1. A grand ‘National’ on Hampstead Heath: Harriers out in force at London XC showpiece event
They came by coach, car, train and tube…almost 10,000 athletes descended upon (or rather ascended to) Parliament Hill Fields on Hampstead Heath, the spiritual home of English cross country running, for the English National Championships. A good number of Westbury Harriers made the trip.
In what other sport can any club member enter the national championship, and compete alongside the elite? On a bright sunny day (before the snow came…) but with a chill wind blasting across the Heath, the scene was spectacular, as each of the 10 races started with the famous blast up the first hill. Neil had got in early and bagged a prime location, at the crest of the hill, for the Westbury tent. Despite the sunshine and dry weather, the course was seriously muddy in places. Every race involved a series of testing climbs, but with the exhilaration of a fast downhill finish to the line.
Very well done to the handful of junior athletes who made the trip. Seamus Robinson, Westbury’s sole boy competitor, had a truly outstanding run in the U13s, finishing 20th in a field of 570. The size of that field gives some indication of the scale, and strength, of all these events.
In the U13 girls, Meghan Porteous and Abbie Woodworth represented the club with distinction, gaining valuable experience competing in such a strong field and on such a tough course.
Three U15 girls took part, and with one more scoring team mate they might have bagged a top 10 team finish, possibly even a medal. Those who did run competed superbly. Rosie Hamilton-James continued her fine form of this season, finishing 29th in an extremely strong field of 464. Not far behind her in time, there were also great runs from Rhiannon Paton (95th) and Emily Whitaker (186th).
Phoebe Gould once again flew the flag solo for the U17 girls, running very well in the earliest race to finish 206th.
In the “junior adult” races, Hannah Hobbs finished in a creditable 25th in the women’s race, while Ben Whitaker ran well on an extremely tough and long course to finish 180th
The women, although slightly depleted by illness and injury, did the club proud once again. Team manager Tamsin (herself out with injury, but who still travelled to cheer everyone on):-
(Pictured: Westbury women and the London skyline; Katie heads for the finish)
“Well done to our fabulous ladies team today. Parliament Hill was a spectacular site on a beautiful sunny yet fresh day. The numbers participating were phenomenal, 1113 ladies! Which was a fantastic site to watch. Last year there was 788. The Nationals is always a challenging course but conditions were much better than a few years ago. The team came a brilliant 39th out of 112 teams. Well done to you all.
Thank-you to our fellow runners at GWR and Scott Campbell for organising the coach.
147 Katie Hughes, 215 Kirstie Hamilton-James, 371 Vicky Waters, 695 Helen Sawyer, 727 Clare Eskell, 984 Carol Fee, 1027 Eithne Noonan
Those that couldn’t make it due to illness, injury, life – really hope you can make it next year to enjoy the national experience.”
The last event of the day was the fearsome spectacle of 2328 men assembling on the start line then charging up the hill, to begin three brutal laps on the Heath. In places the congestion and mud made it treacherous, and at least one of the Westbury men suffered the indignity and delay of a ‘lost shoe in mud’ incident (below). Acting team captain Oli:
“The men had a superb day at the XC champs yesterday. Sticky mud hindered Ewan as he had to retrieve a lost shoe! Despite this, the men’s team finished a respectable 71 out of 162 teams in a daunting field of 2,328 runners!
Oli Beale 218; Alex Hamblin 396; Alan Uren 555; Chris Palmer 1022; Robin Phillips 1053; Ewan Paton 1342
Thanks to the team managers for organising transport and Neil for providing much needed shelter from the cold wind.”
Overall this was a fantastic experience for all those who went, and well worth the trip. The ‘National’ only comes here every 3 or 4 years, and it’s a place where everyone who loves cross-country should run at least once. Thanks to all members, and especially Neil, for all their help and camaraderie over a long and cold day.
Some Westbury Harriers had excellent excuses for not being at the English Nationals, competing with distinction in races elsewhere:-
2. Dalis comes 2nd in Welsh Nationals at Swansea
Dalis Jones continued her own stellar form of this year, coming a close second in the Welsh National Cross Country Championships (U15 girls) at Swansea on the same day as the English Nationals.
3. Two Bays “Tough 10” at Weston
Finally congratulations to all those Westbury Harriers who took part in the multi-terrain “Tough 10” (miles) race near Weston-super-Mare on 25th February, and especially to Sophie Voller, who scooped the prize for first female and finished a superb 30th overall in a field of 540. Well done also to Evita Gonzalez-Szamocki (5th female), Andrew Yuill (5th VM50), Helen Sawyer (2nd FV50), Heidi Andrews, Nicola Derrick, Kay Ridgwell and David Baber.
Well done to all. Once this pesky snow is gone we’ll be out competing once again!
(photos courtesy of Saucony, Neil, Tamsin, Paul Stillman and Weston Mercury)