British Athletics Cross Challenge Final incorporating the Inter Counties Championships and IAAF World Cross Country Championships Trials, 11th March 2017, Prestwold Hall, Loughborough
Appropriately donning the famous old gold Surrey singlet, Jaden produced another superb run to secure an emphatic individual victory, whist leading Surrey to a clear team triumph with four runners in the top ten, pure gold. Jaden became the first HHH male runner in the Club’s 128 year history to complete the National and Inter Counties double, and it was Fraser Sproul, second to Jaden in the National, who produced the main competition for Jaden throughout the race. Emanating from Cumbria, Fraser will be used to testing terrain, and this course proved to be a true cross country course, combining sticky patches with testing hills, up and down.
Jaden forced the pace for most of the race, whittling down the challengers until it became a race between the two principals in this age group. A conundrum for any athlete wishing to beat Jaden is that he combines real strength with ferocious finishing speed. I have cited before his position on the UK all time rankings for 800m and 1500m; he is a dynamic athlete who combines excellent stamina with speed and agility, honed through his footballing background.
Under the close watch and supervision of his coach, James McDonald, Jaden has developed into an outstanding young athlete with huge potential. On the day, as he pulled clear in the final 800m, there was no one who could deprive Jaden of a second successive national championship win. Big congratulations to Jaden but also to James, whose ability to produce athletes that are nationally competitive has spearheaded the Club’s revolution in the young athletes’ middle distance section.
Although not making the scoring four despite finishing in 19th place, Christo Chilton, who has two more years in this age group, produced a perfectly judged performance that defied his years, as he moved through the field of older boys. Jacob Harrison, who like Christo started towards the back of the pen, was the third Herne Hill member of the surrey squad, and finished a very good 40th of the 297 finishers.
In the U13 girls’ race, Eva Holland produced her best performance for some time and looked very much at home on this testing course. She got better as the race went on, and finished in an excellent 27th position. Poppy Craig McFeely was the other HHH contestant in this age group and, after a tough start to the race where she was knocked over and spiked, picked herself up and finished 78th out of the 304 finishers.
In the U15 boys’ race, Oscar Millard continued his return to top level racing with a solid 55th position of the 294 finishers. In the U17 men’s race, Laurie Pope finished 138th, out of 263 finishers.
The U17 women produced one of the most exciting races of the day. Khahlsa Mhlanga, who was fourth in the National, produced a brave front running display, and opened up a 30 metre gap on the undulating back end of the course. The lead looked ominous, but had she gone too hard in the first half of the race? Two bottom of age athletes, Alex Brown and Claudia Lance Jones, sensed blood as the red vest of Essex was no longer moving away, and the two of them worked together to close the leader down by the 3km point of the race. There followed a titanic battle as the two old gold runners went head to head, and in the final 150m Claudia kicked and opened a lead on Alex, which she held until the finish line.
For the second successive year Alex finished an outstanding 2nd, having also won the inter counties in 2014. Led home by Claudia and Alex, and with a third Surrey runner in the top four, the team prize was never in doubt. Running for Kent, Ella Newton produced another excellent run to finish in a best ever 30th position, and Katie Balme was 63rd of the 282 finishers.
Many of the above athletes will be contesting the English Schools’ Championships next Saturday. Best of luck to all of those who will be competing in Norfolk.