A dry day greeted our 19 athletes at Stanmer Park, a much better turnout than in recent years.
The Under 15 Boys were in confident mood as they had all eased down their training for the big race. Aldershot were the favourites but the Team Manager was also aware of a threat from South London Harriers as two hugely talented runners, Harley Norman and Felix Vaughan, had recently joined them from other clubs.
As the huge field of nearly 260 runners got away, our runners were in prominent places. At the end of the first lap Kai Boggon was seen in 3rd spot with the leading group. Sidnie Ward was running strongly in 16th with Kieran Allgood and Ben Sloan in the early thirties. A count at halfway saw us in 2nd place.
Could we hold it? Kai swept down the hill in 6th spot an,d urged on by supporters, he took two runners on the run-in, including a South London runner, for an excellent 4th place. Kai is now close to getting an international vest for cross country in years to come and should be delighted with his run. Sidnie, who recently won the South Of England 800 indoors, romped home in a highly impressive 15th place. Kieran hung on well and his usual sprint finish took him to 28th. Ben Sloan gave his all and our Herts Under 15 XC champion closed the team in 41st.
We then had to wait whether we were to get silver team medals (Aldershot had 6 lads in the top 20). The good news reached us that we had beaten SLH by 11 points to get silver. A fantastic achievement for our lads. One must not forget the other three lads from this so talented squad. Sam Sloan, recently selected for Herts for the CAU Champs, placed 72nd. Rhys Edwards and Liam Waldron must be hugely praised for 107th and 121st, way inside the top half of the field.
We had three runners for the Under 13 girls race. News had reached the Team Manager that both Larna Morgan and Zahara Malcolm were unable to run due to sickness. Both girls have played such a big part in us leading in this age group in the Start Fitness Met League. In another huge field, Miya Meada led the team home in 85th. Miya was right behind a TVH girl who had placed top 4 in the last two Met League races. Miya is so dedicated and is improving rapidly. Kezia Beeton, also new to this level of competition and a bottom year Under 13, placed 97th. Molly Matheron was our 3rd scorer in 172nd and she should be proud of her run as she is also bottom year. All three girls gave their all and will have gained from the experience of the championships.
The Under 13 boys had five runners but were missing Jacob Hardy, the winner of the last league race, who again is having heel trouble. Jimmy Geller got away fast and was to the fore in the early stages of the race. As always, Jmmy gave his all for 26th, being the 6th bottom year boy to finish, a solid performance from our lad. Nathan Wright ran well for 65th, and his placing was up on his Inter County run last December against similar opposition. Evan Johnson, recently selected for Herts County in the CAU XC, placed 121st, and yet another bottom year boy, Sid Cody, was 155th with Ben Savidge finishing strongly in 158th. A great credit to all our lads, all bottom year Under 13s. The team placed 15th but had Jacob run and to form we may have made top 6.
In the U17 Boys race, Joe Geller got a great start and after the first small lap he looked comfort able in the leading pack. Unfortunately his Achilles reached a pain threshold that forced him to retire. After two recent excellent performances, Joe knew that a top 10 was within his capabilities. It's now important for Joe for him to overcome this injury in readiness for the big championship races that lie ahead in March. Two reliable club runners, Thomas Adolphus (122) and Videsh Weerakkoy (142) should be happy with their placings.
In my eyes Siena Taylor and Ellen Savidge are two great club athletes whom I have an awful lot of respect for. Last weekend they both won selection for Essex School.s They both found the going tough in their respective races. But they both stuck to their task of finishing 83rd in the Under 17s (Siena) and 149th (Ellen) in the Under 15s.
So overall a very good day for our youth runners. Now we look forward to the final Start Fitness Met League fixture in two weeks time, and the incredible possibilities of bringing five trophies back to Woodford.