On the first Saturday of term, the entire 3rd Form competed in the annual New Boys’ Race, a tough little 2.3km cross-country route made all the more challenging this year by the hot conditions. Not only is this an opportunity for early bragging rights among the boys, but it’s also very much a team event and the terrific camaraderie on display by all the new House cohorts was a real treat to witness.
After Ed Mallett, this year’s Huntsman, performed his first ceremonial duties of the year by starting the event with the traditional rallying cry and toot on the ancient bugle, 120-odd boys dashed off across Central chasing the ‘hare’ of the event, Senior Whip Seb Blake. Both Mr Middleton and Mr Haworth were very excited about the potential of talent it was believed existed in this new collection of Salopians, and they were not disappointed. A blistering early pace was set by Freddie Huxley-Fielding which at one point may have made our hare wish he’d done a little more pre-season training!
As the leading runners darted round Top Common and down Oldham’s Gap, it was clear that this was going to be a very fast race indeed. Tension built over the next five minutes as the boys made their way round the rest of the course, only for the leader to pop up in front of Chapel for the finishing straight long before anyone (with the possible exception of Mr Middleton, though more on that shortly) had predicted.
The early pace-setter, Freddie Huxley-Fielding of Rigg’s, had managed to lengthen his lead and crossed the line in an astonishing 7.59, smashing last year’s record-breaking time set by Oscar Dickens by a full 17 seconds. To put this into context, the School’s current fastest runner, Huntsman Ed Mallett, completed the course in the same race four years ago in a winning time of 9.01. Mr Middleton, Freddie’s Housemaster, looked slightly less than dignified in punching the air several times, but then not only had he seen his charge win the race, but he had correctly predicted his time to the second!
In second position came Charlie Tait-Harris of Port Hill, in an extremely strong time of 8.39, closely followed by William Hayward of Rigg’s in 8.45. Six runners managed to complete the course in under nine minutes, which is an exceptional athletic achievement at this early stage in these boys’ running careers. Indeed what was perhaps most encouraging for the Hunt coaches was not just Freddie’s incredibly quick time, but the strength in depth on show among this year group, promising great things in years to come.
The race was not all about the very quick, however; further down the field there were some impressively gutsy performances from boys who were not used to running, and who nevertheless gave their all in the unforgiving late-summer sunshine to do themselves and their Housemasters extremely proud. Everyone who completed the course can look back with a real sense of achievement, and the Headmaster’s words of congratulations after the race were certainly richly deserved.
To the team event: the first six finishers from each House scored points for their team, with the lowest points total winning. It was unsurprising perhaps that Rigg’s, with their Housemaster also Master in Charge of the Hunt, should take the honours. Their domination, though, was less predictable; their sixth finisher placed 31st, making a team total of just 70 too strong for anyone else. In second place was Port Hill, with a very creditable 102 points, while Oldham’s - something of a dark horse of a team - clutched third, with 130 points.
Well done to all who ran, and thanks to everyone who supported this hugely enjoyable event.