Strong turnouts again for Herne Hill in Surrey Cross Country League

The second Surrey Cross Country League fixture took place on a traditional course on Wimbledon Common on Saturday, starting and finishing at the Putney Vale end and incorporating grass field and trails which were firm or stony and others which were wet and muddy. Herne Hill Harriers again turned out in force at what was one of the best attended and strongest in depth of quality matches in the history of the league, with many senior men in particular being perplexed to find that very good performances were yielding finishing positions lower than their usual placings.

Harriers men’s team was a lot stronger than at the first race a month ago, but only improved from seventh A team to sixth, albeit only two points behind fifth place. The women also found that an A team of similar quality to the first race placed eighth on this occasion after previously being fourth A team. although the scores were very close between third and tenth team on Saturday.

Harriers Under 13 boys were the only team winners from the club on the day, with the Under 15 girls placing second, the Under 13 girls third and the combined Under 15/U17 boys placing fifth team. Phoebe Bowen was the only individual winner of her age category as first Under 17 women’s finisher, but was the only representative from her club in this age group. 

The winning Under 13 boys team comprised Lucas Heath, Dylan Gillies, Jack McLennan and Will Perry, who finished second, third, ninth and 27th. The Under 15 girls Orla Carroll (second), Vivi Marshall (fourth), Rosalie Laban (seventh) and Martha Brennan (17th) were second team in their age category. The third placed Under 13 girls quartet was Maeve Minielly (eighth), Lily Kitto (12th), Summer Mackay (18th) and Emma Chambers (27th), with the Under 15 and Under 17 boys all grouped together in this league and seeing Josh Lee-Baum (12th), Fabien Whitelock (18th), Oak Buchan (21st) and Freddie Hake (29th) form the fifth placed team. All four are still in the Under 15 age group racing mainly older competitors.

The men’s team responded well to the rallying calls after a disappointing first race in October where less than 30 Harriers had finished seventh of the nine teams in Division 1. This time there were 35 red and black vests on the start line and with all completing the challenging course sixth place was secured and much closer behind nearly all of the teams ahead. The stronger turnout also produced a much better B team performance as after being eighth of nine B teams last month this position was improved to a very good third B placing. 

Herne Hill’s first man was Joe Morwood in 15th place in a very strong field and was welcomed back after not having raced for the team in very recent years. Carl Delaney ran his first cross country race of the season and showed strength to finish 26th, followed in by a good run from Australian Brandon Dewar in 41st. The rest of the A team then closed in well with Harriers debutant Dan Shaw 53rd, Mike Cummings 55th, Jack Dickenson 62nd, Jeff Cunningham 64th, Jack Hillier 67th, first M45 man Andrew Perfect 69th and Andrew Warburton 75th.

The B team was led by the second M45, Ben Paviour in 78th, well backed up by Joe Fenwick 82nd, Joe Elliott 87th, then second claim men George Withers 88th, Kojo Kyereme 89th and Richard Henderson 92nd, then the B team completed by Jack Brotchie 97th, Bryn Reynolds 113th, Josh Pewter 118th, another second claim man Andrew Grigg 121st, Ross Brown 130th, Ben Millar 138th, Henry Brown 170th and Jonathan Boyle 172nd. A much improved overall effort following the first race even if most of the finishing positions might have been lower than the runners would have expected on other days in this league.

The women’s A team’s eighth position was down on the first race, but quite close behind third and fourth, as Sarah Grover this time led the Herne Hill charge in 21st, closely followed by a real team captain’s run from Julia Wedmore 25th. Karen Ellison 39th, Grace Leyland 43rd and Aimee Hargreaves 58th completed the A team, with the B team formed of Megan Gildea 66th, Monika Gajek 84th, Laura Donnelly 101st, Eliza Cottington 109th in her first race and Jemima Hayward-Bhika in 130th.

Elsewhere there were very good runs by two Harriers Under 20 women, as in the USA at the NCAA Division 1 Northeast Regionals in Boston on Friday, GB Junior International Phoebe Anderson placed a very good sixth and at the British Athletics Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes Poppy Craig-McFeely finished 23rd in a top quality U20 women’s race in her first season in this age group. 

Anderson has now qualified for the NCAA Division 1 Finals as an individual competitor, the event taking place at Florida State University this Saturday, while locally Herne Hill will send men’s and women’s teams to the London Cross Country Championship at Parliament Hill Fields on Saturday and to the South of Thames 5 Miles Cross Country Team Race on Sunday.

Geoff Jerwood