In a hard-fought and terrifically exciting race, Shrewsbury's Senior Girls' team battled against determined opposition to emerge victorious as team winners of the Stowe Shield - their first regional trophy and a huge landmark in girls' running at Shrewsbury - with Tory Mobley crowned individual champion. The Colts brought home the team trophy for the first time since 2011, with Freddie Huxley-Fielding winning the individual title; and the Senior boys won team silver, with an individual silver medal for Ben Remnant.
The Midlands & Northern Championships (MANISCCC) this year returned to the hills of Cumbria as Sedbergh hosted this prestigious event, now in its 55th year. With fell-running a strong tradition at Sedbergh, we knew that the course would be tough, hilly and very muddy. Having won the Seniors trophy for the past three years in a row, it was this year the turn of the Colts and the Senior Girls to shine, with both taking their respective championship trophies, which in the case of the girls, was the first time Shrewsbury School have ever won the event.
The long journey up on the coach saw the weather steadily worsen with the almost azure sky of Shropshire erased into a somewhat more monochromatic charcoal scene. This only seemed to encourage KMW whose knitting got increasingly furious, and it seemed she had almost knitted an entire skirt by the time we arrived in Cumbria.
The first race of the day was the Colts which saw our Third and Fourth Form tackle the 2.5 mile course. An immediate lead was established by Freddie Huxley-Fielding (R) whose upbringing on a sheep farm proved a useful background for this sort of running. With four to ‘count’ for the team event, there was excellent support for Freddie behind with Charlie Tait-Harris (S) coming up the first hill in 2nd place, and Will Hayward (R) in 5th. The team event looked to be a close run thing, with Sedbergh’s home squad packing in well behind with 3rd and 4th place. It looked to be down to the fourth placed counter for both schools, but going into the final lap, Third Former Owen Mock (R) had pushed through the positions coming home in 7th place overall, an excellent performance for a young runner. With Hayward securing 5th place and Tait-Harris and Huxley-Fielding holding their positions, the Hunt’s score of 15 was well clear of Ampleforth in 2nd with 38 points with Sedbergh having faded in the final stages. The team were delighted to take home the trophy – last won in 2011 – and Freddie becomes only the third Hunt runner to be crowned individual winner, following in the footsteps of this year’s Huntsman Rory Fraser (Ch) who won the Colts title back in 2011 when the race was last hosted by Shrewsbury.
The girls’ race was second up, and on the back of their superb 4th place at the National Relays in Coventry, there was confidence in the team and a determination to challenge amongst the leading schools at the championships, despite never having placed in the medals. However, the race got off to a good start with standout star Tory Mobley (EDH) immediately establishing her position at the front of the pack and going up the first hill to the ruined bothy, she had stretched out a lead of 10m and looked strong and confident in the early stages. She was followed by Tatty Hunt (EDH) in 2nd place, though she was soon under pressure from Sedbergh, Oundle and Wrekin’s top runners. In the tough conditions, the girls needed to fight hard in what was a very tight race, and with Tatty dropping down to 6th place, the pressure was on, with local rivals Wrekin in the ascendency.
However, Girls’ Captain of Running Lucie Cornwell-Lee (MSH) and fellow Upper Sixth Former Sophie Pelling (EDH) were motoring through the field, pushing up from 9th and 12th in the first lap, to 7th and 8th by the second lap. By the closing stages of the race, it couldn’t have been more exciting, or indeed closer, with Wrekin’s top runner moving up to 2nd place overall in the home straight, behind Tory Mobley who ‘killed’ in her first ever MANISCCC race, which was an historic win as no other Shrewsbury female runner has ever taken the individual title. She dominated the race in a time of 21.15, over one minute faster than 2nd place. With Wrekin moving up one point with their lead runner, we were pleased to see Tatty Hunt coming home in 6th place, somehow hanging on despite finding the hills very tough, just behind Wrekin’s 2nd placed runner.
Down the field, Sophie and Lucie came under attack in the final home straight from Wrekin’s third runner, whose slight frame seemed to float easily over the muddy final hill. It looked like the lead had been transferred, agonisingly, in the final 100m of the race, however, we were not quite sure what had happened to Wrekin’s fourth and final counter, who had been in 9th place. However, when the results came through, Wrekin were announced as having taken team silver with 26 points (Sedbergh were third with 39 points), with the Hunt taking the championship title with 24 points. Sadly for Wrekin, their final counter had dropped down to 12th by the end of the race, meaning that Shrewsbury’s tight ‘packing’ had ensured victory to take home the ‘Stowe Shield’ for the first time ever in the race’s history. This was a significant milestone in Girls’ Running, with their only previous trophy being the County Championship trophy in 2012. To now move up to take a regional championship win demonstrates a terrific progression, and it is well deserved given the hard work of the girls and their inspiring coach, Kait Weston.
The Senior boys’ race was the final race of the day, with an extended course of 4 miles and with 6 runners to count. It was going to be a tough ask for our runners to retain the title (won for the last three years in a row) with a depleted side partly due to injury, partly due to five of our seniors taking part in the Northern Champs in Manchester on the same day. The course, too, would be a testing challenge, with few races on the cross-country circuit even coming close to being as testing as this course. That said, the boys were determined to put in a strong performance, and our top three runners of Rory Fraser (Ch, Huntsman), Ben Remnant (Ch) and Oscar Dickins (R) packed in well in the opening stages, all working through the field in the top seven, with Charlie Godman (M), Henry Newbould (Ch) and Henry Dashwood (SH) having got off to a strong start as well, all in the top half of the field.
Newbould sadly took a bad tumble going over one of the water jumps, twisting his ankle, so unfortunately was halted in the first lap despite looking extremely strong. It was extremely frustrating for Henry, particularly given the recent form of this young and very promising new runner. In his place, the ever-impressive Alex Perutz (Rt) steadily made his way through the field, eventually coming home as our fifth counter in 18th place, with Henry Dashwood battling through to 24th place as our final counter. Up at the top end of the competition, Charlie Godman fought against a sore hip to battle through into 15th position, with Oscar Dickins coming home in 7th, Rory Fraser placing 4th in a time of 29.50, and 5th former Ben Remnant (with two years left at the School) taking individual silver in a time of 29.04, 19 seconds behind the winner from Wrekin College. Our team total of 70 points was good enough for team silver, but not enough to challenge a very strong Sedbergh first team, whose 44 points was the result of very impressive packing from their hardened fell runners.
Despite having to hand over the seniors ‘Nutter Cup’ (an appropriate name in this case), it was an excellent performance from the Hunt to come home with the Colts title and the Senior Girls title, with two individual titles to boot. Particular mention must go to our ‘non-counters’ whose support running was crucial in securing such high positions. Jasmine Douglas (MSH) in the senior girls’ ran grittily to place 26th despite having forgotten her spikes (making for almost impossible running in the mud and the hills), and George O’Brien gained valuable race experience with 13th place in the Colts. In the senior boys’, rising star Charlie England (Rt) was only three places behind Henry Dashwood, and Oli Pope pushed hard in the final stages to gain three positions and take 32nd place overall, and looks to be increasingly establishing himself as a runner of considerable promise.
All in all, another good day of racing for the Hunt, including strong performances in the Northern Champs in Trafford - see report: Northern Championships