English National XC Champs – Parliament Hill – Sat 24 Feb 2018

U15 winner Mohamed Ali looking controlled in his race

The Mo Show goes on! Mohamed Ali capped off his phenomenal cross country season with a win in the U15 boys’ race at the Nationals.  It was an inspiring sight for all our athletes and supporters at Parliament Hill last Saturday. The plan, according to coach Steve Mann, was to not to get involved with the front of the race until he had to. This worked in his favour, as many of his main contenders made the mistake of giving too much on the first few hills. When Mohamed made his move, it was only the Aldershot athlete, Will Barnicoat (second at the Southerns) and Archie Lowe (Northern Champion) who were able to react. From the moment Mohamed took it on, he looked in control, although he had to push until the final field before the Aldershot athlete dropped off and Mohamed could enjoy the finish.

In the same race, Arun Manget had a good run too, finishing well up the record field of over 500. For some of those further back, there were big race debuts, adds coach Graham French. Rafa Davison, Thomas Edgar, Seweryn Capka (in his first ever club race – what an initiation!) and Vitaly Bender. Vitaly’s experience included the loss of a shoe; he showed true cross country spirit by picking it up and carrying it round for the rest of the race.

The two more experienced U17 women ran well, continues Steve Mann, with Angel Grimes-McTavish making her way through the field after a strong start. She and Anisa Ibrahim both took some noteworthy scalps, including some who have beaten them in the Met Leagues and County Champs this season. Further down the field, Amira Nuseibeh was tackling her first major race. She tackled the course well and managed a strong finish.

U20 Jessica Leane

In the junior women’s race, U20 Jessica Leane made a fast start, putting herself in the top 25 on the first hill. She ran strongly but faded a little on the last part, dropping back to a very creditable 52nd. Nicola Ravenhill used her experience to make a steady start and was gradually chasing Jessica down, only to roll her ankle on the back part of the course. She still managed to complete the course in the top half of the field. Both girls have two more years in the age group.

In the junior men’s race, Mukhtar Farah was running in his last ever race as an U20, and he made it count, having one of his best runs of the year finishing 67th in a field of 220. He collided with a Tonbridge athlete on the first lap but picked himself up and made his way through the field to finish strongly. George Kerry, a first year in the age group, proved he is getting used to the distance. He finished higher than expected, showing he is coming back into form after an injury earlier in the season.

The U13 boys were led home by Maxi Steel. Sam Bonnett should have been our second scorer on the day, but lost his chip and doesn’t appear in the results. Sam got boxed in on the charge up the hill and didn’t manage to make up the ground. Jonah Mezey finished not too far behind Maxi . (Apparently he went on to win a scouts’ cross country race the following day). Louis Saint had a very good race, his improved concentration making the most of his innate ability. He confessed afterwards to having “really worked hard”! Coach Bridie Lebdiri had told Hussain Zaaiter and Thomas Musie to run together and was very pleased to see them both finish strongly and not at the very back of the field. She feels it was definitely their best run of the season and demonstrates their improving fitness. Thomas apparently gave it his all and was exhausted afterwards. Arun Smith was yet another casualty of the mud, losing a shoe during the race!

In the U15 girls’ race, Lauren Beale was running her first National. It’s her first year as an under 15, and she has made the transition to the longer and tougher distances well. Both she and Fiona Coutts finished strongly, holding off challenges in the final 100m.

Moe Hashi, our first finisher in the senior men’s race

The club’s senior men were in buoyant mood ahead of their race, reports Phil York, having received news of Mohamed Ali’s success in the earlier U15 boys competition. Squad members had shown much interest during the lead up to this year’s ‘National’ event, and on the day we had ten starters representing ESM.

Moe Hashi led the team home, closely followed by Sam Ashcroft. Moe struggled with the after-effects of illness and had to dig deep. The pair covered the 12km course in just 46 minutes, which is good going in the infamous Parliament Hill mud.

Team manager Phil York reckoned that the conditions were the best he had ever seen at the venue, having first run here in the 1981 junior race. He described the mud as cloying, and of treacly consistency, rather than wet and unpleasant. At least runners could genuinely feel solid ground beneath their feet on most sections of the undulating course.

The next pair home for the team were Manish Kunwar, whose cross country season has been disrupted by injury and university studies, and Nick Steel. The downhill finish proved ideal for Nick’s customary fast finish, which enabled him to overtake several athletes along the home straight. Manish and Nick took 51 minutes to complete the race. Elliot Jones and Mark Kencroft, making their ‘National’ debuts, completed the scoring team. Elliot finished just inside the top 1000, with Mark an agonising twenty-nine places outside.

Rob Brown, who has raced lightly over the country this season, was next home for the club.

One hour is quite long enough to be out running in such cold weather, and Ian Leslie managed just that, finishing well up in the V60 age category. Phil York, recovering from injury, was happy just to complete the course, and ran with Simon Turrell during the early stages of the race. Simon, who has been almost ever-present this season, enjoyed a strong run in his first ‘National’.

Helena, Annick, Carol & Annette. (Barbro was attending to a cut knee!)

For the first time in three years, (since the last time the event was at Parliament Hill Fields), ESM had a senior ladies’ team, reports Women’s Team Manager Philip Prince. There were 1,113 finishers on the day, beating the previous record by 248. Sadly, some of ESM’s women were unable to take up their places through injury but everyone who took part ran hard, finished well and enjoyed the experience. All mentioned the mud, the “tough sticky mud” as Barbro Julin put it. There’s no getting away from that! Barbro spoke of it being inspirational and wanting to run it again (didn’t even mention her skinned knee). Annick Hooge “loved the race” but found the marshals a bit wanting when the men’s race tore across her shouting for her to get out of the way (but wants to do it again). She put in a great sprint finish to move up some places. Annette Galloway loved being part of something big: running up the hill at the start with a thousand other women, seeing clubs from all over the country and chasing someone wearing a green and yellow vest (not ESM). Carol Jones – she keeps coming back. Helena French was a little race-rusty and her father reports that she had to stop twice to sort out her shoes, but she put in a very strong finish to pass eight other runners in the run-in. This is the premier event in the cross country calendar, says Philip: if you have a bucket list for race experiences this should be on it.

Thanks to all those who contributed to this report: coaches Steve Mann, Graham French, Tim Hannah and Bridie Lebdiri, as well as senior men’s and women’s Team Managers Phil York and Philip Prince.

The statisticians among you may be interested to know that this was a record turnout for the Nationals, with 6444 finishers overall – up 21% on the previous record set in 2015. Click here to read more of the write-up from the English Cross Country Association.

ESM results summary, in race order:

U17W (5K): 62 Angel Grimes-McTavish 20:59; 136 Anisa Ibrahim 22:22; 265 Amira Nuseibeh 27:07 (276 ran)

U15B (4.5K): 1 Mohamed Ali 15:13; 214 Arun Manget 18:05; 428 Seweryn Czapka 20:15; 443 Rafa Davidson 20:32; 446 Thomas Edgar 20:41; 501 Vitaly Bender 25:31 (504 ran; 41st team out of 52)

U13B (3K): 298 Maximillian Steel 14:03; 363 Jonah Mezey 14:21; 425 Louis Saint 14:46; 469 Mohamed Ibrahim 15:03; 481 Arun Smith 15:11; 536 Hussain Zaaiter 16:16; 543 Thomas Musie 16:28; 544 Taaj Ojha 16:31 (570 ran; 52nd team out of 56)

U15G (4K): 400 Fiona Coutts 19:30; 411 Lauren Beale 19:46; 450 Charlotte Cooney-Quinn 21:27 (464 ran)

JW (6K): 52 Jessica Leane 28:28; 64 Nicola Ravenhill 29:11 (146 ran)

JM (10K): 67 Mukhtar Farah 36:11; 121 George Kerry 37:56 (220 ran)

SW (8K): 815 Carol Jones 45:47; 907 Barbro Julin 48:28; 955 Helena French 49:42; 995 Annette Galloway 51:32; 1064 Annick Hooge 56:48 (1113 ran; 109th team out of 112)

SM (12K): 249 Mohamed Hashi 46:10; 294 Sam Ashcroft 46:36; 745 Manish Kunwar 51:28; 791 Nick Steel 51:54; 913 Elliot Jones 53:11; 1029 Mark Kencroft 54:15; 1107 Robert Brown 55:01; 1593 Ian Leslie 60:03; 2077 Philip York 68:19; 2168 Simon Turrell 61:40 (2328 ran; 59th team out of 162)

Full results on powerof10