Ten complete Herne Hill Harriers teams contested the national road relay championship at the home of British road relay running, Sutton Coldfield with teams in all age groups other than U17 men. Pride of place of the Harriers teams goes to the U13 boys, who were crowned national champions! The boys provided a demonstration of relay running that will secure their place in the history of this event. Competing at this level requires strength throughout the team of three, with no weak link in view of the quality of the opposition. Having secured a third place at the southern road relays, the team were nicely under the radar as possible contenders for the big prize. Benjamin Harrison led off with an excellent first leg, running 13.50 and within 21 seconds of the ‘winner’ of the first leg, finishing eleventh.
One of the club’s greatest ever relay leg performances on the national stage was about to be witnessed on leg two. One mile into the leg, the UK’s lead U13 800m and 1500m runner Jaden Kennedy, had incredibly taken all ahead of him as he opened up a 30m lead, which grew inexorably so that by the end Jacob Harrison took over with a 35 seconds advantage, Jaden having run what proved to be the fastest leg of the day, 13.02. Going out on the 3.8km leg in the lead takes a cool head and a lot of nerve and Jacob produced a superb display of front running that defied his years. Opening the gap to 42 seconds after one mile over second place, he was then 48 seconds ahead with 1km to go and charged through to the finish for an historic win. In so doing, Jacob ran a brilliant 13.22, the third fastest overall time of the race.
There were many other outstanding performances amongst the Herne Hill young athletes, including national bronze medals for our U17 women squad, which is brimming with talent. Eimear Griffin produced our outstanding run of this race ‘winning’ the opening leg with 13.48, which ended up being the fourth fastest leg of the day. She was followed by Ella Newton, seventh in 14.13, with our B team ahead of our A team. Katie Balme and Olivia Stillman (making her HHH debut) both ran extremely well on leg two, albeit the published times do not reflect their actual performances. Our teams were still in contention for medals, as AFD and Liverpool battled it out in front. Alex Brown, pretty much an ever present over the years in our team successes and our most decorated MD athlete in terms of regional and national medals consolidated the A team’s performance in third place running 14.24. Zoe Tompkins, 14.38, produced her best road relay leg for the Club yet to ensure the B team finished a superb fifth, an incredible display of depth.
Harriers’next highest finishers were the U13 girls team who placed seventh. Eva Holland replicated Benjamin’s eleventh place in the U13 boys with 15.06, an excellent run which set up Maisie Collis. Storming through the field in the way Jaden had done, Maisie ran a superbly paced leg, gradually picking those ahead of her off as she moved the team through to second place running 14.31, the seventh fastest time of the day. Layla Wilkinson ran the final leg, and although not in her peak form that saw her run so well during the summer, she nevertheless turned out for the team and brought them home in seventh place. There was good back up from the B team, who finished twenty fifth.
In the remaining races Herne Hill’s U15 girls placed twentieth with a B team thirty third, our senior women were twenty seventh – including an excellent run by Chloe Tighe who ran stride for stride with internationals and national medalists to place a good sixth on first leg and fifteenth fastest overall – our U15 boys team finished thirty seventh and senior men sixty seventh.
As always, a massive thank you to our team managers, coaches and officials who give up so much of their free time to support our great Club. Herne Hill Harriers continue to be one of the powerhouses in terms of young athletes’ distance running and long may that continue.