What a difference a year makes! National at Harewood House, Leeds, last year we had blue skies, sunshine, mild weather, no wind and a fast course on a scenic setting. At Wollaton Park the runners were greeted with fierce winds, oceans of water, a log to negotiate on each lap plus a mud-bound course.
This fixture always seems to clash with half term, and with many families taking a much-needed holiday, plus a few injuries, we had a very small turnout.
The Start line at Wollaton Park
The Under 13 girls did have a team, just, with four runners on the start line alongside over 400 other athletes. We knew the two midland girls Zoe Gilbody and Shakira King would be a handful as they were some distance ahead of their rivals in the Midland Champs last month. This proved the case with the pair leading the charge with Baxter, the Southern Champ, leading the chase. Abigail Reid ran an intelligent race by not going off too fast and going into the final loop had edged into 4th spot after having passed Slack and Baxter, the two girls who were ahead of her in the Southern. Abigail then tried her best to reel in the the third placed athlete, Williams from Wolverhampton, and, although she was gaining in the end, Abigail had to settle for 4th, just twenty seconds or so down on Gilbody, who secured her first major title. Tilly Major was nursing a cold but was well up until a nasty fall on the final lap cost her many places unfortunately. Tilly was not one to give in and showed guts to complete the course, muddy and shaken, in 60th spot. Molly Sherrin should be pleased with 112th and 3rd Essex girl, with Jasmine Dolan, making her debut for the club with a good solid 124th and 4th Essex girl to finish. Both these two girls had nearly 300 runners behind them. In the team race we placed 9th and 6th Southern club to finish.
U13 Girls (L to R): Molly Sherin, Abigail Reid, faller Tilly Major, Jasmine Dolan
The conditions and gusty winds did get the better of two of our athletes, Kezia Beeton and Evan Johnson, both good county athletes who were unable to finish, but their main priority is the English Schools where they are top year athletes.
Miya Maeda started out slowly in the Under 15 girls race and at halfway she was around 200th from the 400 starters. Miya again really stepped up the pace on the final lap to finish 93rd, her best National finish by some margin. Miya was also happy to learn she was 2nd Essex runner to finish.
Ellen Savidge was another to really excel, and had by far her best National performance with 164th in the Under 17 girls race, again from a large field. Well done indeed Ellen.
In the Under 13 boys race Godwinner Nkebani and Nate Harding were on the start line and what fantastic seasons they are both having. Both excelled on the tough course to make the top half of the field, with Godwinner 172nd and Nate 196th. They now have the London Mini marathon to look forward to on a slightly faster course.
The story of our Under 15 boys this season is that all of our runners have had to deal with growth spurts which have hampered their running. Credit to all of them for sticking to it knowing once they come through this their form will come back to them. Nathan Wright and Jimmy Geller are two amongst many others who are going through this and they should feel proud, not only finishing on Saturday but making the top half of the large field. Nathan was 180th and Jimmy 206th. I believe they will all be back next season and could replicate what our Under 15 boys achieved two seasons ago, winning medals at championship events. Well done Jimmy and Nathan.