The second Met League fixture returned to Welwyn after a few years’ absence, but at the new venue of Stanborough Park. The organisers managed to create an enjoyable yet challenging route within a relatively confined area, and we were blessed yet again with mild dry conditions.
There was good participation from the senior athletes. Men’s Team Manager Phil York was pleased that the club were able to field 22 athletes in the Senior/Junior race. There were 508 finishers in the opening fixture at Claybury, but Welwyn saw a Met League record field of 529 athletes. This number was, however, swelled by a large contingent of runners from Cambridge University, who were using the event as a trials race for the ‘Cuppers’ competition. Paradoxically, despite putting in good performances, some of our athletes were surprised to finish lower down the field than in the previous fixture.
At Claybury we finished 8th out of the 10 Division One Teams but, over the ‘rollercoaster’ Welwyn course we enjoyed an improvement of one position to 7th. With three fixtures remaining the club are, for the moment, comfortably clear of the relegation zone. The determination to maintain our top tier status has created a strong team spirit, which is evident in the team photos.
Jamie Taylor-Caldwell was again the club’s first finisher, followed home by Moe Hashi and Mukhtar Farah (U20). Another U20 athlete, George Kerry, finished a fine 74th in his debut Met League senior race with Chris Hepworth just behind him. It’s no mean feat to place inside the top 100 in these high quality races. However, 800m specialist Ben Waterman just missed out in 101st position, having chosen to pass on the opening fixture.
Next to finish for ESM were the improving Luke Nicholas and Malik Ouzia, who hasn’t raced for the club in quite a while. Elliot Jones is racing more regularly over the country this season, and led home a pack of ESM runners comprising Angelo John, Mark Kencroft and Archie Jones. Despite being short on recent training, Archie travelled all the way from Southampton to compete for the club, and it made the difference as he completed our ‘scoring twelve’ in 232nd place.
With so many learned people competing in the mens race, it was nice to see so many Northolt High School (NHS) alumni representing ESM. Having been schooled in St Vincent, Angelo doesn’t qualify for this ‘club’ although he does reside in Northolt, so it was left to Mark Kencroft to lead home the former NHS scholars, with Martin Shelley, Phil York and Ian McNally completing the group.
We did have one Cambridge University student wearing club colours though, as we welcomed back Joe Gilbert to the squad. Tom Yates and Akira Anzai-Jackson finished close behind Joe, as all three got to grips with the undulating terrain.
Steve Plested was second in the V65 age category after managing to negotiate the camber towards the end of each of the three laps. Roughly 400m from the start line, the runners encountered a narrow section of the course, and some of the back markers had no option but to walk. It’s academic now, of course, but ESM’s Clive Richardson, Simon Turrell, John Falvey and Ian McNally were among those affected.
Next season, Phil York will be ‘Emeritus Mens Cross Country Team Manager’, but for the moment looks forward to continuing our encouraging start to this latest Met League campaign.
The women’s turnout was also excellent at fifteen, writes Fiona Kennedy, and the team finished third in Division Two – a great improvement on our fifth place in the opening fixture.
Under 20 Jessica Leane led the team out with an aggressive start, and was up in the top twenty in the early stages. It’s her first season racing over the senior distance, and she faded slightly as the race progressed, but her 48th place in this record field of 249 was fundamental in our improved score.
Sarah Richardson paced herself well, and closed steadily on Jessica, finishing just nine seconds behind and just outside the top 50. Half a minute behind in 62nd, Shona Cowper also had a good race; she closed on Sarah in the middle stages, but the gap remained steady thereafter. Fiona Kennedy made a cautious start but gained in confidence and picked up plenty of places, also going past Sarah Gerrie as they headed out on the inner loop. Sarah ran a solid race and scored very welcome points in 93rd, though she still hasn’t regained top form since her marathon in the spring.
The next ESM quartet consisted of Patricia Thomas, Breege Leane, Carol Jones and Lynn Wilson. Breege made a strong start and held on well despite being passed fairly early by the other three. Carol prevailed in the end, once again having the edge on Lynn, but the pair only went past Patricia in the last half mile or so, and only nine seconds separated the trio.
Sarah R, Fiona, Carol and Lynn made up the scoring veteran team, which finished fifth in Division One – veteran covers anything from W35 up, so not bad with three of them being W60s!
Beverley Packwood found the course more challenging than her season’s debut at Horsenden Hill, and took the first lap cautiously. As the race progressed, she got a boost from passing people on the uphill and flatter sections, but felt she lost ground on the downhills. She was also indignant to see Lucy Duncan of Hillingdon ahead of her in the results, being convinced she crossed the line first!
For her part, Kristina Wilton was satisfied with her third cross country, having judged her effort well. She was just a little frustrated to lose position in the closing stages: “A Serpentine runner was just ahead of me for some time but I was pleased to pass her and a couple of others as we got towards the end of the final lap. But I clearly need to work on my finish as she and three others sprinted past me to the line… more work to do!”
Barbro Julin suffered a similar fate, after seemingly getting the better of Cath Gunnewicht. As Cath put it: “I had Barbro within my sights for the whole race and my aim was to catch up with her… I overtook her about half way through. But she overtook me again after [another] 1km. I managed to outsprint her at the end. Having her just ahead of me for most of the race really helped me keep focused as I had a goal!” Not much consolation for Barbro, who seemed to give up slightly as Cath went past – only to be overtaken by two Hillingdon athletes as well!
Annette Galloway has embraced cross country this season (must be the Irish blood). Her race was evenly-paced, using the downhill sections to recover. Like others, she relished the sprint to the line, getting the nod over Tajinder Randhawa of Hillingdon, who was given an identical time: “I heard one of her supporters say that she could easily take me on the finish and that spurred me on… I have honestly never run that fast!! We shook at the finish – runners’ etiquette. Felt like I was a kid racing my friends…..it made me laugh!”
Annick Hooge is fast getting to grips with the challenges of cross country, but this time she was caught out by not understanding the course: “I understood that it was two laps and hadn’t anticipated the middle small loop which means that I went too fast in the middle section and panicked a little as I thought I had gone wrong”.
So, the women’s team are moving in the right direction but there’s no room for complacency – we’re currently ranked third in Division Two, but we need to be in the top two for promotion to Division One!
More photos are available on the Facebook page.
ESM results summary:
U13B: 30 Taaj Ojha 12:19; 38 Louis Saint 12:52; 56 Marco Lamagna 13:53
U15/U17B: 34 Arun Manget (U15) 15:22; 67 Chauncey Edwards 16:59
U15/U17G: 9 Angel Grimes-McTavish 16:14; 29 Anna Ilchenko (U15) 17:07; 62 Katie Hay (U15) 21:18
U20W/SW: 48 Jessica Leane (U20) 25:13; 54 Sarah Richardson (V40) 25:22; 62 Shona Cowper 25:52; 74 Fiona Kennedy (V60) 26:25; 93 Sarah Gerrie 27:01; 154 Carol Jones (V60) 29:25; 157 Lynn Wilson (V60) 29:32; 159 Patricia Thomas (V50) 29:34; 174 Breege Leane (V55) 30:16; 203 Beverley Packwood (V45) 32:43; 219 Kristina Wilton (V45) 34:32; 223 Catherine Gunnewicht (V45) 34:50; 226 Barbro Julin (V55) 34:52; 231 Annette Galloway (V45) 35:36; 246 Annick Hooge (V60) 38:23
U20M/SM: 28 Jamie Taylor-Caldwell 25:26; 49 Mohamed Hashi 26:09; 63 Mukhtar Farah (U20) 26:27; 74 George Kerry (U20) 26:34; 79 Christopher Hepworth 26:49; 101 Ben Waterman 27:36; 137 Luke Nicholas 28:20; 151 Malik Ouzia 28:33; 212 Elliot Jones 29:50; 229 Angelo John (V45) 30:04; 232 Archie Jones 30:08; 237 Mark Kencroft (V50) 30:11; 299 Joe Gilbert 31:56; 322 Tom Yates 32:37; 338 Martin Shelley 33:02; 351 Akira Anzai-Jackson 33:19; 416 Philip York (V55) 35:11; 430 Steve Plested (V65) 35:44; 456 Clive Richardson (V40) 36:32; 492 Simon Turrell (V45) 39:20; 513 John Falvey (V60) 41:44; 518 Ian McNally 42:12
Full results on powerof10