On a very mild Saturday for late January, Beckenham Place Park was busier than usual with thousands of club runners competing in the South of England Cross Country Championship. The day saw a series of exciting races with all age groups from under 13s through to seniors taking part. The course used was very dry under foot, but was nevertheless tough with the inclusion of a number of hills.
This competition is at a higher level than the local leagues and county championships, but one Herne Hill Harriers athlete in good recent form claimed an individual medal. Caspian Holmes produced his best performance to date to bring home a bronze medal in the Under 13 boys race with an excellent run. Holmes will now be looking to test himself at national level when the English Cross Country Association Championship comes to Parliament Hill at the end of February.
Holmes was close to also winning a team medal as he led his colleagues to fourth place, this being the best team position of the day by any of the Herne Hill squads contesting the races. Supporting Holmes with good team packing were Jack McLennan 33rd, Edward Cunniffe 36th and Matthew Ladure 42nd, with further back up from Lucas Heath 72nd. Dylan Gillies 80th, Felix Joliot 88th, Will Perry 108th, Higo Jenkins 148th and Askia Mulimba 154th.
Another Harriers team to perform well at this level was the Under 13 girls, who were sixth team. Orla Wright finished 24th, Sophie Jack 46th, Florence Mills 71st and Lily Kitto 72nd to form the scoring quartet, followed in by Summer Mackay 93rd, Emilie Cherel 157th, Sophia Mendes 158th and Emma Chambers 179th.
The other top ten team from the club on the day came in the Under 15 girls race, with Orla Carroll 48th, Eva O’Hanlon 50th, India Blakey 55th and Vivi Marshall 61st finishing tenth. Behind them Rosalie Laban 80th, Grace O’Hanlon 83rd, Martha Brennan 98th and Rene Powell 157th provided safety in numbers which was lacking for Herne Hill Under 15 boys, whose team was incomplete with Alex Wilson in 38th and Fabien Whitelock 54th being the sole representatives.
The Under 17 men completed a team with four finishers, as Robin Bebbington 50th, David Aisa Miller 94th, Harry Bell 119th and Sam Maloney 121st combined to place 13th overall.
The team points scores and placings for Herne Hill in the afternoon’s big senior races were below expectations and short of their potential with a number of key team members missing from both the women’s and the men’s races. However, those who did race all performed very well and demonstrated the depth of the squads. The aim now will be for full strength teams at Parliament Hill next month.
The women were 14th of 40 complete teams, led home by the athlete who had travelled furthest to compete and who was rewarded with the highest position among Harriers seniors.
Katie Moore came over from Northern Ireland to race for her team. Her very fine 27th place out of 366 finishers at Beckenham will have restored her confidence after being among the back markers in a small, but very elite field in a World Athletics series race in Belfast seven days earlier.
The team scorers behind Moore were Sarah Grover, not fully recovered from recent tonsillitis in 85th and relative newcomers Natalie McDougall 129th and Eliza Cottington 141st. The remaining Herne Hill finishers were Inga Bellahn 229th, Jenny Nandi 268th, Jess Winfield 270th, Alison Beck 305th, Penelope Cummings 318th, Eibhlin ni Bhradaigh 339th and Sarah Allen 355th.
The men’s 15th placed team featured good runs from the scoring six runners, with Marc Geraghty 99th, Eoin Brady 113th, Jeff Cunningham 117th, Simon Coombes 125th, Jack Dickenson 151st and Joe Elliott 206th.
Elliott ran away from Ross Brown in the closing stages to claim the final team scorer slot with Brown 216th, followed by Robin Jones 270th, Ben Millar 298th and Billy Herklots 302nd.
A total of sixteen red and black vests crossed the finish line in this, the final race of the day as Jonathan Ratcliffe 328th, Ollie White 365th, Mohammed Ismail 422nd, Trevor Chilton 437th, Tim Kerr 506th and Andrew Simms 588th were also among a total of 685 men who completed the course.