A show of unity; first and second teams in the U17W race
Gold, silver and bronze team medals, and gold and bronze individual performances
Parliament Hill Fields, the iconic home of cross country running once again hosted these championships. There are few greater sights with the London vista as a backdrop, and the foreground peppered by runners charging up from the start close to Parliament Hill Lido, as the ten races get underway.
From Herne Hill Harriers perspective, the individual run of the day belonged to Charlotte Alexander, the Wayne Vinton coached athlete, winner of the U15 Girls race. In her first year of club running, Charlotte destroyed a top quality field by hitting the first two hills hard. If anyone was going to beat her, they were sure going to be in for a tough race. On the back of the Surrey Schools’ race where Charlotte defeated the U20 athlete who was to secure 2nd place in that age group at these Southern Championships, it was always going to take a special athlete to get anywhere near Charlotte, and so it proved. By applying relentless pressure, Charlotte was able to open a 25 second lead, to secure a famous victory in her Southern Cross Country debut, a true exhibition of front running. Unfortunately, from a team perspective, the chances of a high placing were damaged by three non finishers, albeit with Isobel Penniceard, 64th, Clarissa Nicholls, 70th, and Susannah Hirst, 99th, Harriers team secured 8th.
Gold team medals were won by our U17 Women's team, led home by the Club’s most successful ever female cross country runner, Alex Brown, who finished in third place. After the titanic National relays battle at Mansfield with Aldershot Farnham and District AC’s team, their squad tragically lost two athletes. Special friendships have developed between our athletes across the two clubs, who combine great sportsmanship with a fiercely competitive spirit. We remember them when our girls compete, and this was personified when the girls stood in unity following their fantastic racing, alternating red, white and green and red and black vests (see photo above).
The U17W raced over the long 5km loop, which ensured they took in all corners of this fantastic course. Second scorer to Alex was Ella Newton, 15th, by far her best run in these Championships, followed by the ever consistent Eimear Griffin, 18th and Olivia Stillman, 24th. All but Ella are bottom of age which, combined with Charlotte moving up and other strong athletes, bodes extremely well for next winter’s U17W team. Zoe Tompkins provided excellent back up in 42nd. The team scored 60 points to AFD’s 77. An amazing victory, Harriers' first in this age group.
Our U13 Boys team were deprived of the overall race favourite and Athletics Weekly star, Jaden Kennedy. Nevertheless, these events are about having strength in depth which was clearly exhibited by the performances of those who did race. Christo Chilton produced an outstanding run, his best yet for the Club, to lead the team home in 7th. He was superbly backed up by Jacob Harrison, 10th, Benjamin Harrison, 17thand Cameron Walsh 22nd. Their cumulative score of 56 points secured them the silver team medals.
Our U13 Girls team were an excellent third place. Finishing orders within the team have fluctuated through the season, and this time it was the turn of Poppy Craig-McFeely to lead the team home, 15th place. Maisie Collis ran a gutsy race to finish just behind Poppy, 20th, followed by Layla Wilkinson, 41st and Eva Holland, 67th.
Herne Hill did not complete teams in the U15B and U17M, plus U20 races, with the highest individual HHH placing being Oscar Millard who finished 32nd.
The Championships were very well organised and results were available on the evening of the races. As always our thanks go to the coaches who have nurtured and coached our HHH athletes, through tough winter sessions in the dark and cold. The results demonstrate that with commitment, grit and determination, our athletes will succeed. Well done to all our athletes for making us so proud to be HHH members.
Keith Newton, 29 January 2017