An enthusiastic group of 15 Old Salopians returned to The Schools undeterred by rumours of the Hunt undertaking high altitude training in Africa specifically for this race. James Humpish (SH 2008-13) and Tom Cousins (PH 2007-12) were two of the most recent leavers, with the usual faithful group of loyal racers returning from previous generations.
The staff team was somewhat depleted through injury, but there was an added element of competition this year with an historic 'first' of a full Hunt girls' team. Some of the older members of the OS looked to be physically trembling as they saw the girls stride out of the Main School Building towards the start line. Many gulped and took in a deep breath, anxious that they may be... beaten by a girl!
As it happened, many of the OS were beaten by a girl – Tory Mobley (EDH LVI) – whose recent form has seen a significant drop in her Benjies PB to 8.32, an astonishing time for a female athlete at her age. It came as no surprise, therefore, that she nearly made the top 10 in the race, and whilst disappointed not to have done so, she can take heart in having beaten Adam Booth, a man who recently successfully scaled Mt Everest!
At the business end of the competition, a fast start by the Hunt's leading runners saw Huntsman Rory Fraser (Ch UVI), Ben Remnant (Ch V), Theo Clarke (S LVI) and Charlie Godman (M LVI) take the race on in the early stages, with Oscar Dickins (R V) generously holding back slightly to keep his Housemaster PJM company.
After the fast flat first section, a surge down the slope by Maidment saw OS runner Olly Mott (winner of this year's inaugural Shrewsbury Half-Marathon) break in to the lead group. He was hotly pursued by former GB cross-country runner Olly Laws, keen to retain the title he won here last year. Mott, Laws, Remnant and Fraser broke away and formed the front pack, with PJM and Dickins behind.
By the School Bank section of the race, Mott had made his move and had broken well clear of his rival Laws, though RSSH runners Remnant and Fraser had not given up. Remnant looked to have secured the final podium spot but could make no impression on the gap between himself and Laws going up Ridgemount Lane. Mott was well clear by the final stages and came home to 'kill' in a very swift 19.15 for the 5.6km undulating course. Laws made it an OS 1-2 with his finishing time of 19.39, and Remnant for the Hunt also dipping under 20 minutes. Huntsman Fraser wasn't far behind, with Fourth Former Will Hayward next in for the Hunt in 6th position overall. With fellow Riggite Oscar Dickins having taken a tumble down by Pengwern Boatclub, Hayward had used his impressive power to move himself up through the positions, and in a final battle with Lower Sixth Former Theo Clarke down Ashton Road, the younger of the two runners had taken the spoils in an impressive run that sees him cement his position as a runner of considerable promise.
With the staff not being able to field a team, rather usefully for the OS Hunt this meant that PJM was counted as an honorary OS for the day and therefore the eventual scores were quite tight with the OS Hunt on 44 points, and the Hunt on 38, retaining the trophy for the sixth year in succession. The girls (pictured right) came home with 135 points, and they were cheered home with enthusiasm and genuine admiration. The season ahead certainly looks very exciting for the Girls’ Hunt and we anticipate it being something of a breakthrough season.
With tired legs and puffed-out lungs, runners young and old made their way down to the Stott Pavilion for a post-race tea and a chance to meet old friends and reminisce about a very special running club that has a very special place in so many people's hearts.