Team of the Week

Each week during term time, Giles Bell - teacher of Philosophy and Theology, Admissions Tutor, Housemaster of School House for 14 years, Football and Cricket coach, Brighton FC fan and general sports enthusiast - turns both his spotlight and his wit on a different sports team within the School.

His reports are published in the weekly eNewsletters sent to parents, staff and pupils and give a good flavour of the wide range of sports at Shrewsbury and the huge enjoyment that pupils derive from playing them, whatever their level of skill and achievement.

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Wednesday 22 March 2017

  • Team of the Week
    This week, Lacrosse.

    Lacrosse is a sport I have never played and, if I am honest, probably never will. But that does not mean that I do not have a great respect for those who do. “I do I do I do,” as those wonderfully sophisticated lyricists of Abba would say. Not that I don’t respect their ability to write deep and meaningful lyrics in a second language; “I do I do I do”! (Before any of you think of deriding my favourite pop band of all time, how are your Swedish lyrics, eh??)

    I watched the lacrosse training sessions from the top of the bank, overlooking the ‘arena’ as I shall call it. This was partly to give me an elevated view of proceedings but also partly to keep my over-exposed pate clear from even more damage. The ball was flying around and there seemed little concern from the players for the photographer and wordsmith in their midst. Or perhaps Coach Fenella Nicholas has her troops so highly tuned that they are unable to notice any distractions for fear of making an error and wandering from the game plan. Sometimes you have to go where most sports journalists might fear to tread, if you want to gather the best action shots seen at a lacrosse training session since last year’s lacrosse Team of the Week article – which I strongly urge you not to look up, in case the material is at all similar!

    The Junior team have had a good season, including finishing sixth in what was described by Mrs Nicholas as a “fast and furious tournament” at Moreton Hall. I notice that on the school website it says that “the girls played to their utmost and executed all...”. That does give you an inkling into the brutal nature of the game.

    It was at this point that I began to think of my family and escape. I was beginning to creep away when I was hailed by a stormtrooper who suggested I take a picture of her. Not wishing to incur her wrath, I obliged.

    There are rumours that Mimi Mason-Hornby was inside the helmet, but I cannot verify this fact.

    Actually I can. Araminta Plumptre, who has two older brothers whom I looked after very well when I was in School House (whatever the family says), told me that Mimi was in fact a very good goalkeeper and not an enemy of Yoda.

    Georgia Kannreuther who, along with Poppy Collingwood-Cameron, Mary Lees and Georgie Nicholas, is a fine goal-scorer then had to sit down having been hit in the head. Amelie Chaplin was keen to look after her as she is a very caring girl. “I am a very caring girl,” she told me.

    Annabel Naylor, who is a very fine wielder of both a lacrosse stick and a paint brush, was keen to show me a depiction of the game at its most fluid. Annabel is one of five Shrewsbury girls who have been picked for the County B team, and Georgia Kannreuther and Poppy Collingwood-Cameron have been selected for the A team.

    Annabel was just about to put the finishing touch to a move of extreme intricacy when Laura Elliot was injured by a stray stick. (No one was quite sure whose stick it was or even if there had been contact.) Laura was clearly in some discomfort, but I was very impressed by the concern shown to her by the rest of her teammates.

    After a few minutes of ‘treatment’, Laura bravely decided to get up and carry on. She has clearly not been affected by the tendency to ‘dive’ in professional football. “I am not a diver,” she told me. Annabel and Araminta both explained to me that there is no place for diving in lacrosse. “There is no place for diving in lacrosse,” they both said together.

    The Senior squad were out training soon after the Juniors. There were fewer of them at practice than usual, as many of them were preparing to watch the 1st XI football team in the County Cup final at Telford. They are a very talented group of players, and Mrs Nicholas was impressed by their dedication to the sport as they gave up their Coach Weekend recently to travel down to Guildford for the National Lacrosse Championships. 

    Those of you who went to support them will have enjoyed the tournament, as – according to their coach – the girls played some of their best lacrosse of the year, “with everything slotting into place at the right time”, which is very important in lacrosse. I asked Mrs Nicholas if she used the Lego training manual, but she denied this.

    Clemmie Baynes and inspirational Captain Imo Luczyc-Wyhowska deserve a mention. Clemmie because she is a goal machine and my tutee and Imo because she, like Annabel Naylor, is also a fine artist who brings her artistry to the game.

    I left the pitch feeling lucky to still have my health and with even more respect for these brave ladies who laugh in the face of danger!

Friday 3 March 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, Fives.

    Having walked all the way down to the river and then back up again to bring you news of rowing successes for my last Team of the Week piece, I felt I owed it to myself to go a little closer to my office this time.

    One of my nearest sporting venues is the Fives courts. My ex-English teacher and distinguished OS Ken Shearwood has a picture of the Fives courts on the back of his book ‘Hardly a Scholar’ filled with top hats and books, whilst presumably the owners of these artefacts were deep in prayer and reflection in Chapel.

    Such a scene can still be found, with the exception of the top hats, as the present generations still pay their respects to the Divine before lessons on Tuesdays and Fridays. However, you would be wrong to think that the Fives courts are just some glorified file, book and pencil-case depository. Most afternoons the courts are seething with athletic endeavour as players of all shapes, ages, genders and sizes battle out games that seem to go on for ever, especially when it is cold, under the watchful eyes of Master in Charge Seb Cooley and his team of master tacticians.

    Mr Cooley reminds me of another diminutive general, Napoleon Bonaparte. He likes to win and he has a look of steel in front of those friendly and twinkly eyes. Although I have to admit that that is where the similarities start to diverge, since Mr Cooley is not French, has two arms, does not wear a three-cornered hat, nor aspire to control most of the Western world (as far as I know), ride a white horse, go to Russia for his winter holidays. And he is very very good at Fives (World Champion, no less).

    Having established that Mr Cooley is not very similar to a nineteenth century dictator, I wondered how he felt the Fives squad was shaping up. Mr Cooley felt the Fives squad are shaping up very well and this article could now end at this point. Yet I know how many of you have come to depend on a more analytical and in-depth analysis of our Salopian sporting gods and goddesses.

    I told Mr Cooley that I was going to probe him for further information. (At that point he began to look a little worried and the information began to fall from his lips like a veritable torrent.)

    He admitted that he was a little frustrated that a couple of fixtures had been cancelled this term, but he was proud of those players who had performed so well at the Northern Championships. Dan Orchard and Mr Cooley reached the semi-finals, defeating OS pair Ed Taylor and Sam Welti before losing to the eventual winners.

    Mr Cooley is confident that his talented group of top players, Max Morris, Tom Bromley-Davenport, Tom Brunskill, Sam McLoughlin, Adam Aslam-Baskeyfield, Dan Orchard and Josh Himsworth, can perform to a high level in the National Championships at the end of this term. I asked Dan Orchard what it had been like playing with Mr Cooley in the Northern Men’s Championships. Dan told me it had been an amazing experience to play with one of the world’s top Fives players. “It was an amazing experience playing with one of the World’s top Fives players.” He went on to tell me it is something he will be able to tell his grandchildren, although he admitted that he may well embellish it a little, as of course in a fairy story Dan and Mr Cooley would probably have won.

    Tom Bromley-Davenport wanted to tell me that Fives had a really cool image around the School. “When I say I have done a lot of court time, one or two people seem to think I am quite hard.” Ed Stapleton only plays Fives for the KitKats. “Mr Cooley has explained to us how important KitKats can be and as Fives players we are encouraged to have ten a day now (fingers that is). I think Mr Cooley thinks that a finger of KitKat can strengthen our actual fingers,” Ed told me. (Currently the Fives team do not have any nutritionists working with them).

    The girls’ squad is also in a good place. Izzy Wong and Adelaide Sillar won the Plate at a recent tournament in London and a number of pairs performed well in the Ladies’ Open competition in London last weekend.

    Top pair Nina Lange and Sophia Breese were hoping to bring back some silverware. “We are hoping to visit a jewellery shop in Kensington,” Nina told me. Apart from their purchases, they also came back with the Ladies Plate trophy, having lost to the winners of the main competition early on. Other successes involved the mighty Ella Windle and equally mighty Georgie Nicholas, who came second in the Ladies Festival. Whilst at Eton the boys had success against Highgate on the Saturday but not quite so much against the home team.

    Lizzie Ware, Phoebe Wasdell, Libby Hedges, Abi Watkinson, Katie Oswald and Emma Graham have been training hard, as the Girls’ coaches Andy Barnard and Gwen Davies run a tough regime. “Mr Barnard is quite tough on us,” Katie told me “although since he has heard that Rod Stewart is coming to do a concert in Shrewsbury his mood has lightened somewhat.”

    “I think Rod Stewart and Mr Barnard may have gone to school with each other,” Lizzie Ware added.

    “We really enjoyed our tour to London,” Emma Graham said. She likes the camaraderie when they go on tour. “I like the camaraderie when we go on tour,” she said. “We turn up the music in the minibus and someone usually has a Little Mix of sweets to hand out; Miss Davies calls us the Sugar Babes but we don’t eat that many sweets. As its only Girls allowed at this competition there are no mixed pairs. We are hoping to put in a good performance in London. Mr Barnard has told us we need that extra Three Degrees of effort if we are going to be known as the Supremes.”

    Libby Hedges is looking forward to a team curry. “We all like a curry and Mr Barnard calls us the Spice Girls!” Sophia did say that she was pleased to get back to the safety of Shrewsbury, as Slough is not as salubrious as one might imagine.

    To conclude after all my research: it would seem that Fives at Shrewsbury is literally in good hands!

Friday 10 February 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, Rowing.

    I am frequently distracted from my computer screen or from some serious tome that I am perusing by the cheerful chatter of dazzlingly lycra-clad figures marching purposefully past my window on their way to or from the river. There is a clear confidence emanating from such types, and I find myself envying their youth and their mental strength: it is clear from their physiques that they are able to say no to seconds of brandy butter. As I reached for another finger of fudge to complete the second hand last Tuesday, I decided it was time to follow the lycra trail down to the Boathouse and see just what the attraction was.

    My spies had informed me that the rowers had been busy last weekend at Wycliffe Big Head on the Saturday. And then on Sunday many of them had travelled to the velodrome in Manchester to participate in the English Indoor Rowing Championships. My heart was gladdened to see the Giles Bell (coincidentally a boat with the same name as me), speeding down the river powered by the J16 crew, but it was unnecessary of Harry Marshall to quip that he had never seen Giles Bell move faster!  

    Third in their event on Saturday at Wycliffe and winners of the English Indoor Rowing Championships last Sunday, Director of Rowing and J16 Coach Athol Hundermark was very impressed with the progress his crew have been making. “I am very impressed with the progress my crew have been making,” he told me.

    There was clearly a confident and cheerful mood amongst the crew and coach, although the training session looked as if it had taken more out of some than others, as Mr Holehouse struggled to get to his feet.

    Chad Usher pointed out to me that if he features in this article, he will have been in three Team of the Week articles this term – a hat-trick of appearances. He was disappointed not to make it into the netball article. “It’s a shame I don’t play netball,” Chad told me.

    The senior boys were split into three eights and all of them performed well. The top crew won their event and were well clear of Abingdon. Indeed, cox Tom Sheils was concerned for the mental health of some of our opponents. “They may need some counselling," he admitted. “After all, when someone with spindly little arms like Matt Rowe is managing to beat you, it must be demoralising!”  Matt is hoping that his spindly little arms will be strong enough to help him and Barney Fox into the GB squad as they prepare for trials soon.

    The other two Senior boats also did very well, and a team from the Top Squad came third in the Indoor Rowing Championship J18 event on the Sunday.

    The Senior Girls four won the J18 Quads at Wycliffe, and that did not surprise me, as I nearly bumped into joint Head of School, Alys Howells, carrying her boat around as if it were very light. “It is very light,” Alys said.

    The J16 girls came third in their event and are doing extremely well, and the J15 girls won their event in a very good time. They also came third in the J16 category on the ergos. I am not surprised the J15 girls are doing so well, as four of the squad - Ella Fox Davies, Lucy Lovick, Lauren Bermingham and Hattie Haynes - are my tutees and so of course they are keen to discuss mental strength and training tips at tutorials, with a top sportsman. I think the addition of hot chocolate and the occasional lolly or piece of cake have given the girls extra energy.

    However, they may have over-estimated my river skills when Lauren suggested I might like to cox a tutee four. An opportunity suddenly arose to cox the J15 girls’ eight, courteousy of their inspirational coach Will Reynolds. I was of course was up for the challenge and flattered that my steering skills were rated so highly, although as the water was apparently already ‘heavy’, I was a little concerned that I might not make the sport any easier for the crew. Reports concerning the record height of the prow (front of the boat?) are yet to be substantiated. What I would say is that despite the fact that I am looking for a new sport to take up and this one involves sitting down, I am not sure I am built for coxing and I am certain that the modern rowing boat is not built for coxes of my stature.

    I was flattered that the girls had every confidence in me and were happy to trust me. Stroke Hattie Haynes found her view was more obscured than usual but was clearly not concerned by the sudden change of personnel, and Lauren Bermingham was very kind after I had steered into a swan, three otters and the open water swimming team, suggesting they should have got out of the way.
    The J15 boys came second and the J14s had four octuples racing, with the boys coming in first and second and the girls third in their event.

    The Boat Club would not be such a happy and thriving place were it not for a host of talented and enthusiastic coaches. Sam Grant is coaching the top squad this year and he was quick to enthuse about his protégés. He also talked me through some of the extra requirements of the modern committed rower. This involves all sorts of cardiac monitoring and also answering a questionnaire in the mornings about sleep and checking heart rate. The coaches can know if an athlete is likely to be unwell in a few days’ time from these results and moderate the training to suit the ailment! I can’t go into too much detail about our programme as we would not like our competitors to glean information that could help them to beat us. I can assure you that Shrewsbury rowing is cutting edge and still awesome!

Friday 3 February 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, Netball.

    There was competition for this week’s Team of the Week slot as Reggie Bell played his first ever sporting fixture. He donned the tags for a game of touch rugby as Prestfelde Under-9s took on the might of Shrewsbury High Prep. The massive crowd were enthralled by a highly athletic and disciplined game played at a furious pace. I spoke to a number of spectators who had managed to find a ‘window of opportunity’ to sneak away from the office and watch their favourite player. All of them wished to remain anonymous and I was only watching as I went out to post a letter which suddenly leapt out of my grasp, (it was a very windy day), and was blown all the way to Prestfelde where I finally managed to retrieve it. I have decided not to mention that game however, as many of you will have watched it on Sky. Instead I will be concentrating my attention on the Shrewsbury School netball squads. 

    I needed no such gust of wind to propel me to the netball courts earlier in the week, where I was a  significant percentage of the crowd that turned out to catch the end of senior netball practice, followed by Under-14 and Under-15 matches against Thomas Telford. (Thomas Telford School, not Thomas Telford, as he no longer graces the netball court of life and from what I can gather was not renowned for his goal shooting or defending anyway.)

    I was introduced to the recently recruited Karen Hall, our new coach. I didn’t stay for her team talk as that was a bit ‘Longmynd-ed’ (Coach joke alert)! Karen is well known in Shropshire Netball circles. Indeed her name keeps popping up again and again, possibly because she runs her own netball team called ‘Recycles’. I asked her for her first impressions of Shrewsbury School netball. She told me that the top squad can run four teams and have great strength in depth. She felt that few schools could run so many teams at such a high level and she was delighted by the enthusiastic and positive attitude to the game to be found among the participants. “I am delighted by the enthusiastic and positive attitude to the game found among the girls at Shrewsbury,” Karen said. Lower down the School she feels there is real talent, as evidenced by the Under-14s reaching the Midlands Finals and the Under-15s being undefeated in their age group this season.

    I was lucky enough to witness Karen coaching some senior girls who are so enthused by the game that they had stayed behind for extra training. Club Captain Eily Kerr told me: “I am enthused by netball. Extra training is just so much fun, I wish we could do it all day.” Eily is a gifted Philosophy & Theology student and admitted “I can’t ‘Plato’ often”! She went on to say, “I am proud to be involved in such a talented, happy and positive squad of players.”

    Another keen exponent of the game, Orla McCormack, was working on her defensive technique. Orla recently won the Senior Wind Prize on her saxophone and she is certainly in tune with Karen. Orla can be likened to a whirlwind, as she engulfs her opponents in a storm force gale of defensive manoeuvres. “There is nothing like a good winding,” she told me.

    Mima Price, who is first team captain and an ever-present member of the first team throughout her distinguished time at Shrewsbury, clearly loves her netball. “It is something I love to do when I am not playing the clarinet, working on my A level art or looking forward to a deeply academic and intellectual conversation with my tutor.”

    Another devotee of the game, Sophia Price, was keen to tell me how much she enjoyed playing with her big sister. “It is wonderful to be in a team with such an inspirational player as my sister”. “It’s my birthday soon,” Sophia added. “But really there is one person I have to thank for honing my skills and that is my dad, Brian. He just loves netball and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the game.”  Both Sophia and Mima are goal shooters for Shrewsbury. It would be fair to say the Shrewsbury goals come at a fair price!

    The Prices are ably supported by midfielders Molly Stokes and Amy Pook, whilst Veronica Parr and Amelia Maunder help goalkeeper Julianne Hinwood keep the Shrewsbury net free of goals.  There are others I should mention as the squad rotates regularly, but time dictates that I move to the lower echelons of the netballing ladder.

    The Under-15 team were taking on Telford without top shooter Amelie Davies who was gutted not to be playing. “I have no gut any more, I am so gutted” Amelie told me. Poppy Collingwood Cameron is the other main source of goals and she was in fine form, helping finish off the excellent team play with goals that any famous netball shooter (such as Russian star Haveagoyah Poppemin), would be proud of. Despite the setback of losing Georgia Kannreuther to a serious scratch on the hand from a nasty fall (which was extremely well attended to by the medical team who utilised the first aid box to the extent that it is conceivable that every single yard of bandage and sticking plaster in Shropshire will need replacing).

    The team won convincingly, 22-8, with fine performances from Eleanor Nibblet, Mary Lees, Marie Nuthjen, Artemis Cooper, Laura Elliott, Katie Ford and Izzy Lewis.

    The Under-14s were also missing some key players, with Georgie Nicholas and Eddie Hargraves out injured. Annie Middleton was strong up front and Liv Usher, Ellie Kynaston and Phoebe Morris were resolute in defence. However, they went down by 1 goal: 8-7.

    Coaches Emma Kelly, Katie Marriot and Nicola Bradburne were quick to praise all their teams but mentioned that the attitude in the Under-14s is first class. “These girls listen to advice and will therefore improve,” said Mrs Bradburne.  Alice Hughes told me, “I am quite prepared to listen to our expert coaches. I have been trained very well in such skills by my Philosophy & Theology teacher.”  Daisy David and Catrin Heath are also good listeners. Elisabeth Edwards is too.

    It is clear that netball is a popular and vibrant sport at Shrewsbury, although rumours that the local knitting group are going to sponsor the coaching team have been denied by Head of Girls’ Sport Nicola Bradburne. Sam Shantry was just being nice to her husband Adam, who has just finished an ECB knitting course (to help nervous cricket coaches stop biting their nails as they watch their teams for hours on end!).


Thursday 26 January 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Rugby 1st XV.

    As it is only a week or so before the 2017 Six Nations Rugby Tournament kicks off, I thought I would venture onto the recently renovated turf of Bottom Common to see how our own rugby enthusiasts are shaping up.

    The Shrewsbury rugby revolution is currently being spearheaded by historian Chris Cook, who has been coaching here for over a decade now. With a small but talented and enthusiastic squad, Chris has taken the sensible decision to organise one match a week, to allow more time for technical work on the coaching ground and to give any injuries time to recover. To help him improve his players, Chris thought long and hard about who to turn to and then remembered that his dad had recently retired and that having been in the England squad in the 1980s and coached to a very high level, he might be able to help out. The rumours that he was worried that his dad might get under his mother’s feet at home are entirely without foundation Peter told me. “I would never get under her feet, she is much smaller than me.”  I have discovered that when Peter is not helping with the coaching here, he is moonlighting as coach to the Leicester Youth team.

    I tried googling Peter Cook’s credentials but I could only find references to his career as a comic actor.  He was by all accounts an extremely influential figure in British comedy, and was closely associated with the anti-establishment comedy that emerged in the UK and the US in the late 1950s.

    In terms of the coaching of rugby at Shrewsbury, it is “not only” Peter “but also” Billy Harding (who may be shorter than Peter). Billy assured me his name is not really Dudley, but I note he plays for Stourbridge which is quite close to the West Midlands town of the same name! I would hate to be the harbinger of a new nickname for Billy but I sense ‘Dud’ might stick!

    I asked Rob Ford, who very kindly agreed to have a breather from training, how recent performances had been. He told me that in the recent fixture with Christ’s Brecon, the team battled back from 24-0 to finish strongly and the final score was a creditable 24-19. I asked Rob why he felt they had started so slowly. He told me that after a long and wiggly drive to Brecon, the team stayed on the bus. “After a long and wiggly drive to Brecon we just stayed on the bus for the first half,” Rob stated. I try not to criticise our teams but I did think that the coaches and players should have realised that not starting the game on the pitch could lead to problems in terms of trying not to concede points. Clearly the situation improved when they finally got off the bus and onto the pitch!

    I then caught up with the ‘Chef’ coach Chris Cook. I asked him for an assessment of the progress his team are making. He was very happy with the way the squad are developing despite the bus fiasco. “I had to give the team a bit of a roasting after the Brecon game. I was steaming when I had a chat with the lads at half time, although I never let my emotions boil over. I just told the team they had to turn up the heat second half and give their pack a good grilling. We had wave after wave of possession second half – and I am not talking microwaves!” I asked Chris whether he had a settled team. “We try not to chop and change too much but sometimes the lads have other commitments which can grate at times.”

    The chef de rugby was keen to praise some of the leaders in his team, notably Ed Plaut, Oli Dixon and Cameron Bates who have encouraged the younger members of the squad and led by example.

    The younger members of the squad, when playing as the under-16s, remain undefeated in three years and recently defeated Repton 1st XV. Harry Remnant and Jacob Jefferis have made it into the Midlands team at representative level and have enjoyed being chauffeured around the country by Mr Percival who is a committed sous-chef!

    There were plenty of smiles on the faces of the players at training and it is clear that the rugby squad are in in good shape. I think it would be fair to say that Rugby is well done at Shrewsbury!

Thursday 19 January 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Shooting Team.

    I announced in last week’s Team of the Week that I have retired from running.  I would like to thank all of you who emailed to try and encourage me to renege on this tough decision and to continue ponderously to lead British distance running in a new direction. Your love and enthusiasm has made me question whether to totally hang up my trainers, as I know there is a small amount of talent yet untapped. However, I have been looking around for a new sport in which to dominate and I think I have found it! It is a discipline that involves lying down and keeping still, which seems perfect for someone looking to slow down from the high speeds that until recently I have been posting when on foot.

    I have never spent time with a World Champion before, but that is what I found myself doing on Wednesday afternoon as I popped into the rifle range to see how the Shrewsbury School Shooting Team were doing against Ellesmere College and Sedbergh School.

    Tom Rylands has represented Great Britain and England and is currently a member of the World Championship-winning Long Range Shooting Team.  He has been coaching here for four years and was a boy here a few years before that. His younger brother Mark (OS) is Bishop of Shrewsbury and clearly felt drawn to prayer when he realised how avidly his older brother enjoyed playing with guns! Tom assures me he merely enjoys shooting at targets and is not currently on any wanted list – apart from shooting coaches’ lists. He told me that Mark also enjoys shooting, and so the heathen had better watch out. The Rylands family are very much part of the Salopian family, as Tom’s dad Michael was here in the 1930s – and Tom is not sure that the rifle range has changed very much in that time.

    Tom is also coaching the Ellesmere College team and so he was very keen for the Shropshire-based schools to defeat Sedbergh, as was rising shooting star Hattie Bramwell (EDH LVI), who used to be at Sedbergh but transferred to Shrewsbury in the summer – and has since ‘shot’ to fame as our top markswoman.

    Hattie’s next few holidays have been sorted out, as she is off to South Africa to represent Team GB Under-19s at Easter and then she will be in Canada all August with the British Cadet Rifle Team. I asked Hattie about her success and what her targets were. She told me that she is happy shooting a .22 rifle here at school but she prefers full-bore rifles which she shoots at Bisley, as they are bigger guns. (I met some Salopians in the weights room who would like bigger guns too!)

    At this stage I began to rethink my new sport as I don’t want to be introduced in social situations as a ‘full bore’ enthusiast. Who knows who you could end up next to? Hattie tried to dispel my concerns. She went on to tell me that to be a top shooter it is important to be disciplined, as one is handling something that is quite dangerous. She also admits that dedication and calmness under pressure are required. I wonder if she has already been approached by the Secret Service.

    I also asked Hattie how she had got into the sport and she told me that her mum was a keen rifle shooter. Perhaps it is no surprise that Hattie’s two brothers George (R IV) and Arthur (R III) are also in the Shooting Team. I think it might be important to approach the Bramwells’ house with a certain amount of caution, respect and wearing a high visibility jacket.

    The captain of the Shrewsbury team is Marcus Bruce (Rt UVI). Marcus managed to avoid being photographed (slightly worrying in itself), but I can tell you he was the smartest competitor on the range. He was wearing a pinstriped suit and shiny shoes; I hope that he has not beeb watching The Godfather on repeat! He scored the highest score of the day (195/200) as Shrewsbury’s first four won with a score of 756/800. The rest of the squad is made up of Chad Usher (S LVI), James Weir (O V), Elias Harrison (SH LVI), Jonjo Wood (R III) and Oliver Taylor (R III).

    There is a youthful look to the squad, but Hattie would like some female company.  So if there are any girls out there who would like to get out of the exertions of hockey, running and lacrosse, you know who to see. A quick glance at my watch and I realised I had to shoot off!

    I left the rifle range reassured, knowing that Shrewsbury shooting has never been healthier and that other schools will be looking down the barrel when they come up against us!

Friday 13 January 2017

  • Giles Bell's Team of the Week
    This week, the Hunt.

    If, like me, you had an overindulgent Christmas and New Year, you may have resolved to strap on your trainers and squeeze into that figure-hugging lycra for a few gentle jogs before getting into some serious training for the next charity fundraising epic. This year my New Year’s resolution is to retire from running, for a number of very good reasons.   My retirement appears to have not yet been picked up by the sports journalists, but I would expect a little newsprint coverage soon – along the lines of ‘what a great loss to the sport’. Looking for some words of encouragement from a colleague when I told him of this momentous decision, I was shocked when he stated that for “big-framed individuals” such as myself, running – although an easy option – was probably not a good idea, as it could only lead to physical damage for someone carrying a few extra pounds and not exactly in the first flush of youth. He suggested to me that I “get on my bike”!

    Even if I were thinking of pounding the streets again, I generally like to ease myself into my New Year’s fitness regime – unlike those whippets in the Hunt. The ‘running camp’ prior to the start of term began on New Year’s Day near Rhyader in the heart of Wales, where the first run began (and ended) on the 1st of January. Oooh! I am not sure that would have been good for me. But Master in Charge of the Hunt Mr Ian Haworth assured me that all was and were well during and at the end of the run.

    The Hunt have been training hard for a competition they won last year under the guiding hand of Peter Middleton, who has now been moved ‘upstairs’ to ensure that running gets preference over all other sports and activities. (He is Master in Charge of Balancing Work and Play – or ‘Deputy Head Co-curricular’, as grown up people call it!). The Knole Run takes place near Sevenoaks and is a major national event in the schools’ running calendar. I remember Mr Middleton being emotional last year after his runners brought back the cup in fine style – possibly because winning is something that Mr Middleton was not as used to as some! Mr Haworth said that he likes to think of himself as a little tougher than his predecessor and he won’t be crying if we win. “I like to think of myself as a little tougher than my predecessor. I only cry if I lose, as I am not used to it,” he told me.

    I sense that Mr Haworth is quietly confident of our chances of success. I asked him if the rumours that he has been hacking into other school computer systems to check on the times of rival runners were true. He looked shocked at such a suggestion but did admit he knows what sort of times our runners should be aiming for if they want to win. I wondered if he had been aware of any other schools spying on us. He told me he had made it difficult for that to happen as the Shrewsbury Hunt team have been training late at night in a secret location. I was lucky enough to travel with the team to ‘sense’ them running in the dark.

    It did not make for good pictures, but I did feel a breath of wind when the squad came past. At least I think it was our athletes and not a small herd of deer, a flatulent cow or a low-flying dementor.

    With a week to go before the event, last Saturday the Hunt travelled to what I like to call my summer residence: Attingham Park. The forecast for Kent suggests there could be mud and possibly snow on the ground this Saturday, but Mr Haworth does not think any conditions will put off our elite speedsters. He was pleased with the performances he witnessed, with Freddie Huxley- Fielding coming second overall and winning his age group category by a long way.

    Chasing Freddie in was Will Hayward, who finished 2nd in his age group and 5th overall.

    I caught up with Tom Hughes, who is a substitute for the weekend event for a ‘view from the bench’. Tom had run at Attingham and was delighted that Shrewsbury won the under-17 team event. He and his fellow runners ran as a pack and finished 7th, 8th, 9th 10th and 11th. He laughed at my suggestion that the team had run in a line, making it difficult for others to pass them. But he did think this was a tactic that could be employed in the future.

    Tom is a good example of how success breeds success. He started running in January last year. Up until then he had been a footballer gracing some of the lowlier school teams. As his style did not seem to be attracting the manger’s eye, he decided a change was needed. He had noticed his dad had started running and thought he might join him, not just because he thought he could beat him! He enjoyed it and decided to try and get better.  Mr Haworth is very pleased with his progress and it was a tough call to leave him out of this weekend’s squad. Tom is philosophical about the situation and has not been trying to injure anyone to take their place. (At least he is not admitting to it!) I complimented Tom on his philosophical attitude to life in general and he explained that as an Everton and Shrewsbury Town fan he has learnt not to have very high expectations.

    The squad have all been training hard this term and their week looks something like this:-

    Monday: Track session involving interval training.
    Tuesday: 10-15k run in the countryside around Shrewsbury.
    Wednesday: 7am strength and conditioning session which is good for working up an appetite for breakfast.   An afternoon run of some kind.
    Thursday: Rest day
    Friday: Speed work often in the hills.
    Saturday: Race or day off to watch the Town
    Sunday: Optional long run.

    In the holidays Tom has stayed fit and runs with his brother or dad. He does not join his mum for ‘village’ tennis.  Personally I think I might go for the tennis option.
    He takes his running seriously and has incorporated some advice from Gavin Smith, who has coached Olympic Medallists, World Champions and World Record Holders and spent a week at the School last term as Coach in Residence.

    He also listens to Mr Haworth and Miss Walker, both of whom know a bit about shifting!

    Lauren Walker is in charge of the girls’ running this term and she has a very young very talented squad for Saturday. Only two of them are Sixth Formers and so the future looks very bright.

    I am running out of superlatives for this amazingly talented bunch of athletes. I think I have come to the finish. Let’s hope they have Mr Haworth in tears of joy on Saturday evening! He is not that tough really!


    The Knole Run squad...

    Niklas Amthor (R LVI)
    Cameron Anwyl (S LVI)
    Monty Hardcastle (I LVI)
    Scott Hatton (S UVI)
    Will Hayward (R UVI)
    Seb Hervas-Jones (S UVI)
    Freddie Huxley-Fielding (R UVI)
    Seb Ingram (S LVI)
    Tom Jackson (R IV)
    Owen Mock (R LVI)
    Louis Nares (Rb IV)
    Toby Pegge (PH V)
    Harry Remnant (Ch V)
    Charlie Tait-Harris (S UVI)
    Sam Western (PH IV)
    Lucien Whitworth (R LVI)

    Liza Alekseeva (EDH IV)
    Anna Cowan (MSH IV)
    India Eaton (EDH LVI)
    Immie Evans (G LVI)
    Francesca Harris (EDH III)
    Libby Hedges (MSH V)
    Lucy Lees (EDH III)
    Lilian Wilcox (EDH IV)