Shrewsbury School

RSSH: Podium spot again at Coventry National Relays

Thursday 7 February 2013

Bronze medals from the Coventry National Relays is a terrific achievement, and confirms The Hunt's position in the top teams of the country (bronze medals at the national Knole Run in 2012 and 2013; and now a silver and bronze at the national relays). 

This has been an extraordinarily busy week for The Hunt, with two fixtures last Saturday that saw one team crowned the Shropshire County Champions (again) whilst a second kept our position in the Midlands League at Worksop.  Full reports on these two fixtures are on the RSSH section of the website, and will be in the next eNewsletter.

The Hunt travelled to Coventry for the 42nd running of the annual King Henry VIII relays, the premiere competition for schools in the racing calendar, and a race that has in the past seen Olympians such as Seb Coe, Richard Nerurkar and Jonathan Brownlee tackle the 2.3mile course.  Shrewsbury School has competed in the event since 1975, and barring 1982, has competed in the race every year since, taking the trophy twice in 1995 and 1996, and hitting the podium five times in the 37 years of competition.  The 2012 race saw a return to the podium for the Hunt after an absence of 10 years, and indeed this was a startling ascendancy from the 24th place of just three years previously.

Conditions this year were altogether different from the flat and fast course of 2012, with snow melt and heavy rainfall having churned up the mud in the Forest section.  This, combined with the water-logged sections and the windy conditions meant that the times this year were never going to be fast.

As we have done for the past two years, The Hunt took two squads to the relays, aiming to provide valuable experience to a number of young athletes in the ‘B’ team, including Third Former and rising star Charlie Tait-Harris, who had the previous weekend achieved a silver medal in the County Championships.  Top 20 in 2011 and 2012, the ‘B’ team were again hopeful of a high position and taking on a number of rival schools’ ‘A’ teams, with some experienced Hunt runners providing the support for our younger athletes.

The race start, as ever, saw the expected wrestling for position, though both the ‘A’ team’s Ed Lloyd and Toby Lansdell for the ‘B’s managed to get clear and settled in just outside the top 10.  The first leg is often a tricky one to muscle into position particularly with many schools placing their strongest runner first if they haven’t the depth to field a strong Six.  With over 55 teams having entered, it is only towards the end of the first leg that a bit of order has been restored and teams can settle into their race.  Ridgemount’s Ed Lloyd did his job perfectly, coming home in under 13 minutes (an excellent time in these conditions), and crucially, though still outside the top 10, we were just one second behind race favourites St Albans School.  Port Hill’s Toby Lansdell brought the ‘B’ team home in 13.18 and set up Rigg’s Hall’s Oscar Dickins nicely for his leg.

At the business end of the race, The Hunt had elected to unleash one of its ‘bullets’ in the second leg, and sure enough Seb Blake made quick work of flying through the top 10 order, and even though he fell in the forest section, by the time he had reached halfway the Hunt had moved up into third place, still just behind St Alban’s, and ahead of The Knole Run winners and last year’s Coventry champions The Judd School.  Seb’s time of 12.12 was a well-deserved dividend for all his impressive work in training, and it was no surprise that this would later be revealed as one of the top ten times of the day.  Otto Clarke took over from his Severn Hill housemate Seb in the third leg and ran bravely despite his strapped-up injured leg, again coming home in under 13 minutes, and whilst the team slipped down into fourth position, the race leaders Marling School had only been able to field five runners, so were therefore not officially counted in the race!  Churchill’s Rory Fraser launched our next attack, and his time of 12.43 almost exactly matched the time of his St Alban’s competitor, who by this point were offical race leaders.  Ominously, the Judd School’s Nathan Marsh clocked 12.25, pushing them into second place.  By this point, the ‘B’ team’s consistent running had secured them top 20 placing with excellent times from Oscar Dickins (13.32), and first-time Coventry runners Mark Lawley of Severn Hill (13.35) and Third Former Charlie Tait-Harris of Radbrook (13.41) who will surely go on to great things here at Coventry in future years.  Fifth leg runner Ben Remnant  (a late replacement for an injured Tim Atkins) also ran in under 14 minutes and set things up nicely for fellow Churchillian Angus Hayward, whose time of 13.50 was enough to secure 15th spot for the ‘B’ team, a fantastic achievement, placing us above many top schools’ ‘A’ teams (Rugby; Manchester GS; St Edwards Oxford; Loughborough GS; Bromsgrove; Radley; and many more).

For the ‘A’ team, the penultimate leg was run by Radbrook’s Ralph Wade in his very first Coventry experience, and on the back of his 5th place at the County championships, he ran a brave and determined 13.14, and whilst by this stage in the race, St Alban’s had the title wrapped up with a startling run of 11.50 from their GB athlete Robbie Lightowler, The Hunt were firmly positioned on the podium.  With a gap of 50 seconds between us and second-place The Judd, it was always going to be an impossible task for Huntsman Ed Mallett in the final leg, and alas the same excitement and thrill of our last leg siege in 2012 was not to be in 2013.  Nevertheless, Ed ran with typical fire and guts, and his finishing time of 12.24 was just outside the top 10 times of the day, an excellent achievement given he had nobody to hunt down.

Though the boys were disappointed with their bronze medal position, this is nevertheless a terrific achievement, and indeed is only the sixth time The Hunt have ever made the podium in the history of the race.  It is a measure of how far they have progressed that third-place in the country is a disappointment!  For some, this was their last ever Coventry race, but for others there will be future opportunities, and with The Hunt now firmly placed in the top teams in the country (bronze medals at the national Knole Run in 2012 and 2013; and now a silver and bronze at the national relays), it must be the aim of the club to now maintain this position and build for the future.  If one looks at the record of race winners St Alban’s school over the past 16 years, it is clear to see that their performance is rooted in consistent performance at the very top level across many years.  Since 1998 they have never been outside of the top 6 in the country, they have won the event eight times in 16 years, and achieved podium spots on five other occasions.  As an 11-18 school where running is seen as the principle sport, they are a difficult school to compete against, though we must remember that the Hunt memorably overtook them in the final leg last year to push St Albans into third.  Currently, they have a world-class squad of youngsters (in fact, literally, as they represented England at the World Schools’ Cross-Country championships, their star runner is a GB athlete, and they recently took on the best US schools in the East Coast Championships in Washington DC and won!) and it is encouraging for The Hunt that we are able to compete with them.  Rather ominously, this year their ‘B’ team placed fourth overall in the country, evidence of the conveyor belt of talent coming through.  Rest assured we will be doing our upmost to take them on in future years...

Seb Blake        12.12
Ed Mallett       12.24
Rory Fraser      12.43
Otto Clarke      12.54
Ed Lloyd         12.55
Ralph Wade       13.14
Toby Lansdell    13.18
Oscar Dickins    13.32
Mark Lawley      13.35
Charlie Tait-Harris13.41
Angus Hayward    13.50
Ben Remnant      13.55

1st St Albans School   74.59
2nd The Judd School    75.32
3rd Shrewsbury School  76.22
4th St Albans School B 79.00
5th Harrow School      79.31
6th Millfield School   79.41
7th St Columba’s       79.53
8th Lancaster RGS      80.06
9th Sedbergh School    80.12
10th The Judd School B  80.15

15th Shrewsbury School B 81.51

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