Herne Hill Harriers had two young athletes representing the England Schools team at the annual SIAB Home International Cross Country race at Margam Country Park in Wales. In the Intermediate Girls race Charlotte Alexander ran another strong race after her bronze medal in the English Schools Championship a week earlier as she placed a superb fourth over the 4,610m course, with still another year in this age group for schools races. Jaden Kennedy had to race over the same distance in the Junior Boys event, significantly further than the 3,000m he has been used to this winter. Kennedy did very well to finish tenth in a tough race and as the youngest team member his international debut was one for him to remember.
Closer to home, at the Southern Road Relay Championship at Cyclopark in Gravesend, Herne Hill's men's A team was most definitely the best from the club this winter season, with fine backup provided by the B team. Harriers also had a complete ladies team, with everyone battling the windy weather on a course that is more spectator than runner friendly, with laps and hills to negotiate.
The Herne Hill men's A team placed a brilliant eighth, their best in recent years and ahead of some traditionally top teams like Woodford Green, Southampton, Shaftesbury Barnet, Newham and the Herne Hill team comfortably beat local rivals Hercules Wimbledon, Blackheath and Bromley and South London Harrier among a good number of other teams.
Chris Busaileh sent the team off to a cracking start placing ninth on a first leg as strong as ever. Alan Barnes may have been happy to run a rare for him short leg, but for the fact it was in the competitive inferno that second leg always is, being the first short stage of the race. Barnes held ground well to hand over just outside the top 10 and Mike Cummings then ran for him a long stage that he would normally not expect to run. Cummings handed over to star man Lewis Lloyd in fourteenth place, but crucially a few of the opposition were lined up for Lloyd to chase. Chase and catch he certainly did to move up impressively to fourth place, as road relay short legs are becoming a good part of his racing CV. Lloyd's time of 12.57 for the 4.26km stage was the fastest in the overall standings, fifteen seconds quicker than his closest rival over the six short stages throughout the afternoon.
Next for Harriers was relative newcomer Carl Delaney, thrown in at the deep end taking over in fourth on a loaded long stage. Andy Maud of Highgate went past right at the start in the process of running one of the quickest long legs of the day, but very few others were allowed to pass as Delaney handed over in eighth place. Lascelles Hussey is, like Lloyd, an athlete who has come through the Herne Hill young athlete ranks in the club and he overtook a Bedford team who are serial winners of Southern and National medal winners to move back up to sixth place at the half way stage.
Sean Fitzpatrick ran a fine seventh stage, another who was sent away in a tough predicament and he handed over in ninth to Jack Hillier for an eighth stage on which he overtook usual big hitters Shaftesbury (who didn't come back on Herne Hill later on) and Belgrave Harriers (who did) and he also gained good ground on Woodford Green. On leg nine Dave Mulvee spent the entire leg just behind the Woodford man, for most of it they were sixth and seventh respectively, but a back loaded Aldershot team overtook both men and eventually made their way through to finish fourth by the end of the race. Simon Coombes was for once Harriers' only over 40 in the A team, but his tenth leg run will have bettered many of the younger short stage men on the day as he pulled away from Woodford into seventh place.
Jeff Cunningham had what may have turned into a solo run on stage eleven, but on the first of his three laps he had Belgrave's Phil Wicks flying past him and with Belgrave having overtaken Herne Hill were an excellent eighth with one leg to run. Alex Hobley was a good man to finish the job, although as things transpired he was in no danger of either catching or of being caught. This was truly a great team performance and while it may have been a little frustrating not to have challenged all the way for a top six position, the club can be happy enough to finish only one place behind a team as strong as Bedford.
The Herne Hill ladies team were mainly returning from injury lay offs, but did very well to finish in sixteenth place. Star lady was definitely Chloe Tighe, who despite recent missed training due to injury was the winner of the first leg with a time of 15.10 that stood up as the fifth fastest overall of the four short stages in the relay. Julia Wedmore had the invidious task of taking over on the first of two ladies long stages with a slender seven seconds lead and was being chased by nearly all of the fastest runners in the entire relay. Wedmore stuck to her task superbly and handed over in fourteenth.
Herne Hill's ladies track & field captain Steph Mitchell ran third leg in an important step back into racing again after not having toed a start line since last August and then cross country captain Karen Ellison ran only her third race of the winter on the other long stage. Helen Hadjam and Olivia Zeltner then happily answered the call to complete the fifth and sixth legs despite also having been out of racing and short of training in recent months and they ensured important club representation at this championship event.
Harriers' men's B team was also an important showing for the second consecutive year. Matthew Robertson, Andrew Warburton, Simon Messenger, James Ward, Gavern Newsum, Dave Adam, Keith Newton, Sam Knight, Jonathan Ratcliffe, Deron Fagan, then Ratcliffe ran again and our over 60 Club President Waldy Pauzers anchored our team to applause from those who stayed on the end of the afternoon.