National XC Champs – Parliament Hill – Sat 21 Feb 2015

Mud glorious mud! The notoriously hilly Parliament Hill, venue for this year’s National Cross Country Championships, produced gallons of the gloopy stuff in honour of the 5,283 athletes competing at this year’s event. Some of the juniors reported seeing frogs on the course, which says something about the wet conditions! Despite that, it was the highest ever turnout for the Nationals in their current format, some 600 higher than the previous record, with over 2,000 in the senior men’s race alone.

Thirty-six athletes competed for Ealing Southall & Middlesex AC, with the men’s and women’s teams both finishing in the top half of the field. There were some good individual performances in the younger age groups, but the Under 15 girls were the only ones to field a complete team, which was slightly disappointing.

For the senior men, Sam Ashcroft led ESM home over the gruelling 12k course. Having missed most of the season with injury, he did well to cross the line in 262nd. This was, relative to the size of the field, the club’s highest finish of the day (though only a whisper ahead of Erica Wallace’s performance). Samir Haddad was next to show, performing well in only his second cross country race, while Steve Elson put in a consistent run to cross the line just a couple of minutes behind. The next three ESM men traded places in the course of the race. Rob Brown got the nod over Tom Yates, though both were given the same time. Andy Dodd led both of them in the early stages but trailed by half a minute as he grabbed the final scoring place in the six-to-score team competition. (Andy’s renowned for sticking to the marked course, even when no-one else does, and maybe this cost him those vital seconds!)

Seven veterans followed Andy in ESM colours, with Alan Keeler deserving a medal for perseverance, having fallen twice in the heavy conditions. Heavily coated in mud at the finish, he was last seen heading for those handy men with power hoses down at The Lido – a service that should be mandatory at all cross-country races, in my humble opinion! The men finished 63rd out of the 145 teams, which is more than satisfactory considering how many of the faster runners were absent.

Only three U17 men competed for the club. Mukhtar Farah was just inside the top half of the field, finishing 135th out of 280, while Conor McCarthy (245th) got the better of Rainak Mainali (250th) by some 20 seconds.

Club stalwart George Kerry led the club’s U15 boys home in 132nd, just outside the top third of the field. Less than a minute later, club-mates Naoki Kanai and Luke Adar had also crossed the line. All three ran well but it was an especially strong run from Naoki to finish ahead of Luke. Again, they were one short of a full team.

The U13 boys were represented by the ever-enthusiastic Kirk Lebdiri (390th) and Mikey Kouwiloyan (394th). The seven preceding races had left the ground well and truly churned up, so they found it tough going.

With a number of the regular senior women ill or injured, it was a relief to see a full team of four line up at the start. Defying a recent back injury, Grazina Narviliene ran a characteristically strong second half, overhauling team-mate Fiona Kennedy in the last mile to finish 153rd out of 865. Fiona held on well to finish 160th and had the consolation of being the first woman over 50 to cross the line. 1500m runner Nikki Shelley coped valiantly with the taxing 8km course to finish just outside the top third of the field. Julia Gristwood (749th) closed the team, which was 44th out of 93, a comparable ranking to that achieved by the men.

There were two club members in the U17 women’s race. Erica Wallace finished 31st out of 235, another stand-out performance from the talented athlete. . She put in a very strong finish to pick up valuable extra places in the closing stages of her race. Jennifer Connolly (220th) also tackled the 5km course.

The U15 girls had runners to spare, with six taking part. In a competitive race, Nicola Ravenhill (127th) just held off team-mate Laura Stewart (129th) as around a dozen girls crossed the line in the space of two seconds. Both girls took a few good scalps from other Middlesex runners but the hilly course played especially to Laura’s strengths and she was encouraged to finish so close to Nicola. Both girls are looking forward to running in the English schools for Middlesex next month. There was a slight gap before third-scorer Cameron Thomas (285th) also finished, running well in her first year as an U15. Maryam Hussain (322nd) completed the scoring team, which finished 33rd out of 40. They were supported by Roisin Lynch (358th) and Leah Kelly (373rd).

Three U13 girls ran for the club. Lucy O’Brien finished 274th in the field of 433, followed closely by Anisa Ibrahim (285th), while Sarah Freegard was 421st. Unfortunately, Lucy lost a shoe in the course of the race, which impeded her progress in the latter stages.

All in all, the club put in a respectable performance, though there was scope for a much better turnout, especially with the venue being on our doorstep. It was tough out there, and those who took part probably felt daunted beforehand, but chances are they all went home pleased that they had done it – and survived to tell the tale!

Results summary:

SM (12k): 262 46:14 Sam Ashcroft; 375 47:52 Samir Haddad; 565 50:02 Stephen Elson; 979 54:25 Robert Brown; 980 54:25 Tom Yates; 1028 55:01 Andrew Dodd; 1155 56:25 James Steel; 1349 58:45 Ian Leslie; 1522 1:01:29 Steve Plested; 1664 1:04:01 Eamon Bradley; 1824 1:07:56 James O’Neill; 1910 1:13:22 Philip York; 1928 1:15:04 Alan Keeler; U17M (6k): 135 24:02 Mukhtar Farah; 245 27:04 Conor McCarthy; 250 27:23 Raunak Mainali; U15B (4.5k): 132 18:18 George Kerry; 226 19:03 Naoki Kanai; 239 19:14 Luke Adar; U13B (3k): 390 18:22 Kirk Lebdiri; 394 20:49 Michael Kouwiloyan

SW (8k): 153 37:04 Grazina Narviliene; 160 37:18 Fiona Kennedy; 298 40:29 Nikki Shelley; 749 53:06 Julia Gristwood; U17W: 31 21:09 Erica Wallace; 220 28:52 Jennifer Connelly; U15G (4k): 127 17:55 Nicola Ravenhill; 129 17:56 Laura Stewart; 285 20:13 Cameron Thomas; 322 21:00 Maryam Hussain; 358 22:31 Roisin Lynch; 373 24:19 Leah Kelly; U13G (3k): 274 15:37 Lucy O’Brien; 285 15:45 Anisa Ibrahim; 421 18:43 Sarah Freegard

Full results here