We finished the Met League Cross Country league with a flourish at Wormwood Scrubs last Saturday. The men’s fourth victory in Division Two secured them promotion to Division One (where the senior women remain by the skin of their teeth). The U15/U17 women and U13 girls also rewarded their coaches by finishing second and third respectively.
Conditions were challenging with a cold breeze adding to the heavy going underfoot created by the waterlogged ground. Colourful descriptions abounded: “mud-fest”, “mud-bath”, “squelchy”. The short wooded section at the end of the lap was deemed impassable and the course had to be diverted around it. This did not stop in-form Sam Ashcroft achieving his highest Met League position this season (14th), mixing it with rivals more usually finishing a minute clear of him. Sam was followed a minute later by the consistent Rob Wilson, who clocked up yet another top 30 finish (28th). Another minute later Steve Elson finished in 54th, followed closely by Zeph Allen (57th), who just bettered Mo Hashi (59th) in an impressive sprint to the line. All three improved greatly on their previous league outings, Hashi in particular. By contrast, Max Wells-Pestell (69th) and Angelo John (120th) did not fare as well against their rivals on this occasion, but scored valuable points as sixth and seventh scorers. Angelo was not the only one heard lamenting the loss of a shoe during the race. In 137th, Andy Dodd continues his impressive return to form, leapfrogging both Mark Delahunty and James Steel compared to the last match. However, Mark and James both ran well too, Mark (143rd) achieving by far his highest finish position of the season. Just 15 seconds behind, James (156th) claimed the last scoring slot of the day for the A team.
It was a healthy turnout by our senior men, with another seven runners still to finish. Rob Brown (173rd) had to concede victory to both Mark and James on this occasion. In 209th, U20 Akira Anzai-Jackson had a much better run than at Alexandra Palace. Ian Leslie (246th) was well inside the top 300 for the first time, but Steve Barrington (296th) lost ground on him this time, being closed down also by a fast-finishing Andy Leung (305th), who gained several places on the run-in. Darren Halford (332nd) returned after a two-week absence from a chest infection, and also had shoe-loss issues to contend with. Phil York (345th) was heard stating beforehand that his ambition was “not to come last”, a goal he achieved with just seventeen places to spare!
The senior women had been fighting relegation after a poor turnout at the first fixture, and did just enough to retain their place in Division One. Having mixed it with the front runners early on, the multi-talented Kat Mertens (34th) dropped back but produced a strong finish to lead the team home and rob Sarah Richardson (36th) of that honour. Sarah was one of several runners to end up in the mud in the course of her race. Lynn Wilson (76th) delivered another gutsy performance, closing the gap on several rivals from her last league outing. In 95th, Carol Jones enjoyed a rare victory over Patricia Thomas (100th) who clearly did not relish the conditions. Final scorer for the A team was team captain Mary Walsh in 106th, who once again got ahead of Gill Morgan in 113th. Triathlete Kate Atley (126th) had given her new spikes a trial run at Alexandra Palace and they had a second outing at the Scrubs, Kate managing to look serene and unperturbed in the process. Beverley Packwood (131st) was seen alternately grimacing and skipping her way through the deep puddles, followed by an on-form run from Julia Gristwood (134th).
Lying second in the league after the previous fixture, the U17/U15 women had entertained hopes of winning, but had to settle for second. Local rivals TVH turned out some very strong runners for this last fixture. There were just four in the ESM squad, so every effort counted towards the team result. U15 County Schools champion Nicola Ravenhill (6th) made her usual strong start but could not stay on terms with the leaders, and allowed herself to get rattled after an early fall. However, she battled on and finished ahead of two key runners from Herts Phoenix. Olivia Will, Laura Stewart and Roisin Lynch have been trading places throughout the league, but it was Olivia (14th) who showed first on this occasion, followed by Laura (23rd) and Roisin (31st). The team finished fourth in the match.
Despite some fine individual results, the U17/U15 men’s team has rarely finished above the middle of the league this season, and they relied heavily at this last fixture on the U15s. The team was led home by U15 County Schools champion John Fielding (16th), followed shortly by the consistent George Kerry in 28th. In only his second Met League race, Raunuk Mainali (47th) was third to score, while Conor McCarthy (53rd) ran to form in completing the team. Luke Adar had his highest finish yet in 59th.
There was a stronger result from the thriving U13 girls’ squad, which finished third on the day. Lucy O’Brien did well to finish 12th, followed just half a minute later by Cameron Thomas (19th), who produced a strong finish to record one of her best runs of the season. Anisa Ibrahim (22nd) and Maryam Hussain (25th) have been in action at every league meeting, Anisa following hard on Cameron’s heels, while Maryam took the last scoring place for the A team. Rosie Cox ran well in 31st, while eleven-year-old Fiona Coutts (39th) displayed her usual positive running when putting space between herself and some much older runners.
The U13 boys had struggled for numbers in the first two fixtures but produced some great results in later matches, with another second place on Saturday. Lucas Sheehan led them home again in seventh, with Naoki Kanai (ninth) hot on his heels. Patrick Owen (16th) has been a key team member this season, while Fiona’s older brother William Coutts also scored useful points for the A team in 28th. Kirk Lebdiri (50th) made his second Met League outing.
Well done to everyone who braved the mud and the wind in our green and amber vest!
Senior men (8k): 14 Sam Ashcroft 25:39, 28 Robert Wilson 26:49, 54 Steve Elson 28:04, 57 Zephon Allen U20 28:11, 59 Mohamed Hashi U20 28:12, 69 Max Wells-Pestell U20 28:43, 120 Angelo John V40 30:18, 137 Andrew Dodd 30:47, 143 Mark Delahunty V40 31:01, 156 James Steel V45 31:16, 173 Robert Brown V45 31:41, 209 Akira Anzai-Jackson U20 33:02, 246 Ian Leslie V55 34:01, 296 Steve Barrington V45 36:52, 305 Andy Leung V40 37:17, 332 Darren Halford V40 39:22, 345 Phil York V50 42:19; U17/U15 (4k): 16 John Fielding U15 14:18, 28 George Kerry U15 14:57, 47 Raunak Mainali 15:54, 53 Conor McCarthy 16:28, 59 Luke Adar U15 16:54, U13 (3k): 7 Lucas Sheehan U13 9:45, 9 Naoki Kanai U13 9:58, 16 Patrick Owen U13 10:16, 28 William Coutts U13 10:58, 50 Kirk Lebdiri U13 13:16
Senior women (6k): 34 Kat Mertens 28:42, 36 Sarah Richardson V40 28:47, 76 Lynn Wilson V55 31:50, 95 Carol Jones V55 33:15, 100 Patricia Thomas V45 33:39, 106 Mary Walsh V40 34:29, 113 Gillian Morgan V50 35:02, 126 Kate Atley V35 37:26, 131 Beverley Packwood V40 38:08, 134 Julia Gristwood V50 39:01; U17/U15 (4k): 6 Nicola Ravenhill U15 15:40, 14 Olivia Will 16:31, 23 Laura Stewart U15 17:00, 31 Roisin Lynch U15 18:05, U13 (3k): 12 Lucy O’Brien U13 11:10, 19 Cameron Thomas U13 11:41, 22 Anisa Ibrahim U13 11:48, 25 Maryam Hussain U13 11:58, 31 Rosie Cox U13 12:24, 39 Fiona Coutts U13 12:49
Full results here.