ESM hosted the County champs at Horsenden Hill for the second year in a row, and Phil York once again excelled in his role as ‘Clerk of the Course’. Apparently, he started marking it out at 7am, safe in the knowledge that later in the day he could relax and spectate, rather than take part in the senior men’s 12km race!
As the athletes arrived, the rather overcast sky contrasted somewhat with the bright sunny weather of 2018, but conditions underfoot were very forgiving this year – barely a puddle in sight.
Sixty ESM athletes tackled the various courses, and our juniors gained a fair few medals in the process. All the individual medal winners will be automatically selected for the Inter-Counties at Loughborough in March, and several others are also in the frame.
According to U11s coach Annick Hooge, all four of her athletes were nervous before their races. First off were the boys, with Finlay Vadon and Roger Robles representing the club. After some discussion during the warm up, Finlay decided to go with the front runners. He was lying in fourth as the race progressed, but picked up the pace at the end to grab a bronze medal. He’s already done a bit of training with the U13 squad, as he moves into that category next season, and is getting stronger and fitter all the time. Roger shows great ability in training but doesn’t always enjoy the pressure of racing, so his task was to”run happy”, which he did – he had plenty left at the end for a smile and a sprint finish.
We also had two representatives in the U11 girls’ race: Immi van der Graaf and Hana Proudmore. Immi and Hana were nervous but also excited. Although it was Immi’s first race for ESM, she runs for her school and Hana has just joined the cross country club at the same school. However, both were running in spikes for the first time. Immi looked comfortable in her race, according to Annick, and seemed to run a fairly even pace. Hana also seemed happy at the end. She likes to start strongly and sometimes pays for this mid-race but she still mustered a strong sprint to the line.
Bridie Lebdiri coaches many of the U13/U15s. Alec Edgar was our sole U13 boy, and he ran solidly, having just returned from Christmas holidays.
There was a full team for the corresponding girls’ race. This group are progressing nicely and at the same time establishing strong friendships, which is good to see. This was their first cross country outing over the 3km distance, so they had to dig deep, but all enjoyed the experience.
In her first year as an U13, Mia did well to finish in the top 20. Sonia and Catherine finished strongly and Spencer acquitted herself well on her first outing for the club. (Olivia twisted her knee and had to drop out but thankfully there was no lasting damage; she’s already back at training).
Our next medal occasion came in the U15 boys’ race, with another bronze courtesy of Seweryn Czapka. He produced a storming finish to move from fourth into third, and very nearly claimed second. Finn Combe was impressive in his first year as an U15, adds Bridie. He was lying around 20th at the 3km mark, so he had a very strong finish to get up to 16th. Jonah Mezey was leading Maxi Steel at the 3km mark, with Thomas Edgar about 10 places ahead. The Jonah/Maxi dual helped them close in on Thomas, resulting in Thomas 24th, Maxi 28th and Jonah 29th. Jonah and Maxi were very pleased with their run and said they found the course easy. (Must be all the Horsenden Hill training sessions!) They are progressing well. Arun Smith is normally in the mix with his friends Maxi and Jonah, but was suffering from back pain during the race, so he finished a bit further back than he would have liked, just one place behind Rafa Davison. It was Sam Bonnett’s first race this season and he admitted to enjoying it, finishing behind Mohamed Ibrahim and Hussein Zaaiter. We had a great turnout in this age group, with no less than ten athletes, and the team finished fourth.
Lucy Henson finished a fine 13th in the U15 girls’ race, backed up by Lauren Beale and Anna Dussaillant. Lucy Henson will always give it 100%, according to Bridie and did very well to finish 13th, in what is her first year as an U15 and her first race over 4km. This is a very strong age group and so the pace was quick. Lucy did well to hold her position after the downhill section. She also admitted to finding the course easy! Lauren Beale is improving steadily and finished strongly. Anna Dussaillant’s endurance has improved this year, partly due to her taking up triathlon. She coped well over the 4km.
The U17 and U20 women ran a combined race, and Nicola Ravenhill, Angel Grimes-McTavish and Cameron Thomas took team silver in the U20 category. Nicola was in contact with the third-placed athlete in the early stages but lost ground and ended up isolated. Angel Grimes-McTavish was pleased with her race, finishing strongly to move up from sixth to fifth. Cameron Thomas also put in another good performance.
Lucy O’Brien led our U17s home, backed up by Fiona Coutts and Charlie Cooney Quinn.
The U17 and U20 men also ran a combined race. U17 Mohamed Ali had some early company from one of the London Heathside U20 men, but won the race comfortably. With team-mate Elias Ahmed in second, and third-scorer Arun Manget in 8th, the team took silver. It was a close-run thing, however, with winners Shaftesbury Barnet just one point ahead! Elias also had plenty to focus on, with three U20s from London Heathside in sight at the finish. Coach Steve Mann was pleased with how all his squad performed after a hard training block over the Christmas period.
George Kerry and 1500m specialist Oliver Way lacked a third team member but both ran well to finish fifth and sixth in the small field of U20 men. They were running together at the end of the first lap but George pulled away to finish some 30m ahead.
We had eight senior women, including new member Daisy Lund tackling her first cross country race, and the team finished a respectable eighth out of 14 teams.
Kat Mertens is well on the way to full fitness after a long injury lay-off and more than met her own target as she led the team home in 15th. Claiming to have “enjoyed every minute”, she recalled that her last appearance at the Middlesex Champs back in 2016 had ended far less propitiously with an ankle injury. Next over the line for ESM was Sarah Gerrie, and the word enjoyment wasn’t mentioned in her feedback! “At no point did it feel comfortable for me, and I spent the whole race wishing I’d done a bit more conditioning work beforehand, but at least it was on home turf and could be put in the bank of ‘all good training’”! By contrast, Fiona Kennedy had approached the race with her usual post-festive apprehension, and was pleasantly surprised to get round without too much suffering. Pat Thomas took the final scoring place, commenting afterwards: “that whole race just felt like a battle to me”. (Isn’t that normal for cross country?)
Lynn Wilson had a good race. Biding her time in the early stages, she followed fellow W60 Carol Jones for most of the race but managed to finish half a minute ahead: “I love an 8k course, I tackled the hills with caution to begin with so as to be able to finish in good form, confidence grew as I warmed into the race and started closing down the field down, felt that I finished strongly”.
Louise Prince is known as a mud-lover and this is something that Horsenden Hill can be relied upon to produce, but not so this year: “Although cross country should be muddier – I think there was just one patch where the ground was a little squelchy – I love the Horsenden Hill course (even if it is 8km when I prefer 6…)”. As for our novice Daisy? She said she enjoyed the experience and – most importantly – will be back for more!
The final race of the day was of course the senior men’s, and Phil York found it an exciting one to watch, with just sixteen seconds covering the first three finishers. First home was Phillip Crout of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, with Alex Lepretre of Barnet right on his shoulder at the finish. Serpentine’s Christopher Wright was a close third. It was nice to see Martin and Lynn Wilson’s son Robert of Highgate attacking each of the four laps to finish seventh, which should secure him a place on the Middlesex team for the Inter-Counties. Jonathon Poole, winner of the recent Perivale 5 mile road race, also made the top ten.
The men had to tackle four laps of 3km, which may sound repetitive, but each circuit contains a series of challenges, not least the long uphill drag mid-lap, leading to a short twisty climb up to the highest part of the course. And this is exactly where Phil positioned himself to cheer on the eighteen senior men from ESM. An impressive showing on our home patch.
As usual, Moe Hashi was our first scorer, two minutes behind the winner. Peter Flewitt, along with several of his clubmates, was almost running in his own backyard, and ran a strong race throughout. Santosh Rai manages to combine cross country racing with his marathon training, and just managed to hold off a fast-finishing Nick Steel as they came off the higher ground. Reece Asik and Mukhtar Farah are friends at St Mary’s University, and kept one another company here, with just one place separating them. Akira Anzai-Jackson is enjoying his best-ever cross country season, and used this race as preparation for the Southern Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill at the end of January. Akira acquitted himself well in the race, as did Mark Kencroft, who was not far behind. Martin Shelley, Elliot Jones and Rob Brown formed ESM’s ‘middle order’ finishing comfortably inside the top hundred.
Prior to the race, James Steel deliberated over what length spikes to put in his shoes, but needn’t have worried as the going was firm, with very little sloshy mud. Local lads David Goodenough and Michael Charles were making their cross country debuts for the club, and were almost literally running in their own backyard, smiling all the way round. No chance of them getting lost! Ian Leslie did the double, running this race ahead of Sunday’s Clivedon multi-terrain race. Sean Hill and Ricky Grimes completed the squad, with Liam Kencroft also making his cross country debut. Liam is a regular at Northala Fields parkrun, but has now been bitten by the cross country bug, and is set to appear in this weekend’s Met League fixture at Wormwood Scrubs.
Thanks to Phil and the many other officials, team managers and volunteers without whom this event could not have taken place, and congratulations again to all our athletes and their coaches. I’m grateful also to Annick, Bridie, Phil and Steve for their contributions to this report.
More photos can be found on our Facebook page.
ESM results summary:
U11B (1.5K): 3 Finlay Vadon 7:11, 30 Roger Robles 8:12
U11G (1.5K): 18 Immi Van der Graaf 8:58, 21 Hana Proudmore 9:31
U13B (3K): 25 Alec Edgar 12:34
U13G (3K): 19 Mia De Vivenot 13:26, 33 Sonia Ouzhene 14:25, 41 Catherine Gallagher 15:09, 46 Spencer Shaw 16:01
U15B (4K): 3 Seweryn Czapka 13:43, 16 Finn Coombe 15:17, 24 Thomas Edgar 16:03, 28 Maximilian Steel 16:15, 29 Jonah Mezey 16:22, 39 Rafa Davison 17:15, 40 Arun Smith 17:17, 45 Mohamed Ibrahim 17:50, 50 Hussein Zaaiter 18:30, 51 Sam Bonnett 19:17
U15G (4K): 13 Lucy Henson 16:42, 36 Lauren Beale 18:41, 44 Anna Dussaillant 20:37
U17W (6K): 17 Lucy O’Brien 27:01, 21 Fiona Coutts 29:58, 23 Charlotte Cooney Quinn 31:21
U20W: (6K): 4 Nicola Ravenhill 25:40, 5 Angel Grimes-McTavish 26:06, 8 Cameron Thomas 27:28
U17M (6K): 1 Mohamed Ali 18:50, 2 Elias Ahmed 19:36, 18 Arun Manget 22:30, 26 Chauncey Edwards 23:41
U20M (6K): 5 George Kerry 19:58, 6 Oliver Way 20:05
SW (8K): 15 Katherine Mertens 33:06, 31 Sarah Gerrie (W35) 35:21, 35 Fiona Kennedy (W60) 35:41, 63 Patricia Thomas (W50) 39:23, 69 Lynn Wilson (W60) 40:03, 72 Carol Jones (W60) 40:31, 93 Daisy Lund (W35) 43:23, 101 Louise Prince (W45) 44:50
SM (12K): 18 Moe Hashi 40:55, 37 Peter Flewitt (M45) 43:33, 54 Santosh Rai (M35) 44:57, 59 Nick Steel 45:39, 67 Reece Asik 46:29, 69 Mukhtar Farah 46:38, 71 Akira Anzai-Jackson 46:49, 80 Mark Kencroft (M50) 47:48, 89 Martin Shelley 48:31, 94 Elliot Jones 48:52, 97 Rob Brown (M50) 49:00, 123 James Steel (M50) 51:21, 126 Michael Charles (M45) 52:16, 130 Ian Leslie (M60) 52:47, 132 David Goodenough (M55) 52:58, 139 Sean Hill 54:00, 152 Ricky Grimes (M55) 56:23, 159 Liam Kencroft 57:59
Full results on power of 10