Herne Hill Harriers are celebrating two National age group champions from over the weekend. Jaden Kennedy became the Under 13 Boys race winner at the Saucony English National Cross Country Championship in Nottingham and Ore Adamson won the Under 17 Women's long jump title at the England Athletics U15/U17/U20 Indoor Championships in Sheffield.
In the final young athletes’ race of the day at the English Cross Country Championship in Nottingham the top Under 13 Boys distance runner in the UK, Kennedy produced an outstanding piece of running to win the National title. A winter’s training on Streatham Common, dark winter nights, heavy mud and hills, overseen by coach James McDonald, was ideal preparation for Kennedy's onslaught on an unusually testing Wollaton Park course. Although large sections benefited from the drainage afforded by the sandy under soil, the course marksman ensured he exploited the most gruesome bits of the park, which resulted in water splashes and boggy sections in all races.
Whatever the going underfoot, Kennedy skims the surface and should any other athlete go with him, he has the benefit of blistering finishing speed. Many consider the National Cross Country Championships to be the greatest cross country event in the world, and a win in any age group is a prize to be treasured for life. Kennedy spearheaded one of Harriers' strongest age groups in terms of quality and depth. One of the youngest athletes Christo Chilton led the charge of the remaining red and black athletes, finishing twenty-ninth, followed by Jacob Harrison thirty-sixth and Benjamin Harrison forty-sixth, packing that secured a set of silver team medals for the club.
Indoors at Sheffield, Adamson underlined her current position as number one in the country at Under 17 Women's long jump. A talented all round sportswoman, Adamson's latest personal best mark of 5.89m won the title by a margin of 17cm and she this year finds herself at the youngest end of her age group, which makes her performances all the more remarkable and exciting. Monae Winston was also on the national podium at Sheffield as her time of 7.85 second saw her place second in the Under 15 Girls 60m final, another fabulous achievement for a Harriers athlete, while Kristal Awuah just missed a medal in fourth place in the Under 20 Women's 60m final with her 7.51 clocking. The other Herne Hill athlete to qualify for a national indoor final was Lakeisha Owusu-Junior, who finished seventh in the Under 17 Women's 60m in a time of 7.79 after a PB of 7.69 in her semi-final.
Back to Nottingham, Harriers claimed two more national individual medals and two sets of team silver medals on a day of fantastic all round club performance. Charlotte Alexander continued her spectacular first season of club running with a second place in the Under 15 Girls race. The race was dominated by the three principal athletes in this age group. In line with her coach Wayne Vinton’s advice, Alexander bided her time behind the two other girls, before forcing the pace on the second of the two laps. One fell away but during the closing stages rival Olivia Mason pulled away from Herne Hill's Alexander, whose tenacity ensured that there could be no let up for the leader as she claimed an excellent national silver medal. Behind Alexander, Rosie Hammond, Isobel Penniceard and Clarissa Nicholls, helped the Harriers team close in seventh.
The third individual Herne Hill medal winner was Alex Brown, who extended her sequence of consecutive podium finishes of three silvers, with a bronze. To finish in the top three nationally in four consecutive nationals is an extraordinary achievement, alternating as athletes do between bottom and top of age. Brown ran a courageous race against three outstanding athletes and was in a race long battle for third place and finally opened up a four second advantage by the finish to claim bronze. Alongside the Under 13 Boys, Harriers Under 17 Women's squad is another strong age group, and the team event could not have turned out closer. Olivia Stillman, also bottom of age, produced a stunning run in her first National, finishing twenty-fifth despite falling twice in the boggy section of the course. Stillman was well backed up by Ella Newton who finished an excellent thirty-third. The team’s fourth scorer Tatiana Cooke saved her best run of the winter for this occasion, finishing sixty-seventh. The team’s points total was the same as that scored by Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, who ultimately won the gold team medals due to their fourth scorer being ahead of Herne Hill's. Second in the Nationals, after having won the Southerns and medalled in all the other National and Southern competitions this winter is an amazing achievement in an age group where many fall away in the sport and bodes well for future seasons.
Herne Hill's Under 13 Girls team produced an excellent team performance, finishing fourth led by Poppy McFeely's superb run in twentieth position. Layla Wilkinson also produced her best run of the winter in forty-seventh, Sophie Williams, who did her first race for the Club in December 2016, finished an amazing seventy-sixth and Eva Holland closed the team, who were just 10 points off a bronze team medal.
Harriers senior teams performed admirably in Nottingham, beating all of our local rivals with the exception of Kent AC. Herne Hill men's and women's teams were both ahead of the likes of Hercules Wimbledon, Blackheath and Bromley, Thames Hare & Hounds and Belgrave Harriers as the men placed thirteenth of 131 teams and our women sixteenth of 93 complete teams. Harriers men were led by excellent runs from Lewis Lloyd forty-fourth and Jay Rossiter fifty-fifth of almost 1,800 finishers and Katie Moore was first among Herne Hill women placing seventy-fifth in a field of almost 800.