Last Saturday ESM travelled to Alexandra Palace for the final Metropolitan League fixture of the 2018/19 cross country season, writes Phil York. Needing a miracle to avoid relegation from Division One, the club’s senior men made a valiant attempt to preserve their top flight status. Although the three lap course was some 500 metres shy of 8km, there was plenty of mud, and each circuit featured a winding ascent towards the Palace followed immediately by a very steep and treacherous downhill stretch ending on a section of tarmac. Fortunately the remainder of the course was not too demanding!
Our men turned out in force, with eighteen of us taking part in the race. We saw the return of Jamie Taylor-Caldwell, who finished just ahead of Moe Hashi, an ever-present in the Met League this winter. Both men finished in the top 40 this time. Peter Flewitt, in 74th position, placed second in the M45 age category. It was nice to see Nick Steel arrive in good time for the start and also creep inside the top 100. Mukhtar Farah was our next scorer with a much improved performance. Reece Asik was disappointed at dropping out of the previous fixture at Wormwood Scrubs, but finished strongly here as Elliot Jones and Sam Ashcroft sprinted home just behind him. Surrounded by legions of runners from host club London Heathside, ESM were packing well, with the consistent Mark Kencroft grabbing third place in the M50 age category. Rob Brown finished fourth M50. However, there was then a bit of a gap before Martin Shelley (another ever-present) and Manish Kunwar completed the scoring twelve. It was great to see Manish making his first appearance for the club in almost a year.
Michael Charles did the parkrun/Met League double on this occasion, but his cross country effort was a much improved performance compared to his January outing at the Scrubs. Ian Leslie finished third in the M60 age category, while Steve Plested returned to form with a win in the M65 age group. Liam Kencroft, a relative novice at cross country, had to work hard to hold off Simon Turrell, who saved himself for the rigours of Ally Pally by volunteering at Northala parkrun in the morning.
Team manager Phil York, it must be said, wrapped up well against the cold weather and was relieved simply to complete the race without stopping. There weren’t too many runners behind him. At this point Phil stands down as team manager, and with a fresh approach we look forward to regaining our Division One status next season.
Women’s team manager Shona Cowper takes up the story… I arrived early at Ally Pally to help out with some of the younger teams’ races. I was given the great responsibility of a scanner and was at the front-line of the race aftermath. When I saw a number of kids crying when they crossed the finish line, I knew it was going to be tough out there. To be honest, this was probably the worst I’d felt doing any race all season. I hadn’t run at all during the week before because of a cold and I just felt lacklustre, like I was dragging myself round rather than running.
On the positive side, there was great support on the course, especially on the main hill up towards the Palace and back down again. I’d go so far as to say that section was almost fun. Angel Grimes-McTavish had a stonking race, overtaking me just after the first lap and really keeping up the momentum until the end. This was Angel’s first season in the senior women’s team and it’s been great to see her building in confidence over the races and finishing strong in the final fixture.
The return of Kat Mertens this season has also been a great boost to the team, adds Fiona Kennedy, and she was our first finisher again. Second home was Sarah Gerrie, who has been showing great strength in training recently.
Pat Thomas finds this course particularly tough – and has bad memories of falling there a few years ago – but this time she had a battle with daughter Cameron to keep her focussed. Cameron started strongly but was caught by Pat on the second lap. When Cameron faltered on the steep uphill stretch, Pat gave her a few encouraging words, and she rallied strongly to pull ahead of mum with 200m to go.
Carol Jones, who’s been an ever-present at this season’s Met League, commented that it was the driest conditions she had ever experienced at Aly Paly… “and it was still pretty muddy”! (Fiona Kennedy can vouch for that, having landed in the mud before she’d even reached the club meeting point). Barbro Julin completed the team, which finished mid-table on the day and fourth overall in Division 2.
With Mo Ali now focusing on the indoor season, the junior men were led home by Elias Ahmed in second place, followed by the ever-competitive U15 Seweryn Czapka in 20th. U15s Leo Djankoff and Hussein Zaaiter ensured we had a full team of four to finish the season.
We were one short of a full team in the corresponding junior women’s race. Amira Nuseibeh led the three home, followed by Met League ever-present Charlie Cooney-Quinn, with Katie Hay hot on her heels.
Well done to all who have competed in the Met League this season, and good luck to those making their way up to Leeds for the Nationals on the 23rd.
ESM results summary:
U17 men/U15 boys (4.2K): 2 Elias Ahmed 15:53; 20 Seweryn Czapka (U15) 17:28; 43 Leo Djankoff (U15) 18:31; 79 Hussein Zaaiter (U15) 22:26
U17 women/U15 girls (4.2K): 44 Amira Nuseibeh 23:33; 48 Charlotte Cooney Quinn 25:39; 49 Katie Hay 25:43
Senior women (5.8K): 34 Katherine Mertens 23:36; 64 Sarah Gerrie (V35) 24:29; 83 Angel Grimes-McTavish (U20) 25:40; 88 Shona Cowper 25:50; 122 Cameron Thomas (U20) 27:05; 124 Patricia Thomas (V50) 27:08; 189 Carol Jones (V60) 30:50; 215 Barbro Julin (V55) 33:27
Senior men (7.5K): 29 Jamie Taylor-Caldwell 29:21; 37 Mohamed Hashi 29:33; 74 Peter Flewitt (V45) 31:00; 96 Nick Steel 31:38; 143 Mukhtar Farah 32:48; 174 Reece Asik 33:17; 183 Elliot Jones 33:29; 184 Sam Ashcroft 33:30; 195 Mark Kencroft (V50) 33:51; 211 Robert Brown (V50) 34:16; 255 Martin Shelley 35:54; 303 Manish Kunwar 37:20; 323 Michael Charles (V45) 38:23; 339 Ian Leslie (V60) 38:51; 374 Steve Plested (V65) 40:53; 403 Liam Kencroft 44:14; 409 Simon Turrell (V50) 44:47; 427 Philip York (V55) 47:26
Full results on power of 10