We made the most of home advantage at the fourth fixture of the Met League on Horsenden Hill. Teams in almost all the age groups ended the day one or two positions higher in the League. There were also some outstanding individual performances, with an outright win for Nicola Ravenhill in the U15/U17 race, while the improving Pete Flewitt was just a few seconds shy of being first veteran across the line in the men’s race.
Athletes had to battle a fierce wind, and the temperature felt much lower than the published 10°C. The ground was not as water-logged as some previous years, but the muddiest sections were as heavy-going as ever, so conditions were pretty relentless.
Following on from their success in last week’s County Championships, the U15s made a valuable contribution in the combined U15/U17 races. At the last fixture, Nicola Ravenhill had been first U15, but here she led the whole field home with an impressive finishing sprint, ahead of a couple of U17s who had beaten her before. The two other scoring team members also finished further up the field: Laura Stewart was 8th vs 11th and Cameron Thomas was 16th vs 23rd. In particular, Maryam Hussain had a much stronger run, moving up 11 places to 20th, while Martha Hayward (26th) finished seven places higher. Jennifer Connelly was 34th, against 38th. Leah Kelly (37th) was another notable improver, just getting the nod over Roisin Lynch as they crossed the line together. The squad finished second on the day and has moved up from fifth to third in the League.
There were a couple of key runners missing in the corresponding boys’/men’s race, but there was a strong squad of seven who acquitted themselves well, holding on to their third place in the League. U15 George Kerry was first to show in ninth, his first top ten place of the season. Raunak Mainali was just a minute behind, improving six places on his last outing. U15 Luke Adar made his mark too, completing the scoring team in this mixed-age race. Moments later and a cluster of ESM vests came into view, led by Naoki Kanai. It was good to see the irrepressible Conor McCarthy back in action right behind him, while William Coutts and Matthew Lynch were also home just seconds later.
The U13 girls’ squad also had “a good day at the races”, their fourth place moving them up from fifth to fourth in the League. With two extra girls in the squad this time, they were much better placed to notch up a good score. The dependable Lucy O’Brien (7th) led them home, while Anisa Ibrahim (9th) did well to finish a couple of places higher than last time in a slightly larger field. Fiona Coutts (30th) nabbed the final scoring place, ahead of Sarah Freegard (32nd) and Niamh Lynch (36th).
The U13 Boys couldn’t quite match the girls’ achievements, but it was heartening to see a good turnout of five ESM vests in this race. The squad finished 10th, moving them up from 15th to 12th in the League. New member Ilyes Iman (17th) once again led the way, followed by Kane and Dylan Forster, in 36th and 39th respectively. Regulars Mikey Kouwiloyan and Mahiis Hershi resumed their rivalry, with Mikey (41st) edging out Mahiis (42nd) once again.
The senior women fielded a solid team of eight, which has moved them further out of the relegation zone. With an eighth place for the team on the day, they have moved up from seventh to sixth in the League, though much will still depend on the final fixture. Once again, race walker Grazina Narviliene proved her all-round athleticism by leading the team home in 34th, though Sarah Richardson (39th) narrowed the gap to half a minute this time. Fiona Kennedy had a poor race and was close to dropping out, but with good home support on the second lap rallied to finish 56th. Nikki Shelley, on her return from a heavy cold, was less than half a minute behind in 63rd. The fifth scorer was Lynn Wilson (84th), who continues to amaze her team-mates with her ability to deliver a good cross-country performance on very little training or race practice. Jane Ruhland closed the team just 10 seconds behind in 87th, continuing her steady return to form. Simonetta Taccuso, back after a very long absence from club activities, was another veteran seemingly able to pluck a good race from nowhere. Carol Jones finished a creditable 105th in the field of 164. The squad continues to be competitive in the veterans’ competition, lying fourth but just 11 points behind London Heathside and 27 behind Serpentine.
The senior men needed a good result to pull them out of the relegation zone, and some of the club’s faster runners duly turned out to make this happen. The 19-strong team finished eighth on the day, and now lie eighth in the League. However, with Newham & Essex Beagles less than 100 points behind, there is all to play for in the final match.
First ESM man to cross the line was Ben Waterman in 27th, delivering his best ever Met League place. Next in, with a well-paced race, was veteran Pete Flewitt. Pete has improved tremendously this season, moving from 122nd to 93rd and now 50th in his three Met League outings. Third scorer was Jamie Taylor-Caldwell, who deserves a man-of-the-match award for finishing 59th. Not only had he just arrived back from an overnight flight from Dubai, but he finished second in a 10k race there the day before in a personal best time of 31:51. (“I’ll have what he’s having”, I think the saying goes).
Like the last fixture at Hillingdon, there was less than a minute separating Luke Nicholas (68th), Archie Allen (74th) and Steve Elson (82nd). All three seem to be improving as the season progresses: the field was of a similar size, but all three finished 20-30 places higher this time.
Florjan Bakalli was seventh scorer, in 121st, with a fairly consistent run, while veterans Angelo John (139th) and Rob Brown (143rd) were next to show, Angelo holding off Rob by nine seconds. Maybe it was the sight of Angelo in front, but Rob finished 50 places higher than at Hillingdon. Santosh Rai (159th) found himself in the top half of the field for the first time, while Andy Dodd (202nd) and Steve Morris (228th) grabbed the last two scoring places.
Veteran Ian Leslie ran consistently to finish 154th, while Steve Plested moved up 30 places to finish 297th. Darren Halford was just 14 seconds behind in 300th, another consistent run. Clive Richardson (339th) finished 20 places higher than last time, being given the nod over Andy Leung. Stories are circulating about Andy leaving his shoes in the mud during the sprint finish, but apparently this was what he said last time too, so either he’s a slow learner or he’s running out of excuses. Novice Ian McNally (355th) got the chance to test out the spikes Santa brought him, while John Falvey (367th) is still arguing with wife Fiona over whose run was worse.
The course was impeccably marked out by Phil York, and exceptionally well marshalled for a cross-country event, so thanks to all the volunteers who contributed to the day’s success. There was also plenty of vocal support for ESM runners around the course, so thanks also to anyone who participated in that, it really can lift your spirits when “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”! Lynn Wilson and Jean King took some fabulous photos, and there are many appreciative comments on our Facebook page – from other club members as well as our own.
Please note the Hec Petersen Trophy meeting, scheduled for Saturday 17th January, has been POSTPONED.