After Thursday and Friday’s snow, our runners were expecting some harsh conditions, and with the dark clouds forming on Saturday morning we feared the worst. However the sun came out and shone on our Juniors which at least made the very hilly muddy course a little more bearable.
Our U11 teams, sitting at the top of the points table with significant leads, were looking to strengthen their position and they certainly did.
In the boys race, one lap of the hilly field with 45 runners starting, Jimmy Geller, racing his nemesis from Slough, was just edging a lead with 400m to go and once again was sent the wrong way by a marshall, which led to him losing a crucial 10m which he never recovered. Behind Jimmy was the usual sea of green and white we have come to expect with Luca Gormley, James Brigstocke-Williams and Nathan Wright fighting for a top 5 finish. The last push on this course was a 300m hill and the boys battled in with James (photo right) in 3rd, Luca in 5th and Nathan 7th, all within 10 seconds of each other closing out the Woodford ‘A’ score. Next in were Ellis Carter in 11th, William Bayley in 14th, then Sid Cody in 16th, all within 7 seconds of each other. The battle between Sid and William, determined to beat each other, was a great sight to see (see photo at top). It must be highlighted that this trio scored so well they managed to bring Woodford ‘B’ in second place, with only 3 scoring!
In the Girls race we fielded a very strong team again. Kezia Beeton (photo below) was our first girl home in 3rd out of the 41 starters, closely followed by Larna Morgan in 6th and Holly Hudson in 8th with Molly Matheron closing the ‘A’ score in 20th place. A fine performance by the girls, but a strong run by Victoria Park Harriers nudged them into 2nd at this race although they still retain a 48 point lead overall with one race to go. Molly Wain placed well for 28th, closely followed by Emily Caton in 30th with Rose Grady 32nd, all scored, keeping Woodford ‘B’ in 4th place, and further strengthened Woodford's overall position.
In the U13 boys 3km race we had Maxwell Chinn and Alessandro Berni turn out for the club with two laps of the undulating field. Alessandro was unfortunately unable to finish, but must be commended for having a go at this tough muddy course. Maxwell found himself in 18th position at the end of lap one, but steeled himself and ran superbly to fight back to 10th. A lower year boy, he was very happy with his performance.
We had two U13 girl representatives; Hollie McArdell, was happy to tell us afterwards she didn’t much like this course, nevertheless she put a gutsy performance in, especially in the home straight fighting all the way in, so much so that the marshall couldn’t call it against the other runner she had been battling against, drawing in joint 26th. Debut runner Erin Francis found the experience daunting, a touch different from her schools race experience and after an uncertain first lap, stuck to her task finishing on her own in 43rd but not last as she thought. Her subsequent reflections are that it was a valuable experience and she knows what to expect next time.
Turning to the Junior Men’s race, and our U15 boys team (pictured above). It is quite a while since we fielded 9 runners racing and, more importantly, scoring against U17’s on a very tough course. We won the Junior men’s race outright running 2 and 3 years under! We stand in 3rd in the table for the ‘A’ team and 17th for the ‘B’ team out of 32 places due to a strong performance by all 9 boys, who must remember every team member counts.
Hopefully with their Osgood Schlatter injuries firmly behind them Kai Boggon 10th (2nd U15) and Joe Geller 13th (3rd U15), running with taped knees, were both very pleased with their performances, closely followed by Ben Sloan in 17th (4th U15) and Kieran Allgood who, in his best finish yet, tore up the hill taking 7 places to finish 17th (7thU15) and close the ‘A’ team score.
Sam Sloan ran well to come in 30th (16th) followed by Liam Waldron 40th (22nd) in a much welcomed return to XC racing, and Rhys Edwards gritted his teeth and finised strongly in 49th (31st ), while closing the ‘B’ team was Freddie Taylor who, coming up the hill, was locked in a battle for 56th U15 which he won, gritting his teeth and head down all the way in to the delight of the assembled supporters. Todd Maleary, who had been poorly in the week, but such a team player, came and had a thoroughly good go but retired being ill.
In the Junior Women’s race Wren Jackson, again running against ladies several years her senior, worked her way through the pack and looked amazingly strong as she took place after place after place on the final hill, finishing a great 15th and placing 10th in the U15 category.
The final performance to mention must definitely be our supporters, mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and families, all lined the final stretch cheering our kids up the hill and you can be sure a few places were taken purely on the strength of their cheering.
Woodford sit joint third in the Howard Williams trophy, some 8 points behind the leaders Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets on 94 pts with one race to go, so an overall win is still possible and a call to arms must be made to all young athletes for Ally Pally on the 11th Feb where we finish the Met league and hopefully bring some silverware back to the clubhouse.