Four ESM junior athletes took part in the first Cross Country event held in the UK in 2021 (so the organisers informed us) at Merchant Taylor’s school, Northwood, on Saturday, reports Graham French and Debra Booker.
The races were well organised, with rolling starts and chip timing so that athletes didn’t have to crowd together at the start line, and numbers strictly limited.
First up was 9 year old Jack Hayward running 2K in the U11 category. Jack ran a strong and steady race over a 1 lap course that included some challenging ground and half a dozen strategically placed logs to hurdle (was it a coincidence that Saturday was also The Grand National)?! Either way, the barriers were easily cleared by Jack who finished 24th out of a field of 50 with a determined push over the last 50m.
Next was Junias Lee competing in his 1st ever ‘real’ cross country race. The 3K U13 race consisted of a 2 lap course & the downhill finish definitely suited Junias who still had enough left in his legs for a fantastic sprint in to the finishing line.
Nicola Hewitt & Catherine Gallagher contested the 4k under 15 girls course, which had a good mix of hills & the aforementioned log jumps (but disappointingly for our athletes, they were denied the stream which was a feature of the senior races later). Nicola shook off some early back discomfort & picked up the pace in the second half of the race, finishing strongly. Catherine made steady progress & also finished strongly, making the most of the downhill finish.
All 4 athletes have taken part in a few 1:1 training sessions (as have nearly all of the young athletes endurance/distance group), and some on zoom, over the last lockdown. But those sessions can’t ever be a substitute for regular group training. These races were all about getting back to some normality and enjoying a race against physical, rather than virtual, opposition.
All were delighted to get out into a real race environment, and with the track season soon to start, are looking forward to more competitive racing with their team mates in the near future.