Left: Seb Blake ensures that the victory is in no doubt for Severn Hill who retain The Steeplechase trophy in 2013
Middle: Bunched up runners at the start of the race
Right: Ralph Wade anchors the Radbrook relay squad with typical steel and determination as he comes home at the end of his leg
The annual Inter-House Steeplechases took place on Monday of the final week of term, with an impressive 22 relay squads taking to the start line (including 9 ‘B’ teams out of the 13 houses). The modern version of this historic event is a 6-man relay of 1.5mile legs (4 legs for the girls) with the first leg runner being a Third Former, second leg runner a Fourth Former, third leg runner a Fifth Former, fourth leg runner a Sixth Former, and the final leg coming from any year group. In recent years, Severn Hill have proved dominant in the event, and the 2013 running looked to be a final swansong for the house as the core of their runners would be departing at the end of this year. Their aim, no doubt, was to secure not only the team trophy, but the ‘B’ team shield and at least one of the fastest lap trophies.
After the first leg, Severn Hill were in a good position nestling in around 7th place, though the early leaders saw Will Hayward of Rigg’s Hall in first place at the end of the opening leg, closely followed behind by Charlie Tait-Harris for Radbrook (recently voted Junior Runner of the Year by the Hunt), Dan Orchard for Port Hill (recently voted Most Improved Runner of the Year by the Hunt), and Jonty Schofield for Rigg’s ‘B’. Alas, this would be the last we saw of Rigg’s at the top of the field due to an injury to their second-leg runner (himself a replacement for the injured Oscar Dickins, who had the day before been voted Inters Runner of the Year). Port Hill took over in the second leg with a strong effort from Tom Sykes, but a mesmerising final 400m from rising star and new Hunt recruit Charlie Rogers saw Radbrook on the heels of their dayboy rivals. Rather ominously, Severn Hill had surged forward to third place by this point with an excellent lap from Lisle Gannon, though the lap that caused the biggest stir was that of Churchill’s Ben Remnant who brought RTH’s squad right back into the mix having been out of the picture after the first lap. Indeed, Remnant would later be awarded the fastest junior lap of the day.
In the girls’ race, Emma Darwin Hall had taken an expected early lead with the ever-dependable Amy Stockdale and Makiko Nishikawa (voted Senior Girls Most Improved Runner of the Year the previous evening).
Despite MSH clawing back in the third leg with a surging run from Lucie Cornwell-Lee (Senior Girls Hunt Runner of the Year), Emma Darwin Hall’s Libby Naylor and Rosie Parr secured victory for the house, and a delighted squad lifted the salver for the second year in a row. Both houses fielded ‘B’ squads, and here Mary Sidney Hall could claim the honours, with Alice Paul bringing their ‘B’ squad home first.
By the final stages of the boys’ race, the eagerly anticipated show-down between Severn Hill and Churchill’s looked to be brewing. As Senior Whip Seb Blake took over in the penultimate leg, Severn Hill were lying in second place following a strong run from Theo Clarke. Port Hill and Oldham’s were still in the mix after solid performances from regular Hunt runners Charlie Davis and Jake Samuel. Radbrook, too, were not far behind after Josh Leese fought hard to stay on their wake. However, it didn’t take long for Blake to launch Severn Hill into the lead, and having begun his lap 10 seconds behind Churchill’s, by the Maidment building (roughly 600m) he was now 15 seconds ahead. Oldham’s pushed ahead of Port Hill and Radbrook held fourth ahead of Ridgemount. Into the final lap, all Ed Mallett needed to do was stretch out the lead and confirm victory again for Severn Hill, with Churchill Hall’s Rory Fraser (the newly-announced Huntsman for next year) cementing Churchill’s in second. Severn Hill would also take the ‘B’ team shield with a swift anchor leg from Mark Lawley, and Churchill’s took 2nd ‘B’ squad. Ed Mallett and Rory Fraser shared the trophy for fastest lap time.
1st Severn Hill
4th Port Hill
1st ‘B’ team Severn Hill
2nd ‘B’ team Churchill’s
3rd ‘B’ team Oldham’s
4th ‘B’ team School House
8th School House
5th ‘B’ team Rigg’s Hall
6th ‘B’ team Ridgemount
9th The Grove*
10th Rigg’s Hall
7th ‘B’ team Ingram’s
The start of the Hunt Club Championship
The following day members of The Hunt travelled to Pontesbury and Earl’s Hill for this year’s Hunt Club Championship, set to be a gruelling effort given the steep ascent of Earl’s Hill, and the treacherous downhill on return! Illness and injury prevented many from competing, but a hardy bunch of 19 runners took to the start line with a typical blend of good cheer and competitive energy. Ed Mallett looked a little doubtful beforehand due to a niggling back issue, but the prospect of defending his trophy and securing one final ‘kill’ meant, unsurprisingly, that he not only started, but bolted from the off and took an early lead. As much of the course is concealed from the casual observer and a roving reporter is needed, I’m afraid I can’t offer too much in the way of description of the fluctuations in race position, but needless to say, the race seemed to be summed up by Ridgemount’s Tom Lloyd, who having crossed the line with a look of either sheer pain or utter incredulity declared, “My calves are on fire!!!” Port Hill’s Sean Sawyer had no such observations to make, preferring instead to allow his muddied body and bloodied vest to do the talking.
Ed Mallett got that all-important final ‘kill’ and can add the notch onto the baton he received as a leaver on Sunday night, a fitting end to what has been a startling Hunt career and a glittering running CV. Second home was Churchill’s Rory Fraser with Ralph Wade for Radbrook in third. It was a good day for DMH’s boys with Charlie Tait-Harris of Radbrook winning the Mark Mortimer Cup for 1st Junior (even though he was up against 4th formers), and fellow housemate Charlie Rogers as third junior (with Rigg’s Hall’s Will Hayward splitting the pair with silver). The girls event was won by next year’s captain Lucie Cornwell-Lee, and thus for three years in a row a Mary Sidney Hall athlete has won the Willie Jones Cup.
Left: Club Championships first-timer, Ridgemount’s Tom Lloyd crosses the line after the gruelling climb of Earl’s Hill and announces to anyone within earshot, “My calves are on fire…”!
Middle - the winners: The Junior Championship was won by Radbrook’s Charlie Tait-Harris who won The Mark Mortimer Cup; Huntsman Ed Mallett from Severn Hill retained the Birley Cup in the seniors event, and Mary Sidney Hall’s Lucie Cornwell-Lee wins The Willie Jones Cup for Girls Champion.
Right: Port Hill’s Sean Sawyer takes things literally as he is ‘blooded’ in his first Hunt Club Championships…
1st Ed Mallett (S) 17.13 1st Senior, Winner of the Birley Cup
2nd Rory Fraser (Ch) 18.09 2nd Senior
3rd Ralph Wade (Rb) 18.59 3rd Senior
4th Charlie Tait-Harris (Rb) 20.03 1st Junior, Winner of the Mark Mortimer Cup
5th Toby Lansdell (PH) 20.36
6th Jake Samuel (O) 20.37
7th Will Hayward ® 21.24 2nd Junior
8th Charlie Davis (PH) 21.32
9th Seb Blake (S) 21.34
10th Sean Sawyer (PH) 21.56
11th James Humpish (SH) 22.10
12th Alex Walker (O) 22.53
13th Charlie Rogers (Rb) 24.11 3rd Junior
14th Sam Watts (SH) 25.52
15th Tom Lloyd (Rt) 26.51
16th Ben Remnant (Ch) 27.14
17th Lucie Cornwell-Lee (MSH)27.19 1st Girl, Winner of the Willie Jones Cup
18th Finn McCormack (Ch) 27.23
19th Henry Carter (O) 28.31