19th Dec 2020
WGEL Junior (U11-U17) athletes travelled to Merchant Taylors School in Northwood over the weekend to compete in Round 2 of the ATW Cross Country Series.
This was the second of a three race series. Round 1 (in October) attracted 600 competitors in junior and senior races. In Round 2, tight Covid rules forced the cancelation of senior races (restriction on over 18s) but the junior events carried on with strict safety procedures in place to protect all athletes and volunteers.
The event attracted high quality fields, including highly ranked South of England AA and Inter County athletes and winners of Met, Chiltern, Essex and Suffolk cross-country leagues.
Rudy Parker-Bayes improved from 5th in Round 1 to 2nd here (pic: Paul Hancock)
In Round 1, a clash of dates with the National Primary Schools event limited WGEL juniors' (U11 & U13) attendance. However, on Saturday eighteen u11s and six u13s competed, with Chiltern AC the only club to register more athletes than WGEL.
Round 2 was set to be a Christmas cracker!
Juniors – Route
The u11s ran 2km and u13s ran 3km. Persistent showers made conditions slow but the rain subsided in time for races and spectators (limited to one per athlete) enjoyed some winter sunshine under which they cheered on the athletes.
The course was a series of interlinked grass fields. The start took athletes uphill for 200m to the top of a first field. They then turned downhill, zigzagging into a lower field. They followed the perimeter of the lower field along a muddy track, then downhill along the bottom and back up. The climb back was steep and muddy. It sapped the legs and led back to the top of the first field.
The u11s' route took a left turn here into a wet and boggy field. They ran a loop of this before popping out at the top of the first field to run a final fast 200m downhill to the Finish. The u13s skipped the boggy field. Instead, they completed two laps of the upper and lower fields. They also ended their race with the brilliant 200m downhill.
U11s – Report
All the starts were staggered, with athletes directed to starting waves socially distanced with markers. Waves included boys and girls, and were seeded on estimated finish times. The waves set off every 30 seconds. All the races were chip timed.
The u11s (school years 4-6) were first off. Wave A featured WGEL juniors Jasmine Hall, Rudy Parker-Bayes and Autumn Le-Chevalier Jones. These athletes and teammate Chloe Jennings train with John Stow in Harlow. They had been making good progress in training and were looking forward to putting this to full effect.
Rudy finished an excellent fifth in Round 1 and had sights on the podium. Winner of Round 1, Thomas Ford (Chiltern Harriers) and third placed Jacob Parrott (Chelmsford AC) were both in Wave A with Rudy and it was set to be a great opening to the event.
Parrott recently moved to Chelmsford AC (from Braintree AC) and was in determined mood. He set off in front with Rudy and Ford. This worked in Rudy’s favour. After a fast start, he tucked in behind Ford and despite switching positions with Parrott on a few occasions, held second place for most of race.
Coming out of the small boggy field Rudy’s lead over Parrot was slender. Ford opened a gap on both, but Rudy’s strength came into play. As he approached the final downhill, he took a breath, spun his legs and took off in pursuit of Ford, leaving Parrott in his wake. In the final 200 meters, Rudy put 7 seconds on Parrott and, despite being unable to catch Ford, took second place and a spot on the podium!
Sebastian Reid was next fastest WGEL athlete, taking 13th in the Boys race. Sebastian looked strong throughout the race and took good scalps in Hilliar (Windsor) and Dilley (North Herts) who were ahead of him in Round 1. After the race, he found it difficult to find words to describe how tough the hills had been, but he was rightly pleased with his run!
In Wave A, there was a great battle taking place with WGEL’s Jasmine Hall and Autumn Le-Chevalier Jones neck and neck with Met League medalist Jorjia March (Barnet AC), Kara Gorman (Chiltern Harriers) and winner of Round 1 Ellie Danner (Chiltern Harriers).
Danner again showed her class, edging ahead over the final 600m to take the win. Gorman also showed good strength in the final section to claim second. Behind these, Autumn had opened a small gap on Jorjia March (Barnet AC).
This set up a spectacular finish. Autumn had overtaken March on the approach to the final downhill. However, rather than focus on the finish, she nervously glanced behind to check on her opponent. She took a moment to re-focus then realised she had to get down the hill as fast as she could! Autumn took off and crossed the line 1 second ahead of March. This secured third place in the Girls race and the second podium of the day for WGEL!
Autumn Le Chevalier Jones takes 3rd place with Jasmine Hall not far behind (pic: Paul Hancock)
Teammate Jasmine Hall was also in hot pursuit. It was also a great run from Jasmine who finished fifth, just seconds behind March. This was all the more impressive given she competed in a swim gala the night before!
Running in the later waves our new young junior trio of Eric Frith, Oskar Prince and Eva Prince recorded the next fastest times over the 2km course. These were outstanding runs. Eric, Oskar and Eva joined the squad at the beginning of 2020.
This was Eric's first run for the club. He showed tremendous determination to hold off his teammates, finishing 23rd in the Boys race. Oskar was right behind in 29th with Eva a fantastic 16th in the Girls race.
All three athletes are young u11s (Year 4) and this was a fine set of performances given the standards of competition and step-up in age. They have displayed incredible consistency in their training and are progressing at a rate of knots.
Faye Owers was 20th in the Girls race and Zac Everitt 36th in the Boys. Faye and Zac have focused on speed in recent months. They were both disappointed with their results, but long term the work they are doing now on their running form and leg speed will set foundations for progress ahead.
Training partners Sofia Sneath 25th and Sophia Parker 32nd finished next. They have progressed well in training and this was a big step forward. Usually running together, they were in separate waves and showed a new level of confidence running solo and focusing on their own performances. This was impressive.
A fantastic group of WGEL athletes were up next, flooding the finish line. Chloe Jennings was 41st in the Girls race. Chloe, improving all the time, finished just ahead of Daisy Sherrin (47). Daisy is training well and building confidence in her running and finished with her customary smile!
First time racers Clementine Thomas, Emily Mathias and Lila Vadher were 48th, 50th and 52nd respectively in the Girls race.
Aarav Patel and Luke Stoneham were 48th and 49th in the Boys race.
These athletes deserve huge praise for their first time performances. They attacked the course with huge determination. They will push on from here in training and prepare for the next race in January (fingers crossed!)
It would have been a real pleasure to see our WGEL boys and girls in u11s Met league this year – they would have been a team to reckon with!
U13s – Report
The u13s raced next featuring highly ranked South of England AA cross-country athletes Lily Farr (Bedford) and Katie Pye (AFD). Pye had recently finished third in the Surrey Cross Country Championships. Previous Met league winners Posie Shaw (SHB) and Arthur Phillips (SHB) were also starters along with a host of strong Essex and East of England athletes.
Natasha Wynn recorded the fastest time of the day for WGEL, taking a fabulous 9th place in the Girls race. This was an excellent run. Starting at the back of her wave, Natasha ran sensibly, working her way through the field. She has been developing speed on the track and combining this with hilly sessions at Trent Park and on the slopes of Highams Park. This paid dividends.
Having made her way through the field, Natasha tore past a stream of athletes in the final 150 meters. Her time was 60" behind Girls race winner Lily Farr (Bedford) and 30" behind Bella Taylor (West Suffolk) in second and Katie Pye (AFD) in third. Interestingly, Natasha was only 6" behind classy Met League winner Posie Shaw (SHB) and, for the first time, Natasha put daylight between her and a clutch of good Chelmsford AC runners.
Gregor Samson recorded the next fastest time. Gregor finished 32nd in the Boys race. He ran a well-judged race to hold off William Potts (Oxford City) and Daniel Wood (Telford) with a strong final sprint to the line.
WGEL’s Essex county runner Molly Sherrin was next home in 13th place in the Girls race. Molly attacked the course in her usual positive manner. Molly is an incredibly strong cross-country runner and it was evidence as to the strength of the field that only 10 seconds separated Molly from a top 10 finish.
Ethan Day arguably had one of the runs of the day. In a hugely competitive field Ethan, a lower age group u13, finished 47th in the Boys race. Ethan trains on the track twice a week and is progressing sensibly. He gives everything in races and once again gave it his all on Saturday. He should rightly be proud of his effort.
Matilda Frith was next fastest, racing in a WGEL vest for the very first time. Matilda joined the squad in March 2020. She is a competitive swimmer and her commitment to her running training is now developing her into a very competitive runner. Matilda did not put a foot wrong. She started sensibly, and made her way through her wave. She looked controlled and held her form well coming into the finish to take 38th place in the girls race.
Right behind Matilda was our track speedster Caitlin Hancock. Caitlin looked like the model track runner, holding great form despite the mud and grass! Caitlin finished 41st in the Girls race. This was a good result but, more importantly, Catlin enjoyed the run with teammates and cross-country could be a fantastic complement to her track running.
The u15s races were also very high quality, with round one winner Thomas Redmond (Chiltern) the pre-race favorite. Redmond was 19th in the South of England AA Champs this year and third in the Bucks/Beds county champs. The race also contained Alden Collier (Chiltern) and Zoe Gilbody (Chiltern), both winners of ECCA English National Championships.
WGEL athletes were also set to feature at the top of the leaderboard, with Nathan Wright, Abigail Reid, Kezia Beeton and Tilly Major all taking to the start line.
Nathan Wright recorded the fastest time on the day. Taking it out hard in his wave Nathan looked strong and his fast feet glided over the mud. He finished just 60" behind winner Redmond (Chiltern Harriers), second placed Collier (Chiltern) and McDonald (St Albans) to take an excellent 8th place in the Boys race.
Next fastest was WGEL international Abigail Reid, who took a tremendous third place and a spot on the podium alongside winner Zoe Gilbody (Chiltern) and Rachel Clutterbuck (Windsor). These three athletes were well clear of the field with Gilbody looking string and sharp from an amazingly consistent race schedule in 2020.
Kezia Beeton recorded the next quickest time for WGEL, taking 23rd in the Girls race. Kezia finished just behind Christina Kirkby (Guildford), who took third place in the Surrey Champs this year.
Tilly Major started the u15 race, put pulled up on the course as a precaution. Jess Adams was WGEL's sole representative in the U17 race. Jess has been helping the junior athletes as an assistant coach this year and was looking good coming into the race. However, a slight hamstring niggle and stomach cramps meant Jess also had to pull out of her race. Both these athletes will be back stronger in 2021!
That concluded the event for our juniors. Much credit should go to the organisers for their efforts, and it was another, rare and privileged chance for our juniors to have fun, racing with friends and enjoying the simple beauty of cross-country competition! The race will have been a good opportunity for all the athletes to assess their progress this season and look ahead and some form of regular competition in 2021.