Tearing around the flatlands of Wormwood Scrubs, the young athletes’ teams from Herne Hill Harriers delivered a smash and grab of gold medals at the South of England Cross Country Relay Championship on Saturday. The raid was so audacious that inmates in the adjacent HM Prison could easily have been looking on enviously.
First to strike gold were Harriers’ under 17 women’s team, fresh from posting third and fifth places in the National Road Relay Championships earlier in the month. Ella Newton led the team off with a strong first leg finishing fifth in 8.39. Zoe Tompkins ran a storming leg on two, moving the team into a clear lead with an 8.47 clocking. Olivia Stillman, who made her debut at national event ran superbly on leg three to anchor the team to a clear victory. Her 8.44 was an excellent solo performance. Racing in an incomplete B team, Mollie O’Sullivan made her (non-scoring) debut for the Club. Running a brave race that reflects her outstanding pedigree Mollie led the field early on and came in just behind Ella in a time of 8.44. All four were placed in the fastest nine individuals overall to emphasise the strength in depth.
There were further wins and a couple of individual fastest times in the girls and boys under 13 age groups. Both teams enjoyed emphatic victories and were anchored by two of the club’s outstanding middle distance athletes, Maisie Collis and Jaden Kennedy. On the opening leg of the U13 girl’s race, Eva Holland continued her very strong start to this winter season handing over in the lead with a time of 7.46. Layla Wilkinson with 8.03 ran a strong second leg to keep the team very much in contention, finishing in third place. There was little doubt as to whether Maisie on leg three could close the gap on the two ahead, as when chasing down athletes in this manner Maisie is at her very best and on the fast going course was able to exploit her track speed. Maisie ran 7.22, easily the quickest under 13 girl of the day and not too much slower than the fastest under 15!
The Herne Hill National road relay winning under 13 boys team took full control. Jacob and Benjamin Harrison established a big lead on the first two stages for Jaden Kennedy, not that he would need one, as they ran 7.13 and 7.18. Christo Chilton also had an excellent run on leg one in the B team with a 7.19 split. Kennedy showed his class yet again as he anchored the team, opening up a big lead with his 6.48, clearly the fastest under 13 boy of the day. As with the under 17 women, Harriers had four of the best ten individuals overall in this race.
Harriers’ senior men placed a good fourth, only just outside the medals, though Mike Cummings 13.57, Alan Barnes 14.33, Jeff Cunningham 14.57 and Dave Mulvee 14.14. The under 15 girls did well to place eighth, the senior women thirteenth and under 17 men fourteenth as Harriers fielded teams in eight of the ten age groups.
Later in the afternoon the Surrey Masters Cross Championship at Richmond yielded individual medals for Mike Boyle and Tom Conlon, first and third respectively in the M55 age category, while M50 Gary Ironmonger plus Mike and Tom brought home silver medals in the M50-59 team age band. Racing in the biggest running event of the weekend the following morning (televised live on Channel 5), the Great South Run 10 miles road race in Portsmouth, Stacey Ward’s time of 58.26 placed her seventeenth overall in the elite women’s race and tenth in the England Championship held in conjunction as she gets her winter campaign under way.