On a glorious autumn day, with firm conditions underfoot, the club made a solid start to the new season, with the seniors ranked eighth of the 21 clubs and the juniors sixth out of 14.
The Under 13 girls got the afternoon off to a good start, finishing fifth. Lucy O’Brien led them home in seventh, backed up ably by Anisa Ibrahim (23rd), Fiona Coutts (24th) and Sarah Freegard (29th).
In the combined U15/U17 girls’ race, the club went one better with fourth place. In her first season as an U17, Erica Wallace had a fine run to finish sixth, with Martha Hayward (49th) and Jennie Connelly (47th) completing the squad. For the U15s, Nicola Ravenhill beat many of the U17s to finish in the top 10. Laura Stewart (22nd) was second home, while Cameron Thomas (36th) also ran well in her first year as an U15. This age group was well represented, with Roisin Lynch (46th), Elsa Stocking (49th) and Leah Kelly (51st) also competing.
The senior women made a better start than last year. They fielded a full team, albeit still heavily reliant on the veterans. Fiona Kennedy led them home in 36th, with Sarah Richardson just three places behind. Third to score was track runner Nikki Shelley, making a welcome return to the cross-country team and scoring valuable points in 55th. Less than half a minute separated Carol Jones (81st) and Jane Ruhland (87th), while Lynn Wilson completed the scoring team in 96th. Patricia Thomas (130th) provided valued back-up, completing the course despite an ongoing injury.
The combined U15/U17 men’s squad enjoyed a good result too, finishing third. For the U17s, Mukhtar Farah finished sixth, and Charlie Sillett ran well to cross the line in 16th. Reece Farren was 44th and Ali Malik 64th. However, U15 George Kerry was instrumental in the strong team result, finishing tenth overall and second in the U15 race. He was joined by U15s William Coutts (45th) and Luke Adar (46th). Reece only just held off William, who is at the younger end of the U15 group, while Luke was also hot on his heels. 13 year old Naoki Kanai (53rd) also competed well against older runners.
The U13 boys was the only age group in which the club did not manage to field a full team, but it was good to see Mikey Kouwiloyan (44th) sporting ESM colours.
There was more enthusiasm from the club’s U11s. For the first time, the League featured a mixed development race for this age group, and four ESM youngsters took the opportunity to race: Masaki Kanai (24th), Rafferty Owen (29th), Mohamed Ibrahim (41st) and Caoimhe O’Brien (52nd).
The senior men’s team was strengthened by a rare cross-country outing from 1500m specialist Jamie Taylor-Caldwell, who flew over the rough ground to claim 23rd place in this classy field. Backed up by other track runners like Ben Waterman (53rd), Chris Hepworth (55th) and Mo Hashi (85th), the team’s early finishers notched up valuable points. At the other end of the spectrum, Steve Elson was just outside the top 100, despite being focused on marathon training. The surprise of the day was sixth scorer Florjan Bakalli (119th), an U20 running his first cross country for the club and wearing only road trainers rather than spiked shoes. He was followed in by another talented U20, Nick Landeau (128th), who had started much higher in the field but found his stamina wanting after a training break. Veteran James Steel (172nd) was next to show, followed by Andy Dodd (204th), putting in a strong performance despite repeated injury lay-offs. In 216th, Santosh Rai was another to make his cross country debut for the club, and was a valuable addition as 10th scorer. Ian Leslie (244th) and Akira Anzai-Jackson (266th) completed the team in the 12-to-score competition. In a record field of 417, Darren Halford was 313th and Steve Plested 324th. Triathlete Clive Richardson made his cross-country debut for the club in 347th, while Martin Shelley did well to complete the race after suffering a mid-race injury. Like the senior women, however, the senior men need to field more of their stronger runners on a consistent basis to remain in Division 1.
Full results here