The Three Musketeers; young athletes at county cross country championships, 6-7 January 2018

Herne Hill Harriers’ young athletes produced performances of fine vintage at Denbies Vineyard, Dorking, host to the Surrey Cross Country Championships.  The much mooted mudbath did not arrive, with the going underfoot generally benign, no doubt impacted by the biting easterly wind that swept across the estate.  This is a tough cross country course, a true test of mental and physical resilience and excellent preparation for the upcoming races and track season on the horizon.

James McDonald would have rightfully been toasting the success of his young athletes, as three of them charged to brilliant individual victories.  None was more impressive than Phoebe Bowen who produced a classic piece of front running.  Gradually turning the screw, Phoebe eased her way from the field, opening up a 16 second winning margin by the finish.  Phoebe was superbly backed up by Johanna Nicholson, who looked very at home on this testing course, in 4th and, having the run of her life, Hebe Hunter also made the top 10 with an 8th position.  With the Club’s fourth scorer, Stella Thomas, closing in 13th this was a comfortable team win indeed for the Club’s U13s.

Christo Chilton looked like a boy possessed as he charged off in the early stages against a top class U13 field.  If anyone else was going to take this one, they would know they’d been in a hard race.  But it was not to be, as Christo produced what was arguably his finest performance so far in the red and black, running the legs off his rivals.  His well deserved victory was backed up by an excellent 5th placing for Jacob Taylor, who is proving to be one of the finds of the season.

The third individual win went to the indomitable Eve Holland.  Like Phoebe and Christo, Eva hit the early pace hard to ensure this was a hard run race.  Determined to build on her U13 victory from 2017, Eva made no mistake in her first year as an U15, grinding down the opposition with a relentless display of distance running.  It was close, but Eva never looked like giving way to her rivals, and she was superbly backed up by Poppy Craig-Mcfeely, 4th, Isobel Penniceard, 7th and Tily Stevens-Cox, 18th.  Four in 18 ensured another resounding team win for the U15Gs.

The U15B’s team, missing two or three top runners, could not match the girls, but did produce solid packing to secure the bronze team medal.  Charlie Krammer continued his strong winter in 9th, backed up by Jaden Kennedy, 15th. Joe Roberts, 19th and Jacob Alley, 29th.  This team bronze was matched by the combined U17/20W team, led home by Zoe Tompkins, 10th overall and 4th U20, Olivia Stillman, 17th and Tatiana Cooke, 18th.

In the Kent Cross Country Championships at Brands Hatch, Ella Newton and Lily Newton, both first years in the age group, produced excellent runs.  Ella secured her first ever podium finish with 2nd place, helping the combined U17/20 team to a gold medal, and Lily Newton finished 6th U17 (and 12th overall of the 42 runners).

To underline the depth of the young athletes’ middle distance squad, Maisie Collis and Annabel Hobday, both coached by Wayne Vinton, secured wins in the southern indoors 1500m championships at Lee Valley.

Well done to all.  A great start to 2018.

Keith Newton