On the last Saturday of term, the Hunt travelled to the Shropshire Hills for its annual Hunt Club Champs, the only purely internal race for members of the Club.
Staging the race off-site for the first time in a number of years, the course selected would be a challenging one – up, over and round the Lawley, involving a daunting ascent of around 300m in altitude gain.
The Junior Boys and Open Girls race would be one lap in total, while the Senior Boys had the dubious honour of doing an extra mile-and-a-half on top, starting their race at the other side of the hill. As the Juniors and Girls set off up the steep slope at the start, it was clear that this would be a tough race, and would reward the strongest and the fittest members of the club.
Harrison Cutler (R) was first to the summit after about 12 minutes, ahead of Ben Weston (R) and Will Singleton (R), making it a Rigg’s 1-2-3. Harrison raced well the previous week at the English Schools national final, and showed here again the excellent form he’s found in recent weeks. Francesca Harris (EDH) was running well for the girls, comfortably leading their race by the top, though with such a difficult descent to navigate, she needed all her concentration.
In the Senior Boys, Sam Western (S) and Charlie Ockleston (O) started off well together at the front, but as they turned south to head up the hill, Sam’s recent illness caught up with him and Charlie managed to pull away. Paddy Barlow (R) came through very strongly up the hill and made ground on Charlie, overtaking Sam in the process – showing how far he’s come over the course of this year and what an exciting prospect he will be in the Upper Sixth. Milo Herbert (R) was also going well. Sam Watts (Ch) was struggling with a blister and had to work hard to keep Arthur Bramwell (R) at bay, who has shown a real affinity with hill running recently.
At the finish line, Harrison had managed to extend his lead at the front of the Junior Boys race, and claimed victory in 26:29, with Will Singleton (R) taking silver just 20 seconds back. Jonny Price (I) managed to place third in a very strong run, crossing the line in 27:12. Ed Forde-Johnston (O) was next, indicating that, after a difficult year with injuries, he could make an excellent Hunt runner next season.
In the Girls’ race, Francesca had pulled away from her nearest rival, Anna Cowan (MSH), and she won the race in 29:57. Anna came through in 32:49, ahead of Sophia Dixon (MSH) in 35:08 and Felicity Hayward (EDH) in 38:07.
Charlie Ockleston is in imperious form at the moment, and it was fitting that in his last proper race for the Hunt, he was able to retain the Birley Cup he won last year. His lead over Paddy had been cut to almost nothing by the bottom of the hill, but over the last 1.5-mile flat track, Charlie had managed to pull away and establish a lead of almost a minute over the line, coming through in 36:39 while Paddy crossed the finish line in 37:34.
Milo Herbert (R) was next, and again it was nice to see an Upper Sixth Former gain a podium spot in his last proper race. Sam Western had dropped back to 10th by the finish, but Sam Watts had battled bravely to finish in 4th, still just ahead of Arthur Bramwell who had thrown everything at him.
It was a lovely – though admittedly pretty tough – way to finish off an excellent season for the Hunt. Well done to all who competed, not just in this race, but in the many races over the course of the past two terms.
Teacher in Charge of the Hunt
Film Fellow David Clifford was there to capture some of the highlights: