John Stow writes:
When I arrived at the course just after 9am the sun was shining and the course quite good apart from the entrance to the woods, where a mass of water made for a tricky 20/30 metres in ankle-deep water.
By the time the first race started at 10.45am the forecast heavy rain had arrived along with strong winds, and the temperature plummeted. This made for very difficult running conditions but our runners never let all this get the better of them. Some excellent racing from our athletes yielded three top 16 finishes plus another two teams in the thirties. The starting fields in the young athlete races were in excess of 100 teams.
Under 13 Girls
Team Manager John Stow changed the team around as he knew Chiltern, who had won the National Road Relay, were not running. Similar tactics were used which brought the Under 15 Boys success two years ago when they struck gold. This so nearly paid off again as we were only 10 seconds down at the end, in 5th spot. Tilly Major ran the first leg and got away really well and was soon in a prominent position going up the first hill. All of a sudden Tilly was elbowed over, and as a consequence she lost about 20 places. But our Tilly is a gritty fighter and fought back magnificently to come in 9th. Next away was Molly Sherrin, a bottom year Under 13 who won her first Essex selection last weekend. Molly kept us in the top 10 but had to give way to a tremendous run from Tonbridge's Lilly Slack who ran the third fastest lap of the day. So we started our last leg 44 seconds behind leaders Wolverhampton, with Abigail Reid going out to see how many runners she could pick off. Going through the woods, and roared on by her teammates, Abigail made up lots of ground and put us into 5th place with the four teams ahead gradually being reeled in too. Going up the final hill it looked like Abigail might nab us the bronze but Herne Hill and Rotherham kept us at bay as we ended just an agonising 10 seconds down on winners Wolverhampton. It was a marvellous effort from our girls and Abigail ran brilliantly for the second fastest time of the day from over 300 runners.
20 minute video of race (by Mark Hookway of Tonbridge AC)
We must give credit to our other team of Emily Caton (who is having a fine season), Isabella Worwood (improving all the time) and Hannah Hardy on her debut for us, stepping in late on to ensure we had a second team. These girls placed 63rd - a good effort from them.
Under 15 Girls
The girls performed really well for 33rd. Hoping she will gain Essex selection next month, Miya Maeda did her cause the world of good by running a fine first leg for 25th, just one second behind Chelmsford runner Atkinson, who had placed 2nd in Essex League the weekend before. Mary Hardy, the younger sister of Jacob, stepped in to ensure we had a team and gave it her best shot, although we slipped to 58th. Kezia Beeton took off on the final leg and had a brilliant run, passing no fewer than 25 girls in recording the 8th fastest on leg three from 100 runners.
Under 17 Women
Our girls should be proud of their 39th place against tough opposition. After placing 51st on the first leg, Wren McLean said it was the hardest race she had ever run. But she defied the dreadful conditions. On leg 2, Ellen Savidge two had a great run, taking eleven places to come in 40th, while Jessica Adams improved one more place to put us into the top 40.
Under 13 Boys
The lads did really well for a top half of the field finish with 41st. They are not afraid of competing against top opposition and this second national experience will do the boys the power of good. Conditions were at their worst during this race, but this did not put the lads off one bit. Nate Harding was 66th after leg 1. Godwinner Nkebani improved 14 places on leg 2, with Oscar Farthing gaining another 10 places on the final leg. Encouraging runs from the lads.
Under 15 Boys
We had three teams in this age group but sadly no Jimmy Geller, who was recovering from having his appendix removed last week.
Danny Raymond, who himself had surgery on his nose two weeks ago and only resumed running two days ago, set out on leg 1. Danny hardly treated this race like a convalescence outing as he held his advanced position in excellent style and placed 9th. Danny could not have been expected to place any higher after two weeks out plus surgery, so he ran with great conviction as probably only half fit at this stage. Next away was bottom year runner Evan Johnson, who is having a great season. Evan did concede a few places but had another fine run in the circumstances. On the final leg Jacob Hardy had a great run, bringing in the Woodies in a fine 13th place. The other two teams did really well for 57th and 65th. Reuben Fabian, who is also in good form and now attending Trent Park on Sundays, ran leg 1 with Ben Savidge, going through growth spurts at the moment, on leg 2 - but he got around so credit to him. Liam Short had a very good run, taking 16 places to bring us home in 57th. The other team had Sid Cody on the first leg, while there was a welcome return for Maxwell Chinn who took 10 runners on the 2nd leg, and Chris Richardson took another 13 runners to bring us home in 65th.
Under 17 Men
800 metre runner Sidnie Ward started out for the Woodies on leg 1 and seems to like the Mansfield course as he ran strongly towards the final stages of the mudbound course to place 24th. Sam Sloan set out on leg 2 and swiftly took the green and white hoops up four places to come in 20th. Ben Sloan ran the anchor leg for us. As he had had to take time out recently with slight ligament damage to his left leg, we were wondering (and hoping for his sake) he would come through unscathed. Ben ran well to come in 16th, but is now having to revisit the physio as he was limping slightly after the run. We will need Ben for his sake to recover from this.
So we continue to make progress at this level and with so many Under 11s on the scene now we have nothing to fear for the future. The athletes will now look forward to the next Met League this coming Saturday at Stanborough Park.
I must praise every single one of our athletes who ran in such abysmal conditions and thank the parents for bringing the athletes to Mansfield.