Herne Hill Harriers was one of a small number of clubs in the country who were able to field teams in seven (or all) of the eight races at Saturday’s National Road Relay Championship at Sutton Coldfield. Only in the under 17 men’s race was the club not represented and all bar one of the young athletes’ teams secured top twenty positions, with three in the top ten.
The competition is fierce at these National Championships, hence such high placings are predicated on talent, hard work and dedication. The event, once again, produced a classic day of road racing, with many of the best young athletes in the country competing for their clubs, and equally impressive, established senior internationals pulling on their club vests to pitch their wares against the best that others could turnout.
The Club’s A team results through the age groups were: Under 13 Girls -21st place, U13 Boys -15th, U15 Girls -4th, U15 Boys -3rd, U17 Women -7th, Senior Women -27th and Senior Men -43th. Highlights were winning U15 Boys team bronze medals, while the U15 Girls only missed out on emulating their male counterparts by one second as they placed an excellent, but agonising fourth. The seventh-place finish for the U17 Women was also a superb achievement, led by Charlotte Alexander who ran the second fastest overall time in her race and the Senior Women, although not as close to the front of their field ensured that the club had a complete A and B team in the race for the first time in its history.
Two of our athletes who are at the youngest end of the age categories, Jaden Kennedy, 12.42, and Charlotte Alexander, 13.22, recorded the fourth and second quickest overall leg times respectively in their races. Kennedy’s performance elevated him to second on the all-time list of Herne Hill clockings at this event, whilst Alexander’s time was the fastest ever by a female young athlete from the club.
In the U13 Girls race, Annabella Bailey produced what must be her best performance so far with an excellent opening leg to finish thirteenth, running 15.23. Zoe Cruywagen battled around the second leg losing just two places to come in fifteenth, 16.13, and the team was completed by Hebe Hunter who finished in twenty-first position, 16.59, of the 65 teams to finish.
Among the U13 Boys, Jacob Taylor ran a determined first leg against tough competition to come home in twenty-ninth position, 14.29. Christo Chilton on leg two passed an incredible 21 athletes to bring the team home in eighth, 13.42. In so doing, he just missed out on a top ten individual time placing, but does have another year in the age group. Fabian Hurst rounded off the team’s performance with a 15.21 leg, coming home in fifteenth place of the 75 starting teams and 67 finishers.
Under 15 is currently one of Harriers’ areas of strength for both girls and boys teams. Poppy Craig-McFeely came into the girls A team having competed for the B team at the recent Southern Road Relays and her excellent last leg performance was ample illustration of such squad depth. Maisie Collis ran a superb opening leg coming in seventh in 14.15, sixteen seconds quicker than last year. Eva Holland, raced past all but one athlete ahead of her running 14.38 - again a big improvement on last year - to bring the team home in an exciting second place. Craig-McFeely battled until the final hill to hang onto a medal, but was unfortunately pipped for third place right near the finish, but produced an excellent 14.35.
Herne Hill’s Under 15 Boys one better and did bring home team medals. Charlie Krammer demonstrated that he can mix it at this level with a very strong opening leg for seventeenth place, 13.16. Jaden Kennedy was then unleashed and produced a stunning performance as he roared past fifteen athletes to bring the team home in second in 12.42. Few glide in the way Kennedy does when racing on the roads, and this multiple champion from the 2016/17 season produced another outstanding run. Jacob Harrison kept his head to bring the team home in third place in 13.23.
The B team finished forty-first of the 75 finishing teams and included a notable performance from Ben Harrison, 13.30, his fastest time on this course by twenty seconds.
There were more fireworks in the U17 Women’s race as Charlotte Alexander inflicted similar damage on her opponents, moving from twenty-third to fifth on the second of the three stages. Lily Newton ran the opening leg, 15.25, and Katie Balme completed the team with a 15.00 clocking on the third leg for a very good seventh team finish. This squad expects to grow considerably stronger as the winter goes on, with four or five high-quality performers due to return to racing over the coming months.
The senior races did not feature any top twenty teams in Herne Hill colours, but these were nevertheless also a success as the women’s A team of Fiona de Mauny, Zoe Tompkins, Ella Newton and Chloe Tighe matched the position of twenty-seventh from last year and for the first time ever the club had a senior B team, for which Shannon Sinclair, Tatiana Cooke, Frances Hale and Katie Kedward finished fiftieth of eighty-six complete teams.
This represented an important milestone and provided new racing experiences at this national level for most of the team members and with an eye towards the future it was very encouraging that three of these ladies are still aged only 17 and in their first year racing against seniors at some of these events. All raced very well on the day and continue to progress very positively through the club ranks from having been team members in the young athletes’ races in past years. The senior men’s team of Simon Coombes, Sean Fitzpatrick, Merhawi Tesfaldet, Dave Mulvee, Mohammed Ismail and Jeff Cunningham combined to place forty-third of eighty-two teams on the day.
Closer to home Harriers were hosting the Streatham Common Cross Country Race on Saturday morning, where Andrew Clarke, Tony Macdowall and Gary Ironmonger were first, second and fourth respectively and Monika Gajek was the leading Herne Hill woman as the event was again very efficiently and successfully promoted and organised by the club.