So after a smooth journey there for the team manager and coach, a dull overcast day and a brutal course greeted him and his team of 23 athletes. Dairly similar conditions were the order of the day some five decades ago when the manager first raced at this course as a seventeen year old.
Some of the others found it a challenge to reach the course with rail disruptions galore, some having to jump in taxis, not the ideal preparation for one of the sternest tests of the season.
Abigail Reid with the lead group after a few minutes' running (all pics: Alex Wardle)
The first race out was the Under 15 boys. We had a few out with other commitments which unfortunately left us only three running on the day. Some three hundred and fifty runners charged up the hill whilst those cheering at the top could enjoy a wonderful view of the City of London. First year boys Reuben Fabian and Evan Johnson ran well, being close together throughout the 4.5k journey. Reuben was 84th and 5th Essex runner to finish, and Evan 95th. Whilst Reuben has made the English Schools we are hopeful that Evan can join him in the Herts Schools team. With the course being so heavy in large parts this would never suit Jacob Hardy at all. He should be praised for getting through it for 145th and well inside the top half of the field.
The next race was the Under 13 girls over 3000 metres. Abigail Reid, having been unwell during the week, nonetheless started the race and took the instructions given her to her by the coaches. Abigail was always with the leaders until the latter part of the race, when Baxter and Slack got away, leaving our Abigail claiming an excellent bronze medal - a fine achievement in the circumstances. We know Abigail will be back to her best for the other championship races but this was nevertheless a brilliant gutsy effort. Tilly Major got away well and was always in the top twenty as her slight frame skimmed over the mud. She finished an excellent 18th. Molly Sherrin, showing she can live with our front two girls, was hugely unlucky to have a bad fall in the race which reduced her to a hobble. Somehow she had the guts to finish and not let her team mates down to place 80th. Molly required medical attention but is believed to be ok now. Just in front of Molly was Rosemary Kelly, who ran well in the mud to claim 73rd and was 4th Essex runner to finish. Emily Caton was 101st, Amana Oguntuga 166th and Isabella Worwood 220nd - they gave great support to the team. The team result was close but we ended up 6th which was a good result for us and we were the first Essex team. 40 teams closed in, and around 320 runners started.
Our 1st U13 Boy home was Godwinner Nkembani
The Under 13 boys were next away with our ever so reliable quartet all arriving two in a taxi because of all the issues with the trains. Nate Harding is never afraid to have a real go but his fast start up the long initial hill proved costly for our dedicated lad and he will learn from that as he is an intelligent lad. First home from the 320 starters, though, was Godwinner Nkembani with probably his best race to date. He was 89th and the 10th Essex lad home. Hardly anything separated our next two lads, Oscar Farthing 140th to Nate Harding’s 142nd. Gregor Samson, a first year Under 13 boy, closed the team in 178th. The team placed 24th. These lads are so good at supporting each other.
A fine run in her first year as an U15: Kezia Beeton
In the Under 15 girls we had just two starters from a field of over 300 runners. Kezia Beeton, who is enjoying her best ever season over the country, ran brilliantly to place 40th - a fine run for a first year runner. Her coach believes she can run close to 2 mins 15/16 this summer for 800m and hopes she can add the track and field champs to the English Schools XC she has already qualified for. Kezia was 2nd Essex runner to finish. Miya Maeda was never that far behind with a good showing of 57th.Miya needs to be filled with confidence that could make her a real prospect in times to come.
The Under 17 men had a tough 6k race ahead of them, with a small lap followed by a large lap. Joel Doye had never raced in such a large field and was also unlucky to fall over early on. He found the course tough (who wouldn’t!) but nevertheless ran well for 47th and 3rd Essex runner to finish. Kieran Allgood has raced well recently and this was no exception as he came through strongly for 62nd. Right behind Kieran, and sportingly turning out to ensure we had a team was Ben Sloan, who had his first race since October after a leg injury kept him out for some while. We know a fit Ben would be a top twenty man, but in the circumstances he did really well for 69th. Rhys Edwards finished really strongly for 76th which gave the lads a 6th placing. It would obviously have been a lot better with a fully fit Ben but he is on his way back.
In the Under 17 girls race over 5k, Ellen Savidge and Jess Adams both had great runs and are clearly benefiting from training every Sunday morning at Trent Park. Ellen was 87th with Jess in 120th. Well done indeed to both.
Tom Adolphus was our final runner to race over a demanding 5 mile course. He placed 63rd in the Under 20 race and has two more years in this age category. Tom was running 6 minute miles, which is some going in that mud.
So whilst all attempted to get home on trains, buses, cabs and cars, we can reflect on another good day at the office for our young athletes.