The wintry mid-week weather gave way to sleeting rain on Saturday afternoon, as we headed to Trent Park for the penultimate Metropolitan Cross Country League race of the season (writes Fiona Kennedy). Mercifully for the nearly 1000 athletes present, it didn’t last, and there was even some bright sunshine by the time the men set off on the final race of the day.
Conditions were testing in other respects though, as the course was undulating, with several tricky turns to negotiate in deep mud. To cap it all, there was a long uphill climb to the finish. It was a new course for everyone, as the Met League has never been held at this venue; the only people with a slight advantage in that respect were perhaps host club Trent Park.
Our junior women’s squad is always strong and on this occasion they turned in a great performance to win the team competition for the first time this season. Nicola Ravenhill led for most of the race before being outsprinted by Megan Greensmith of Highgate, who had tracked her throughout. (Slight lack of photos taken on Saturday, the one below is of Nicola winning a Met League in January… 2015 !!) Next home was U15 Anisa Ibrahim, displaying a resounding return to form, with reliable scorer Jessica Leane hard on her heels. U15 Lucy O’Brien has represented the club at every Met League match and took the final scoring place. Cameron Thomas had the satisfaction of gaining her highest finish place to date, while Roisin Lynch completed the squad.
The senior women continue to reap the benefits of a solid turnout for every match, finishing second in their division, and remaining on target for promotion back to Division One. (Real time photo above, with apologies to Pat, Nikki & and Estelle, who had gone awol at the time). Lucy Ellis led them home once again, finishing ten places higher than her previous outing. Veteran Fiona Kennedy has tackled all four League races and finished half a minute behind Lucy. After a few weeks’ absence from racing, Shona Cowper suffered from poor positioning at the crowded start but worked her way through to take third scoring place – and took some small consolation at outsprinting a Highgate runner on the uphill finish. Pat Thomas has also turned out at every fixture – despite a love-hate relationship with cross country – and surprised herself with her best League finish by far. Nikki Shelley struggled with lack of race practice but made a welcome contribution as fifth scorer.
Carol Jones and duathlete Gill Morgan once again contributed to our veteran women’s solid position in Division One. Gill only runs twice a week but found the strength to finish the race well and was satisfied with her performance, declaring the multi-faceted course “good championship preparation”. Next in was Cath Gunnewicht, whose race was briefly interrupted by a loose shoelace, at which point she lost ground on Gill. Cath described the climb to the obelisk at the far end of the course as a “monument-al hill which had me almost walking up”, but she rallied well at the end to produce an impressive sprint finish. (Still a slightly reluctant cross country runner, Cath was nevertheless impressed with the hot chocolate in the café afterwards!) Sue Dyke gained 22 places on her last race, while fellow triathlete Estelle McLaughlin also relished the challenging scenic course.
With a slightly smaller than usual squad of just 13, the senior men had an uphill struggle in more ways than one! They again finished only third on the day, but like the women, they remain top of Division Two, and well placed for promotion – provided they can produce a good result at the final fixture. The twists and turns of the hilly course did not suit the club’s first finisher Ben Waterman, but his efforts were crucial for the team result. Behind him, Chris Hepworth turned in a strong run, motivated by the sight of Ben not too far ahead. Next across the line was Manish Kunwar – below left – who has represented the club at all four races, running well to finish inside the top 100 for the first time this season.
Archie Jones was less pleased with his race, but conceded that it did not fit well with his current training cycle. Despite a significantly higher place than last time, Nick Steel was also disappointed with his performance over the twisting, slippery course – though he did feel the benefit of a new set of longer spikes. (Nick did confess that he has only been training once a week, which means he has no right to race as well as he does!!) Santosh Rai is a strong cross country runner anyway but is having a good season as he builds up for his first marathon, finishing 50 places further up the field than last time. Following his medal-winning race at last week’s County Championships, U20 Conor McCarthy once again proved an asset to the team, taking seventh scoring position. Behind him, Mark Kencroft was the club’s leading veteran, and declared it was the best course he had experienced this season. He focused on staying upright through the muddy sections, working his way past Conor in the process – only to be outsprinted at the finish. (It’s always worth a try, though, Mark). Middle distance veteran Angelo John, like Ben, seemed not to find the course to his advantage, but took ninth scoring place nonetheless. Martin Shelley was satisfied with his first race back after knee injury; like sister Nikki, he claimed the final scoring place for the team. Nar (Krishna) Garbuja was across the line less than a minute later. Ian McNally said he found himself enjoying cross country for the first time this season; after a slow start, he found a steady pace and engaged in battle with the group around him, pulling away from them at the end. (And that’s really what cross country is all about, wherever you are in the field). Simon Turrell has not been focussing on his running recently, but loved the course and was inspired by the performances of some of the veterans around him.
Other pleasing performances from the young athletes included stalwart John Fielding’s sixth place in the Under 17 men’s event. (Again, the picture below is of John… but in January last year!) George Kerry has also had a great season but finished just behind John this time. With U15 Sudeys Hersi in 21st, the team finished third overall. The U15s were well represented, with Arun Manget crossing the line a minute after Sudeys. Mikey Kouwiloyan, Matteo Lamagna and Chauncey Edwards have turned out consistently for the club at the League and all once again put in solid runs for the team.
For the U13s, it was once again Mahiis Hersi, younger brother Najiib, and Mohammed Ibrahim, with Finn Combe for company this time. The team finished seventh, their best result of the season. In the corresponding girls’ race, Lucy Henson followed up her successful club racing debut with a much improved position; finishing halfway up the field last time, she was in the top quarter this time. New member Athena Fremantle had her second taste of club cross country following the County Championships last weekend.
Thanks to all the Team Managers for getting everyone to the start line.
The next key club fixture is of course the Southern Championships at Parliament Hill at the end of the month. The final Met League fixture is on Saturday 11th February at Alexandra Palace. Please turn out to represent the club if you can, so that we can end the season on a high note.ESM results summary
Men (8km): 48 Ben Waterman 28:48; 62 Christopher Hepworth 29:10; 91 Manish Kunwar 30:04 (U20); 114 Archie Jones 30:51; 117 Nick Steel 30:53; 129 Santosh Rai 31:09; 177 Conor McCarthy 32:26 (U20); 182 Mark Kencroft 32:37 (V45); 212 Angelo John 33:25 (V40); 243 Martin Shelley 34:27; 275 Nar Garbuja 35:14; 402 Ian McNally 42:14; 423 Simon Turrell 45:59 (V45)
U15/17 Boys (4km): 6 John Fielding 13:51; 7 George Kerry 14:00; 21 Sudeys Hersi 14:59 (U15); 44 Arun Manget 15:54 (U15); 69 Mikey Kouwiloyan 18:12 (U15); 74 Matteo Lamagna 18:43 (U15); 77 Chauncey Edwards 20:05 (U15)
U13 Boys (3km): 9 Mahiis Hersi 12:52; 19 Najiib Hersi 13:16; 30 Finn Combe 13:59; 45 Mohammed Ibrahim 15:06
Women (6km): 32 Lucy Ellis 26:22; 42 Fiona Kennedy 26:50 (V55); 57 Shona Cowper 27:40; 64 Patricia Thomas 28:15 (V50); 93 Nicola Shelley 29:30; 110 Carol Jones 30:26 (V55); 142 Gillian Morgan 32:39 (V55); 146 Catherine Gunnewicht 32:51 (V45); 148 Sue Dyke 33:19 (V45); 188 Estelle McLaughlin 37:06
U15/17 Girls (4km): 2 Nicola Ravenhill 16:03; 7 Anisa Ibrahim 17:02 (U15); 8 Jessica Leane 17:11; 11 Lucy O’Brien 17:32 (U15); 27 Cameron Thomas 18:56; 45 Roisin Lynch 22:36
U13 Girls (3km): 11 Lucy Henson 14:04; 41 Athena Fremantle 17:11
Full results on Power of 10.