The surprisingly mild conditions could not hide the evidence left behind by the heavy rains of recent weeks, with a muddy quagmire of a course awaiting our young athletes at Alexandra Palace in the fourth Met league fixture of the season. Alexandra Palace is a spectacular setting for cross country racing. Team WGEL set up camp on top of a hill overlooking the grassy, open fields below. This provided an ideal viewing point and the noise from our supporters in camp was to play a huge part in helping encourage our athletes in the tough muddy conditions.
The U11 race excludes the main hill at Alexandra Palace, but the long, grassy and now muddy stretches of the lower fields make it a deceptively tough course. The wet conditions underfoot were going to grind the momentum out of even the fastest legs. This was going to call for calm heads, sensible pacing and good, old-fashioned grit and determination. The athletes that could master this would put their team in a very strong position. Could our WGEL athletes do it?!
The big pack of Woodford U11 boys departs the start line (pic: Paul Hancock)
A team: Thomas Kirkland 7th (07:34), Oliver Brown 9th (07:37), Daniel Arnold 10th (07:39) & Rudy Parker-Bayes 15th (07:51)
B team: Zac Everitt 23rd (08:29), Oskar Kyson 26th (08:36), Stephen Ng 27th (08:44) & Ethan Day 31st (09:03) & Oskar Kyson 27th (06:22)
Squad: Jude Purser 35th (09:18), Josh Parry 36th (09:32) & Elijah Waterfield 39th (11:59).
Boys U11s Race Report
The boys certainly knew what was needed to master the conditions. They had to keep cool heads and ensure they shut the door on a rejuvenated Heathside (LH) at their home fixture and the ever-dangerous Shaftesbury Barnet (SHB). The boys were advised to temper their starts, conserve energy and use it to their advantage in the later part of the course.
Arthur Phillips of SHB won the race. Managing the conditions superbly. He led from the start and despite slowing in the final third held on to his lead over closest rival Ben Redland of Heathside (LH). Arthur leads the individual standings and won at Uxbridge last month. Edward Metcalf, also from Heathside, finished third, one second behind his team mate.
This got Heathside off to a great start and enabled them to win first place on the day with Eden Brown (6th) and Sam turner (18th) closing their team. SHB closed next, taking second place with athletes Max Panwar (8th), Euan Phillip (11th) and Jack Redford (12th) completing their team.
How could our WGEL boys respond? The answer was superbly. First home was Thomas Kirkland (7th) with Oliver Brown (9th) second. Oliver, has an incredible sporting attitude. Going into the final 400m he was neck and neck with team mate Thomas and the SHB athlete Max Panwar. Oliver, sensing the battle for places was on shouted “Go! Thomas you're fast you can beat him”. Thomas, himself an exceptional athlete, responded to Oliver’s motivational charge and swept ahead of the SHB athlete into the finishing funnel. It was a moment of pure brilliance and showed great team spirit amongst our boys.
Daniel Arnold (10th) was next home, seconds behind Oliver. Daniel ran superbly, in his grittiest performance to date. He confessed to “hating” the course but pushed Thomas and Oliver all the way to the finish. Rudy Parker-Bayes (15th) was next in and showed tremendous strength and courage to sprint past VPH&TH athlete Zac Fellows to grab a vital place right on the line. Daniel and Rudy are both lower age group athletes and were 3rd and 4th respectively in their age category.
Rudy closed our scoring A team in 15 places. This was better than the winners Heathside, who only outscored WGEL because of their higher scoring 2nd and 3rd placed runners. However, it meant the boys shut the door on them early and stopped them and SHB closing the 60 point lead they have at the top of the table.
First home for the B team was Zac Everitt (23rd). Zac has been training consistently over Christmas and was in confident mood ahead of the race despite the conditions. He ran an excellent controlled race and was rightly over the moon with his performance and his first time in the scoring team. Oskar Kyson (26th) followed right behind Zac. There was an almighty tussle with 3 athletes between Zac and Oskar and only 7 seconds separated them. Oskar has incredibly fast feet and should be very proud of his day's work in the mud. At times his feet probably felt like blocks of concrete but he never gave up.
Stephen Ng (27th) was next for the B team. Stephen is a regular at Saturday WASPS and recently started training with the midweek group. This performance shows his potential and he should look forward to progressing with his team mates in future races. Ethan Day (31st) closed the B team. Ethan has been an ever present in the B team this season and his consistency is testimony to his determination and improvement last made this year.
The B team secured 6th place on the day and remain 4th overall.
Jude Purser (35th), Josh Parry (36th) and Elijah Waterfield completed the WGEL squad. Jude and Josh have been core members of the team this season. They have incredible can-do attitudes and are improving race after race. Elijah was running his first ever cross country race. His attitude was incredible. He never gave up and made sure he finished. He was rightly proud after the race and we look forward to seeing Elijah, Jude and Josh at our next met league fixture on 8th February at Trent Park.
Woodford dominate! But there is a Harrow AC girl in there somewhere! (pic: Paul Hancock)
U11s Girls Race Report
A Team: Autumn Le Chevalier 4th (07:25), Natasha Wynn 5th (07:29), Eliza Bridges 6th (07:32), & Jasmine Hall 7th (07:33),
B Team: Faye Owers 9th (07:36), Caitlin Hancock 10th (07:37), Melissa Higgs-Smith 18th (08:29) & Amber Higgs-Smith (08:33)
Squad: Daisy Sherrin 23rd (08:56) & Savana Gayle (09:54)
U11s Girls Race Report
The U11 girls not only shut the door, they turned off the lights, climbed into their WGEL team sky-rocket and shot to the stars!
The race itself was led home by the ever-classy Posie Shaw (SBH). Posie was put under pressure from the start by our own girls but managed to slowly pull clear over the slightly drier section of the course before the wooded section where she put 5 seconds on her nearest rivals Kiara Corkin 2nd (Heathside) and Jorjia March 3rd (Barnet). Posie and Kiara have finished first and second in the previous Met league races this season.
Right behind them, packing superbly were our sky-rocket WGEL team! Autumn Le Chevalier led the team home (4th) with Natasha Wynn (5th), Eliza Bridges (6th) and Jasmine Hall (7th) closing the scoring A team in just 7 places. Autumn was slightly disappointed by her run, hoping to close the gap on the leaders. This shows the positive can-do spirit from our team. Autumn, like the rest of this squad, has many years ahead in which to catch early age group leaders - their time will come!
The sight of the WGEL girls entering the final 200m packed together was something to behold. Natasha, in her first Met league race was next home. Natasha joined WGEL recently. Training for the last month with the mid-week group. Her promise was there to see, as she took to the mud like a duck to water. Tearing up the final 50m with a fantastic sprint finish.
Next home was Eliza Bridges. Eliza is improving week on week and looked very good in training recently. This was her best race to date, showing a great turn of pace sprinting into the finishing funnel. Eliza should take huge confidence in this performance. Right behind her was Jasmine Hall with a great return to form after being under the weather in the last race at Uxbridge. Jasmine had been ill again this week but showed amazing determination in the mud to replicate her fantastic placing in the top ten at Welwyn.
Jasmine closed the A team, who scored 144 points, 56 more than their closest rivals SHB, to extend their lead at the top of the table to a whopping 193 points.
Faye Owers opened the scoring for the B team. This was a superb run. Faye has suffered from nerves in the last two races, but showed great control and poise to finish in confident style sprinting into the finish with team mate and close friend Caitlin Hancock. They finished side by side with a Harrow athlete sandwiched between them!
Caitlin, who had led the race at one point with her natural speed, showed great control after a fast start. The muddy conditions eventually sapped the speed from her legs but she recovered well and showed how much her endurance is improving to hold on to another top ten Met league finish.
Next home for the B team were sisters Marissa and Amber Higgs-Smith. It was a pleasure watching them race side by side. Marissa is a regular at midweek trading and her hard work is being rewarded with these amazing results. Amber is still coming back to full fitness after suffering from illness this season, but she never gives up. She is always smiling and is a fantastic athlete who, when fully fit, will be pushing those ahead with sister Marissa.
Amber and Marissa closed the scoring B team in 19 places. The team took 3rd place on the day. A tremendous result, and with one race to go they could take third place overall, as they narrowed the gap on second placed Heathside to just 18 points.
The squad was completed by Daisy Sherrin and Savana Gayle. Daisy is now training more regularly with the midweek group and with her competitive spirit will soon be moving through the pack. This was Savana’s first Met League race this season. She should be proud of her effort, especially as a lower age group runner.