Freezing temperatures were forecast for Saturday morning and, with the threat of rock-hard ground, there was much talk of sixes, nines or trails in the minibus on the way to Horspath Track in Oxford. With 3 Woodies running for Hertfordshire and 5 running for Essex we were well represented. Walkers of the course brought back tales of frozen hoof-prints, multiple tree roots, tight turns and concrete bollards to jump, so it was with slight trepidation that the lads warmed up.
Our first race was the U13 Boys, which featured Evan Johnson running for Herts and Jimmy Geller and Nathan Wright in the Essex team (From L to R above: Evan, Nathan, Jimmy).
The 3km course started with a narrow start, strange given the acres of space, which meant a 100m sprint to a sharp right turn making an instant bottle neck. Jimmy, who has a fast start, made the turn and managed to get out of trouble, heading out of sight in the top 20, as the pack disappeared off into the woods. Jimmy made first Woodie home and 2nd Essex scorer. Nathan Wright was next home in 74th and 5th Essex, and Evan Johnson of Herts, in 90th, was also 5th home for his team, all good performances given the strength in the field of 169 runners and the fact that all three are bottom year.
In the 4K U15 race we had 5 boys, and we were confident of a good result, given their recent achievements and them all top year athletes. First home was Kai Boggon in 13th, 2nd scorer and just 2 seconds behind Ilford’s Aaron Samuel. The next red vest home (and it was difficult as you couldn’t help looking for green and white hoops) was Kieran Allgood with his trademark strong finish, overtaking 7 in the last 400m to come in 29th and 3rd Essex, both scoring in an Essex A team that took the bronze (above, Kai and Kieran).
Ben Sloan was next in 33rd for Herts and his brother Sam just 8 seconds later in 39th. They were 3rd and 5th Herts scorers (left) respectively.
Finally, and very pleased with his run, was Rhys Edwards (right, below) who was 71st and 6th Essex.
Our last competitor in the 5k U17 men race was Joe Geller, who is trying to focus on his XC over indoor this season and was hoping for a top 50 place as a bottom year runner. Joe got out quickly and after dropping a little was seen in 60th before entering the woods. When his red vest was seen again Joe (left, below) was in the 50s and on the final straight Joe got down to 49th. He was very pleased to be 4th Essex scorer.
On the day they were stablemates but county rivals at the same time, but the team feeling that is so well-cultivated in the endurance groups shone through, and all our athletes’ spirit warmed the hearts on a very cold day.