The boys were looking to build on the success of the Knole Run back in January, where we won bronze, but knew that this race always provides a really stiff test to any team. Last year we placed eighth, after a few injuries led to a somewhat makeshift team, but this year we were at full strength and we approached the race with real confidence. The girls achieved 11th place last year, and having lost only one runner from last year’s line-up, they were well placed to earn a strong position.
Tom Jackson (R) led our A team boys’ line-up and was attempting to change his usual tactics by setting off rather more sedately, allowing the field to get away in the opening stages and then working through them as they started to struggle in the second half. This seemed to suit him remarkably well, as he finished very strongly indeed with a time of 12:10, placing us 12th in the field of 52 teams at the change-over. Paddy Barlow (R) led the B team for the first leg, and having worked hard this year to recover from a serious leg injury last year, wasn’t far off Tom as he crossed the line, finishing in 12:41.
Oscar Hamilton-Russell (R) took over for the A team, showing an impressive maturity for someone still in the Fifth Form. He ran superbly, a full 44 seconds faster than he’d managed last year, completing the 3.7km course in just 12.19. In the B team, Ben Weston (R) – you may have noted a predominance of Rigg’s runners so far – was on the second leg, making the team in spite of his tender years. The Third Former fully justified his selection, however, running 12:39 and making up key positions in what was a truly impressive performance.
For the third leg, Rider Hartley (Ch) took the baton for the A team. Rider is in a real purple patch of form currently, having run very strongly at the Knole for his 33rd position, before placing 6th at Saturday’s County Championships. He made up key ground as other schools faded away (many schools tend to place their strongest runners in the first couple of legs). He powered through the second half of the course and finished in 12:29, before handing over to fellow Churchillian Sam Watts.
Sam has struggled with calf problems recently, but was able to overcome this to set a strong pace going into the wooded section. We were coming through the field nicely, by this point up to 7th position and bearing down on those in front, eventually finishing in 12:25.
Meanwhile, the B team were engaged in a fantastic battle around 15th, with many schools’ A teams, such as Harrow, RGS Guildford, and Millfield. Harrison Cutler (R) was in excellent form here and managed to take a couple of places by the end, handing over to Orlando Williams (Rt) for the fourth leg. Orlando is mainly a rower, but is still pretty swift in a pair of running shoes (especially when they’re extra-light ones borrowed from his coach). He ran the fastest B team leg, in fact, in just 12:31.
Heading into the last two legs, the first two teams had built up an impressive lead – the Judd School and Ermysted’s Grammar were battling away fiercely at the front, with Loughborough Grammar over a minute behind, and then another significant gap before a group of teams much closer together.
Sam Western (S) took the baton for the fifth leg and set off determined to establish a good lead over the rest of this pack. His pace was electric, and as he crossed the halfway point it was clear he would set an extremely quick time. Handing the baton to our Huntsman Charlie Ockleston (O), Shrewsbury were in 4th place, with 3rd-placed Loughborough around 30 seconds ahead, and Sam had managed to complete the course in 11.42 – the 10th-fastest run of the day.
In the end, Charlie had rather a lonely leg. There was no challenge from other teams behind who were too far back to worry him, and Loughborough had left their fastest runner for the last leg, so he barely saw him. Having clocked a very impressive 12:04 last year, Charlie managed to post exactly the same time, claiming 4th place and completing a team time of 73:12. This is the fastest time that Shrewsbury School have ever managed around this course, which goes to show what a tremendously competitive field it was.
Our B team placed 15th, with Milo Herbert (R) and Matthew Thevathasan (PH) running very strongly in legs five and six respectively. Matthew’s final leg left the B team with the fastest time our B team has ever managed. They also placed as the highest B team of all the schools – quite an achievement!
In the girls, Alessandra Ardissino (M) led the four-person A team and set off at a good pace. She held out strongly to earn us 13th place in a time of 14:27. Anna Cowan (MSH) led the B team and also ran well, placing around 24th out of 38 teams, with a time of 15:42.
In the second leg, Sophia Dixon took the baton for the A team, developing a bit of a lead over the nearest rival behind her. She handed over to leg three runner Lillian Wilcox (MSH) with a time of 16:01. Lillian struggled a little in the latter part of the leg, and it was with a mixture of determination and pain that she dug in for her finish sprint up to the middle of the park. She was a little disappointed with her time of 15:34, and her form suggests she is quicker than this, but sometimes things just don’t go to plan!
Lillian nevertheless kept us in with a good shout of a commendable position as we handed over to Francesca Harris (EDH) for the final leg. She sped up the incline towards the edge of the park and the wooded section, and hunted down those in front of her. Her time of 13:45 saw her claim four positions ahead of her, allowing the team to take 13th across the line with a team time of 59:49. It was a wonderful run and she certainly paid the price, suffering at the end.
The B team also did well, claiming 31st position in the end, after strong runs from Felicity Hayward (EDH) with a time of 16.26, Laura Elliott (G) with 16:55, and Karina Ho (G) – on her birthday! – running 17:55.
This really was a terrific team performance by the Hunt, who did themselves very proud indeed. We can look forward to the rest of the season with real confidence, knowing that these boys and girls are right at the top of their game.
Congratulations to all competitors.
Teacher in Charge of the Hunt