such as Brendan Foster.  Throughout the young athletes’ events, the best distance runners in the country battled for honours.  European U20 cross country champion, Harriet Knowles-Jones was resplendent in winning by more than one minute, a Goater-esque margin, proportionate to the race distance.  Unperturbed by a wrong turn (for the whole field) early on in the race, she stormed away from a strong field for an emphatic victory.

By the Club’s very high standards this was a low key outing, such has been the success of our young athletes over the last 5 years. But there were excellent individual and team performances.  Foremost amongst these was Poppy Craig-McFeely, who produced the run of her life to finish a magnificent 10th.  Poppy committed from the outset at the sharp end, and looked very much at home in the esteemed company.  Battling throughout, this bottom of age athlete got stronger as the race progressed.  Also making the top 100 and contributing to a 10th team placing, Isobel Penniceard finished in 87th.  Along with a number of our teams, the U15G’s were impacted by absences due to illness and injury, making the 10th team placing very solid in the circumstances.

The U13G team produced the Club’s team performance of the day. Led by Phoebe Bowen who has had an excellent season, the girls were unlucky to finish one point behind the third placed team to just miss out on medals.  Phoebe was 20th of the >450 finishers, and was backed up superbly by Johanna Nicholson, 40th, Hebe Hunter, 61st and Stella Thomas, 63rd.

Christo Chilton has been another beacon of consistency amongst the Club’s young athletes, and he still has another year in the U13B age group. Christo ran a typically brave race and finished an excellent 22nd in a field of >550 runners, leading the Herne Hill team to 22nd team position.

The U15B team have struggled following a very good start to the season. Hampered by illness and a shoe loss for last year’s U13 winner, Jaden Kennedy, there were no top 100 finishers and a 28th overall team placing.  Along with at least two more of his clubmates, Jaden gallantly finished the race with one shoe in hand.  Most of our U15s are bottom of age and will be looking to bounce back next winter.

Our U17W have similarly been decimated by the loss of star quality, but it was great to see one of our leading runners in the age group, Olivia Stillman, produce her best performance of the winter. Liv ran a really well paced race to finish in an excellent 32nd position.  With three other scorers, the team secured 12th team position.

The U20W team secured an excellent 9th position.  Zoe Tompkins produced her best performance of the winter to work her way through to 44th, demonstrating the benefits of consistent training and also her ability to run well over the longer distances.  Ella Newton returned to racing and finished 57th, and the team was completed by Tatiana Cooke in 105th.  All three athletes are first year U20s.

Although not as successful as recent nationals, congratulations on all athletes for their commitment on this toughest of courses. Further big races on the horizon include the Inter Counties and English Schools.

Keith Newton, 25/2/18