AFTER qualifying through school, district and county competitions, the top athletes from Hereford & Worcester Schools’ Athletics Association headed to Leeds to represent their county in the New Balance English Schools’ Cross Country Championships at Temple Newsam Park.
They were competing against the best in the country in races with up to 350 athletes from 45 counties. It is a tough competition, but all aspire to qualify for this prestigious competition each year.
The competition was held at the same venue last year and once again the weather was one of the challenges. This year it was heavy rain and strong winds, with the wet grass soon turning to mud.
Nevertheless, all 47 athletes completed their respective races and, with at least six finishers, Hereford & Worcester featured in all the team score results and an aggregate team score total for males and females.
The best team result again came in the junior boys’ age group as 588 total points placed them 12th over the 4.3km course. Four athletes finished in the top 100, led in by Henry Faizey of Woodrush High School in 18th place.
Faizey improved on his 81st position from 2018 and was ably supported by three team-mates competing in their first English Schools’ Cross Country. Samuel Lea (Bishop Perowne, Worcester), Finnan Robins (Walkwood Middle, Redditch) and Thomas Birley (Malvern College) finished within ten seconds of each other, placing 50th, 68th and 75th respectively.
Finnan’s brother Josh, from Trinity High in Redditch, was the first Hereford & Worcester athlete home in the intermediate boys’ race in 28th – his highest position in this competition – in his first year in the new age group.
Another Redditch athlete, Harrison Mayne from St Augustine’s High School, was the next finisher in 164th. Worcester District schools provided five other members of this team and five members of the senior boys’ team, in which where George Beardmore (Royal Grammar School) was the highest finisher in 55th over the 7.1km course in the final (& muddiest) race of the day.
Beardmore was this year’s boys’ team captain in his last year of schools’ athletics eligibility representation. The senior boys’ team score was the next best points total for Hereford & Worcester with 867 points (26th position).
Dan Kimber, from Haybridge High (Hagley, 125th), was the second athlete home, closely followed by James Dale (Heart of Worcestershire College, 143rd) and Malachi Cashmore (The Chase, Malvern, 156th).
The highest female finisher amongst the H&W athletes was Natalie Hatfield, from Bromsgrove School, in her first year at the intermediate age group. She placed 53rd in a time of 14mins, 40secs – another top 100 finish for her and a higher position than last year.
Susannah Hoare (Prince Henry’s High, Evesham) was the next athlete to finish in 123rd, followed by Lily Saxon (South Bromsgrove High, 159th).
Amelia Hartshorn, another Haybridge pupil, was the team’s highest placed junior girl in 125th, with another South Bromsgrove School athlete – Esme Ranger – only seven seconds behind in 154th.
Two Malvern District schools athletes – Emma Youngs (The Downs, 189th) and Poppy Elton (Malvern St James, 222nd) – both debutants, were the next Hereford & Worcester athletes to cross the finish line.
At senior girls’ level, H&W county champion Holly Love from The Chase, Malvern, proved her form as the best team finisher with 151st place and Anna Nicod (St Augustine’s, Redditch, 200th) was not too far behind.
Grace Slater (Haybridge, 215th) was next, closely followed by Addy Carter (Hereford Sixth Form College, 227th) and Orla Walker (Bromsgrove School, 228th) who were given the same time.
With all these athletes being in the first year of this age group, they will be looking to represent the county schools’ team again next year when the competition moves to Merseyside.