On Saturday, Thames Valley Harriers hosted the penultimate Metropolitan League fixture of the 2018/19 cross country season at Wormwood Scrubs, and record fields were witnessed. Cross country courses don’t come much easier than this relatively flat course, and runners arrived to find that the conditions underfoot were fairly dry, though a nagging cold breeze added an extra challenge on exposed sections.
Among the junior athletes, our U17/U15 men once again stole the show, winning the team race and moving up to fourth in the overall standings. Mohamed Ali won by a comfortable margin but tried some new race tactics by holding back in the early stages. A certain amount of confusion was evident amongst some of the other runners, who had clearly expected to be giving chase! Elias Ahmed was a clear second. U15 Seweryn Czapka was third to score, in 13th place, and second in his age group behind guest U15 Louis Hodge, while Arun Manget took the final scoring place.
There was a good turnout from our young athletes, with nine in this race, three in the corresponding junior women’s race, and eight in the U11/U13 races.
The club’s senior men produced a much improved performance, writes Phil York. It was encouraging to see four ESM vests finishing in the top hundred in the 547-strong field, with Moe Hashi leading the team home in 22nd place. He was closely followed by Jamie Taylor-Caldwell and Chris Hepworth, who had both recently been missing from the squad. Hashi was grateful that the Scrubs circuit does not include a watersplash, unlike the previous fixture at Uxbridge where he picked up an injury. Pete Flewitt crossed the line in 95th position and also managed third place in the M45 age category.
Nick Steel, Santosh Rai and Sam Ashcroft were our next scorers, locked together in the ‘middle order’ and Mark Kencroft was not too far behind, finishing fifth in the M50 age category. Relative to other clubs we tend to suffer point-wise because we don’t ‘pack’ very well, and we had a long wait before Rob Brown and Martin Shelley raced in to the rather elaborate finish funnel. Martin is an ever-present in the Met League this season. Ian Leslie (third M60) and Martin Daoud completed the scoring twelve. We did, however, manage to field seventeen athletes, which is a good showing for us.
Michael Charles backed up his storming run in last weekend’s Middlesex Championships with another good effort here, and Ricky Grimes chased him home after supporting daughter Angel in the ladies’ race. Steve Plested finished third in the M65 age category. It was good to see Liam Kencroft making his Met League debut, breaking in a new pair of cross country spikes. John Falvey took advantage of the flat course to participate; his knee injury limits his opportunities on hillier courses. Philip Prince did the ‘double’, completing Northala Fields parkrun in the morning and a Met League in the afternoon!
Although ESM finished eighth out of the ten teams in Division One, the club remains rooted to the bottom of the table with little prospect of avoiding the drop after the final fixture at Alexandra Palace in February.
The women enjoyed their best turnout this season, with 15 taking part. Team manager Shona Cowper comments: “I was really pleased that we had such a high turnout of women for this fixture. It makes such a difference to the team atmosphere when there’s a bigger group and we all share the cross country experience!”
The women’s field of 293 was also a record, so Kat Mertens had a strong run to lead us home in 26th, while Sarah Gerrie had an improved run over the previous week, with her best Met League performance yet.
Less than a minute later and Shona Cowper and Fiona Kennedy were also across the line. There was little to separate them in the latter part of the race, as Shona describes: “I felt a bit lacklustre during the race but had to ‘pull my finger out’ when it became clear that Fiona was gaining on me in the final 1km or so. I didn’t feel comfortable trying to pick up the pace until the last 400m or so and then I spent the last 150m looking over my shoulder to see who was there!” Fiona didn’t catch Shona, but she was first W60 across the line!
Our two U20 representatives took the next two places: Angel Grimes-McTavish is getting to grips with the longer courses and was third in her age category, while Cameron Thomas is gaining in confidence the more she races.
Breege Leane made a good return from injury and was third W55, despite unwanted attention from a dog in the closing stages. It didn’t appear vicious but apparently wasn’t interested in any of the other runners, and Breege was forced to make a slight detour to shake it off!
The drawback of a large field is that bottlenecks occur, and several of our runners, including Patricia Thomas and Lynn Wilson, were brought to a frustrating standstill at the entrance to the woods. It appears one of the runners thought nothing of blocking everyone else while she stopped to tie a shoelace!
Daisy Lund is finding her cross country feet and turned the tables on Carol Jones, who was ahead of her at last week’s Middlesex Champs. Only a matter of seconds separated Louise Prince and Barbro Julin, who had both been at parkrun in the morning: Louise as a runner and Barbro as lead bike. Louise would no doubt have been disappointed at the continuing lack of mud this season.
It was good to see Sophie Pesticcio at a club cross country race; she does the occasional multi-terrain open race but hasn’t run cross country for the club in two years. We have our fingers crossed she’ll be back before the season’s over. Beverley Packwood has put off her cross country debut this season, as she’s still returning from an injury last summer. She found it tough but enjoyed being out with the club again, and has concluded that cross country is actually not a bad way to get back to full fitness.
The fifth and final fixture is at Alexandra Palace on Saturday 9th February and full details will be posted on the League website.
ESM results summary
U11B (1.5K): 8 Finley Vadon 6:19, 10 Kevin Prempeh 6:24, 41 Eliot Edgar 7:23, 49 Evan Thomson 7:47
U11G (1.5K): 11 Kara Larkam 6:42, 47 Hana Proudmore 7:39, 54 Scarlett Laydon-McCabe 8:02
U13B (3K): 35 Alistair Larkam 13:53
U17/U15M (4K): 1 Mohamed Ali 13:09, 2 Elias Ahmed 13:18, 13 Seweryn Czapka (U15) 14:13, 30 Arun Manget 15:01, 41 Vitaly Bender (U15) 15:28, 46 Thomas Edgar (U15) 15:37, 72 Kirk Lebdiri 17:18, 88 Mohamed Ibrahim (U15) 18:25, 93 Hussein Zaaiter (U15) 18:51
U17/U15W (4K): 20 Lucy O’Brien 17:22, 38 Anisa Ibrahim 18:46, 51 Charlotte Cooney-Quinn 20:54
SW (6K): 26 Katherine Mertens 24:56, 60 Sarah Gerrie (V35) 26:12, 75 Shona Cowper 26:50, 78 Fiona Kennedy (V60) 26:55, 94 Angel Grimes-McTavish (U20) 27:22, 130 Cameron Thomas (U20) 28:40, 137 Breege Leane (V55) 28:59, 143 Patricia Thomas (V50) 29:22, 170 Lynn Wilson (V60) 30:25, 193 Daisy Lund (V35) 31:20, 204 Carol Jones (V60) 31:50, 237 Louise Prince (V45) 34:04, 239 Barbro Julin (V55) 34:07, 252 Sophie Pesticcio (V45) 34:59, 261 Beverley Packwood (V45) 36:01
SM (8K): 22 Mohamed Hashi 27:19, 24 Jamie Taylor-Caldwell 27:27, 57 Christopher Hepworth 28:34, 95 Peter Flewitt (V45) 29:34, 149 Nick Steel 30:41, 158 Santosh Rai 30:58, 181 Sam Ashcroft 31:25, 204 Mark Kencroft (V50) 31:53, 269 Robert Brown (V50) 33:13, 275 Martin Shelley 33:21, 372 Ian Leslie (V60) 35:48, 376 Martin Daoud (V55) 35:52, 398 Michael Charles (V45) 36:29, 432 Ricky Grimes (V55) 37:24, 459 Steve Plested (V65) 38:42, 469 Liam Kencroft 39:06, 514 John Falvey (V60) 42:32, 544 Philip Prince (V60) 49:22
Full results on power of 10