In the first Hunt fixture of the season, the Club travelled up to the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales for a friendly race which nevertheless pitted us against some of our closest rivals (competitively speaking, if not geographically).
With Sedbergh School hosting us for the second consecutive year, the net had been cast wider in search of strong cross-country talent, and we were joined by Ermysted’s School from Skipton – the record-breaking winners of the King Henry VIII Relays in Coventry back in February – and George Heriot’s School from Edinburgh, as well as St Anselm’s College from Merseyside.
As with any first race of the season, this was very much a chance to put a marker down in terms of the progress we intend to make this year, and after a significant period of time without any racing, this would certainly be a challenge.
The course (5km for the U16s, 6.5km for the Seniors) was a tough one, taking in several short sharp hills and uneven ground – what most of us in the sport would call, usually with some relish, ‘proper cross country’. Conditions were set to mild, sunny and firm underfoot, which probably suited us at this stage, and we were looking forward to testing ourselves.
It was the U16s who got underway first. The course was a complicated one, and unfortunately our top two runners found themselves at the head of the pack in the opening stages and went the wrong way, leading to much confusion. After some chaotic scenes lasting about ten minutes, the race director managed to regroup the pack to set them off again over a shorter course. Such things do happen in cross country, but it was good to be able to get some competition done after the initial mistake, albeit over a curtailed route of about 2.5km.
Will Singleton (R) and Ben Weston (R) both led out from the front after the re-start, and looked very confident of the one-two until Ben was challenged in the final straight. It looked as though he might have lost the initiative but just managed to hold on by a matter of centimetres at the line.
Strong support came through from further back with John Bugge (Ch) and Dom Inglis-Jones (Ch) and Fourth Form entrant John Williams (R) both making their Hunt debuts, and Damian Jelev (R), Arthur Hope Barton (I) also running well.
In the Senior race, we had a strong team who established themselves quickly in the heart of the pack, with our Senior Whip Tom Jackson (R) leading out early on, supported by Huntsman Sam Western (S) a few places back.
Tom began to fade after the first kilometre or so and from that point the race was led by Fraser Sproul of Sedbergh – one of the brightest running talents in the country, particularly over this sort of terrain. Further back, Junior Whip Paddy Barlow was going well around 10th place, ahead of Arthur Bramwell (R) and Will Owen (Ch) who worked well together to chip away at the pack in front of them.
Jonny Snell (Ch) and Artur Sarsenov (SH) also ran well together, and Cosmo Waddell (Ch) came through nicely ahead of Mr Russell, who made his debut in the green and gold vest for the Old Salopian Hunt.
Sam, in his first race as Huntsman, showed real strength in coming through for second in the Senior race (third behind an Old Sedberghian) and looked in great form at this early stage.
Full results have yet to be published, but will be released in the next couple of days.
Overall, it was a great day out and well worth the long trip up north. The many strong performances suggest we could be in for a really successful year of cross country running. Well done to everyone who ran.
Teacher in Charge of the Hunt