ATW Met League – Alexandra Palace – Sat 21 Dec 2013

What a turnout for the third Met League fixture at Alexandra Palace on Saturday afternoon! Fifty-three of our athletes decided a romp in the mud was more fun than Christmas shopping, and we came home with plenty to celebrate. Continuing their strong season, the girls got us off to a great start, the U13 and the U15/U17 teams both finishing second on the day. The senior women won the veteran match, with Fiona Kennedy grabbing a rare top-ten place. And there was another resounding win for the senior men in their division, consolidating their lead over rivals Highgate. (As you can see in the photo, Cameron Thomas certainly thought it was something to shout about!)

ESM’s men had topped Division 2 after the first two races and were determined to maintain that position. Despite the proximity to Christmas, the field of 408 was yet again a record, so each place was highly contested. The squad of 19 was once again led home by Sam Ashcroft (25th), who gained around five places in the course of the race. He was followed half a minute later by team captain Rob Wilson (37th), who held his position throughout in a well-judged race. Despite the muddy conditions and three ascents of a steep hill, the club’s track athletes made a more than useful contribution. 1500m runner Jamie Taylor-Caldwell (53rd) was followed by U20 800m specialist Ben Waterman, running strongly throughout to finish 62nd. This was arguably Ben’s best Met League performance to date. Five ESM runners then crossed the line in 10-20 second intervals. U20 Max Wells-Pestell made a stunning debut last year on this course, and made light work of it again, moving past several team-mates to take 76th. Chris Hepworth (83rd) also worked his way steadily through the field. There was a solid run from the youngest member of the squad, Zephon Allen (85th), finishing just seconds behind Chris. Nick Landeau (90th) nearly missed the start and was off the pace initially, but recovered well to be the club’s eighth scorer. Seb Zajaczkowski made a welcome first appearance in the Met League this season, and finished a creditable 95th, despite an over-ambitious pace at the outset. (I spotted someone in an ESM vest who’d clearly taken a slide in the mud, it may have been Seb). U20 Mo Hashi closed the team, being tenth and final scorer in 134th.

There was plenty more to come, however. U20 Archie Allen (165th) made a welcome appearance after a long absence from club racing. A minute later new M40 Mark Delahunty (187th) led the charge of the club veterans, followed shortly by new M45 James Steel (206th). Andy Dodd (229th) continued his rehabilitation, demonstrating his usual Northern grit by following the course flags through the deepest mud, rather than skirting round the edges like everyone else! There was a gap of several minutes until M45 Pete Drew (300th, pictured right) appeared. He evidently thought the course wasn’t tough enough and added a few obstacles of his own making. He was lucky not to get caught by M60 Steve Plested (302nd), who can never be taken for granted, as many have learned to their cost over the years. U20 Akira Anzai finished in 330th, with M45 Steve Barrington not far behind in 340th. M40 Andy Leung, in his first cross country season, discovered that rain does not stop play, and fought his way round bravely to finish 356th.

The club’s women compete in Division One and had hoped to move up from the relegation zone at this match. With several late withdrawals due to injury, this proved beyond them, though they did notch up by far their highest points tally this season. W55 Fiona Kennedy led the team home in 6th, her best Met League position since 1997. Fiona’s “top ten” badge is an honour she shares with Sioban Culleton, Caterina Granz, Alison Hopkins, Gill Morgan and Mel Newbery.

There was great packing by the team, barely half a minute separating the next four women home. Sarah Richardson (31st), had traded places with Alison Hopkins (38th) throughout the race, but Sarah Gerrie (32nd) found the strength in the last 400 metres to overhaul Alison, and indeed nearly caught team-mate Sarah. Race-walking specialist Grazina Narviliene (45th) ran a strong second half to close the gap significantly on the other three. The final scorer was Carol Jones in 104th.

Despite losing ground to Carol in the latter stages, W45 Patricia Thomas (109th) put her demons to rest, conquering the course after an uncharacteristic withdrawal last season. W50 Gillian Morgan (114th) ran a well-paced race, maintaining her position throughout. Triathlete and cross country newbie Kate Atley (125th) started the race alongside Julia Gristwood, then moved ahead to go past team captain and W40 Mary Walsh in 128th. Kate’s enthusiasm after the race was a delight, as she pronounced herself ready for more. The more experienced W50 Julia Gristwood took the course in her stride, finishing 143rd.

In the junior races, the U15/U17 girls’ squad finished second on the day, and are now ranked third in the League. U15s Nicola Ravenhill (3rd) and Laura Stewart (7th) both ran well-judged races, despite being two of the youngest in the field. They were second and fourth among the U15s. U15 Courtney Marshall (24th) and U17 Olivia Will (25th) ran side-by-side for much of the race, Courtney proving slightly stronger at the finish. U15 Martha Hayward made her season’s debut (28th), while Jenny Connelly (33rd) had her best run of the season, overtaking U15 Roisin Lynch (38th) at the top of the long hill. U17 Tara Kelly finished hot on Roisin’s heels in 39th.

There was a similar story for the U13 girls’ team, finishing second on the day and now up to third in the league. Lucy O’Brien ran a well-paced race to finish ninth. Maryam Hussain was again the second scorer in 18th, just over half a minute after Lucy. Anisa Ibrahim (24th) got the better of Cameron Thomas (33rd), who was making her return from an ankle injury. The team was backed up by Shiva Basu (41st) and Sarah Freegard (45th).

The junior men were again not well represented, with only three in the combined Under 15/Under 17 race. The best performance came from U15 John Fielding making his first Met League outing of the season in 22nd, backed up by U17 Conor McCarthy (53rd) and U15 Luke Adar (64th).

There was a stronger turnout from the U13 boys, the squad of six finishing third on the day. Lucas Sheehan (9th) led them home, followed moments later by Patrick Owen (10th). Freddie Scarborough followed half a minute later in 18th, with Matteo Vao another half minute later in 31st. They were backed up by William Coutts (42nd) and Robbie Connelly (43rd).

Well done to one and all, you did us proud. Enjoy a well-deserved break – only for Christmas Day, mind, there are races at 10:45am on Boxing Day – and see you all back in the New Year!

Results summary

Men 25 Sam Ashcroft S 28:26; 37 Robert Wilson S 28:56; 53 Jamie Taylor-Caldwell S 29:46; 62 Ben Waterman U20 30:16; 76 Max Wells-Pestell U20 30:34; 83 Christopher Hepworth S 30:51; 85 Zephon Allen U20 30:54; 90 Nicholas Landeau U20 31:09; 95 Sebastian Zajaczkowski S 31:21; 134 Mohamed Hashi U20 32:36; 165 Archie Allen U20 33:26; 187 Mark Delahunty V40 34:25; 206 James Steel V45 34:43; 229 Andrew Dodd S 35:30; 300 Peter Drew V45 38:15; 302 Steve Plested V60 38:24; 330 Akira Anzai-Jackson U20 39:46; 340 Steve Barrington V45 40:38; 356 Andy Leung V40 41:55.

U15/17 Men 22 (9) John Fielding U15 19:48; 53 Conor McCarthy U17 22:02; 64 (40) Luke Adar U15 24:26.

U13 Boys 9 Lucas Sheehan U13 10:47; 10 Patrick Owen U13 10:49; 18 Freddie Scarborough U13 11:18; 31 Matteo Vao U13 11:43; 42 William Coutts U13 12:01; 43 Robbie Connelly U13 12:06.

Women 6 Fiona Kennedy V55 23:51; 31 Sarah Richardson V35 25:35; 32 Sarah Gerrie S 25:36; 38 Alison Hopkins V35 25:45; 45 Grazina Narviliene V35 26:03; 104 Carol Jones V55 29:27; 109 Patricia Thomas V45 29:53; 114 Gillian Morgan V50 30:21; 125 Kate Atley V35 31:18; 128 Mary Walsh V40 31:26; 143 Julia Gristwood V50 33:28.

U15/17 Women 3 (2) Nicola Ravenhill U15 17:43; 7 (4) Laura Stewart U15 18:09; 24 (14) Courtney Marshall U15 19:26; 25 Olivia Will U17 19:40; 28 (16) Martha Hayward U15 20:20; 33 (20) Jennifer Connelly U15 20:43; 38 (24) Roisin Lynch U15 21:11; 39 Tara Kelly U17 21:11.

U13 Girls 9 Lucy O’Brien U13 11:59; 18 Maryam Hussain U13 12:33; 24 Anisa Ibrahiam U13 12:52; 33 Cameron Thomas U13 13:44; 41 Sheva Basu U13 15:06; 45 Sarah Freegard U13 16:07.

Full results here.