The Club’s young athletes were armed with running spikes rather than bows and arrows as they entered Robin Hood country, but red and black war paint was very much in evidence as our athletes raced around Berry Hill Park, Mansfield. Our lead coach, James McDonald, reminded our band of merry men (and women) that all were well prepared for this undulating and twisting (but fast underfoot) course, following tough sessions on Streatham Common, Richmond Park and at various other venues. Those who travelled up on the Club’s battle bus driven by someone who appeared to be making his debut, and took us via one of the most circuitous routes any of us could remember (despite the best efforts of in flight attendant Paul Collis), were treated to a fantastic feast which Friar Tuck would have been proud of, courtesy of Charlotte Penniceard.
This event is one of the highlights of the cross-country calendar, and exhibits English cross country running at its very best. As with the recent national road relays, Olympic track athletes blessed the event and gave it the status it deserves, recognizing the physical and mental value of pitching themselves against the best that others can offer by way of preparation for the winter ahead, and track season next summer. There is no hiding at this level, as a below par performance can result in the loss of twenty or thirty places.
One quirk of the event is that the first leg is 50m shorter (8-9 seconds) than the other legs, due to the start line being at the bottom of the hill on a wider part of the course than the changeover area. In two of the events our athletes were held in the changeover pen subsequent to our incoming runner finishing, which impacted the recorded times for two of our athletes.
The first HHH teams were in the second event of the day, the U17W race. Never before have we enjoyed so much quality and depth, and it was fantastic to field three complete teams. The A team was led off by Eimear Griffin who ran her usual committed race to finish an excellent 5th on the highly competitive first leg, 8mins59. Olivia Stillman led home the B team in 20th place, running 9mins19, behind Mollie O’Sullivan who brought the C team home in 16th with a 9mins 13 opening leg. Ella Newton produced one of her best performances for the Club on leg two, moving up from 5th to 2nd, with a time of 9mins01. Zoe Tompkins took the B team up to 9th, 9mins34, with Tatiana Cooke finishing 21st for the C team, 9mins55. Our most bemedaled athlete Alex Brown who always runs so well at this venue, moved the A team momentarily into the lead as she passed the Basingstoke runner with about 1km to go, but was unable to hold off European Youth 3000m champion, Lucy Pygott, despite running an excellent 8mins54 leg. Katie Balme moved the B team up to 6th place on the final leg with a very strong 9mins12 leg, and Jemima Hayward-Bhikha, who was unfortunately one of the victims of the changeover mess up, brought the C team home in 27th of the 64 teams, running 10mins49. To underline the quality of the running, all three of our A team athletes finished in the 10 fastest overall times, Alex 6th, Eimear 9th and Ella 10th.
Both of our U13 A teams also secured silver medals. The girls were led by Eva Holland, who ran a storming opening leg of 7mins12, to finish 6th. I reported Eva’s great progress in a previous report, and I am beginning to run out of superlatives in what must surely be her finest performance to date, with the 6th overall quickest time. Layla Wilkinson moved the team up to 3rd place with a good 7mins52 leg, whilst Maisie Collis ran an excellent final leg to take the team into the silver medal position, running 7mins33. There was good back up to the A team with our B team finishing 16th of the 87 finishing teams, with notable runs from Jess Butland, 7mins 44, and Poppy Graig-McFeeley 7mins59, whilst for the C team, which finished 38th, Ana Duffy-Markovich ran a very good 7mins51.
Our U13 boys had secured an outstanding victory in a course record time at the National Road Relays in Birmingham, but on this occasion had to settle for silver medals against the strong AFD squad. Benjamin Harrison finished 15th on leg one, 7mins10. Jaden Kennedy once again flew around leg two and, in moving the team up from 15th to 2nd, posted the fastest time of the day, 6mins46. Jacob Harrison ran a composed final leg to bring the team home in 2nd, 7mins19. The strong B team was sadly hampered by a changeover mess up by officials, which prevented what would certainly have been a top 10 finish. The relatively new to running Cameron Welsh made a real impact at this level when he finished 14th on leg one, running an excellent 7mins09. Despite his protestations and those of onlooking HHH followers, Christo Chilton was made to wait for over one minute in the changeover area after Cameron had finished. The record shows that he handed over in 47th place, whereas a more realistic outcome would have likely seen Christo enter the top ten teams. Jacob Taylor ran a really good final leg of 7mins25, moving the B team up 20 places to 27th.
In the U15 age groups, we fielded three teams in the girls’ event and two in the boys. Our girls A team finished in 17th of the 91 teams with a consistent team performance. Lily Newton finished in 44th, running 7mins46, and was followed by Rosie Hammond who made big inroads with a 7mins 42 leg to take the team from 44th to 18th. Lulu King consolidated the team’s top twenty finish, running 7mins48. Our B team finished in 35th place, led off By Clarissa Nicholls in 64th running 8mins02, followed by an excellent leg by Jessica Tabraham who moved through to 35th, 7mins47 leg, a position held by Isobel Penniceard, 8mins02. Our C team finished 80th, and included an 8mins06 opening leg by Sofia Di-Carlo.
In the U15 boys race we fielded two teams, the second being incomplete with two runners. Our A team finished 19th, led off by Mohammed Ali who continues to return to his best form with a 6mins57 split for 39th on leg one. Oscar Millard moved the team up 21 places with a 6mins48 split, and Jacob Alley lost just one place on the final leg with a 7mins13 leg. There was also an excellent run in the B team from the rapidly improving Charlie Krammer, 6mins57.
Finally, it was excellent to see us field a strong women’s team of Chloe Tighe, Stacey Ward and Natasha Lodge, who finished 15ht (Chloe 10:19 23rd, Stacey 10.17 12th and Natasha 11.17 15th), and half of a men’s team (but would have been a lot better with two more runners). In the U20 men’s race, Lascelles Hussey, running for the University of Birmingham, produced his best ever run at this level, finishing 8th on leg one with a time of 8.45, just outside the top ten overall times.
What a great day out for the Club. For those who did not make the event this year-I would highly recommend it in 2017.