On Saturday 24th November as the deluge of rain transformed the school campus into a mudbath and swelled the Rea Brook to a raging torrent, a group of hardy enthusiastic runners congregated at the Darwin Statue for the annual Old Salopian Race where the RSSH are pitted against the OS Hunt. It always proves an enjoyable occasion, and we were particularly looking forward to what looked like a grueling test in such dreadful conditions (though perfect for cross-country running!). Whilst the Hunt have won this race for the past four years running, last year the race was much closer with a number of more recent Old Salopians returning (including former GB Universities runner Oli Mott, who placed 2nd last year). This year, too, saw the OS Hunt field a strong team, and although the Hunt retained the trophy, the gap was only 16 points, and looks to be very tight in future years!
In the early stages of the race, a lead pack was formed with current Huntsman Ed Mallett (S UVI) at the helm, with Senior Whip Seb Blake (S UVI), Rory Fraser (Ch LVI), IPH, PJM, and Old Salopian Oli Laws (SH 1993-1998) all grouping together and keeping the pace relatively steady. It was only with the more technical elements of the course coming into play (particularly the crossing of the waist-high Rea Brook river!) that the field began to string out and Mallett and IPH pushed the pace on. Oli Laws looked to be struggling on the slippy downhills, but in the closing stages gave an impressive kick going up the hilly Ridgemount Lane, demonstrating some fine form that this year has seen him run the Great North Run half-marathon in 69 minutes. Laws - who has in the past represented GB at cross-country - killed in the race, the first time he has taken the trophy since 2002. Current Huntsman Ed Mallett was third, with RSSH coach and last year's winner IPH in third, impressive given he is returning from injury.
The staff just managed to field a team again this year with help from the Headmaster who again showed fine form in running neck and neck with Severn Hill's DAGN, who whilst an Old Salopian himself, was claimed as a member of the staff team this year to make up the numbers. Slightly more dubious was our claim to David Blake as a staff team member. In reality, David came to take part in a unique day with four members of the Blake family taking part. David brought his sons Alex (S 2007-2009) and Kris (S 2009-2011) to give their Senior Whip younger brother some competition. The four Blakes all looked strong with the three Blake sons all posting top ten placings, and their father David not far behind in 17th.
The presentations were held after the race in the Stott Pavilion where there was an opportunity amidst the Hunt regalia and memorabilia to reminisce about past glories and fond memories. Those with stamina stayed on into the evening for the OS Dinner (following a gin-soaked Committee meeting!), where Dr David Gee was named as an honourary member of the OS Hunt and presented with his tie to go along with the 1st VIII tie he was presented two years ago to become an honourary member of The Hunt. David this year completed the Tucks for the 53rd year - an astonishing achievement!
As ever, this was a terrific occasion, and one we always look forward to. This year didn't disappoint, and we already look ahead to next year's race with eager anticipation!