Despite the wet and dreary weather (ideal for cross-country!) we were delighted that huge numbers of parents and supporters came to spectate. The new start and finish on Top Common provided excellent vantage of the early and late stages of the course, whilst the traditional route down to the river provided the usual tough challenges of gritty hill climbs and fast bursts of speed along the river path.
The first race of the day saw the U11s take to the course, which was a shorter 3km route. Over a hundred competitors set off at a frenetic pace, chasing the 'hare', Huntsman Rory Fraser (Ch). There was little between them as they passed down through the Masters' Garden and down to the Boat House, but as they returned for the final 400m finish back on Top Common, a fierce battle looked to be on for the medals, and indeed, at the finish race winner Daniel Bufton from St Richard's was a mere eight seconds ahead of Prestfelde's William Lewin, with the pair finishing in 11.52 and 12.00 respectively. The final medal position was equally close with Caleb Adams of Old Hall School taking the bronze in 12.30, four seconds ahead of Alfie Biggs of Prestfelde and Reuben Crombie of Old Hall School, both on 12.34.
However, in amongst the leading boys emerged the first girl home, with Ellesmere's Esme Hughes coming home in 12.12, not only the winner of the girl's race, but in fact the third athlete home out of girls and boys. She demonstrated last year her prowess at the championships, and this year has cemented her reputation as an athlete of prodigious talent and potential. Second girl home was Terra Nova's Francesca Harris in 12.50, with a trio of St Richard's girls fighting for the bronze, with Mary Hayton Lee taking the honours with 13.27. The team trophies were won by Prestfelde in the boys' event, and St Richard's in the girls' event, with both schools exerting clear dominance at this level.
U11 Team Results: Boys (4 to count)
1st Prestfelde - 26 points
2nd Packwood Haugh - 52 points
3rd Maidwell Hall - 59 points
U11 Team Results: Girls (4 to count)
1st St Richard's 19 points
2nd Maidwell Hall 50 points
3rd Terra Nova 69 points
The U13 event saw a slightly smaller field of just under 80 athletes, but the race was certainly no less competitive. With last year's dominant school Maidwell Hall having missed out on the team trophies at U11 level (albeit with a very young boys side who will surely be difficult to beat next year), they were keen to stamp their mark and return with some silverware having won three out of the four trophies last year!
At the front of the pack, two Maidwell athletes (George Henderson and Monty Fenwicke-Clennell) made quick work of establishing crucial points for the team, though from the very outset they could not match the pace of Cundall Manor's Jake Doyle, who had cemented a 20m lead by Masters' Garden. It was a lead that he would not yield, and indeed, by the close of the race, Jake came home over a minute quicker than Henderson in 2nd.
Jake's time of 14.59 for the 4.2km course is exceptionally quick given the difficulty of the course and the conditions, though of course, over the past three years we have come to expect this of a young man who is one of the most talented prep school athletes in the country. He makes history in having won the individual title three years in a row - U11 winner in 2011; U13 winner in 2012; and U13 winner in 2013. Henderson and Fenwicke-Clennell (16.05 and 16.11) are extremely strong athletes in their own right, and well deserved their individual medals. Crucially, their performance - combined with Timothy MacNaughton's 6th place and Alex Saunders's 14th place - ensured that Maidwell Hall retained their U13 trophy with 25 points, 23 points ahead of second placed Prestfelde, with Packwood taking the team bronze with 73 points.
The U13 girls’ race was a closer affair, with Felicity Hayward of Moor Park taking the early lead and attempting to run the race from the front. However, she was pursued relentlessly by Jessica Humphreys from Shrewsbury
High Prep, and by the end of the race, the gap had narrowed to just two seconds! Hayward managed to hold on - just - and provided us with one of the most exciting finishing battles that we have seen over the past three years to win in 17.34. Birchfield's Lillian Wilcox had an equally tight finish with Terra Nova's Eve Baker-Wilbraham, with just one second separating them at 18.13 and 18.14 respectively. The team event was won comfortably by Maidwell Hall who retained the trophy with 39 points (good 'packing' with 7th, 8th, 11th and 13th for their 'counters'). St Hugh's were delighted to return home with some medals, taking team silver, with St Richard's concluding a very successful afternoon of racing for them with the team bronze.
U13 Team results: Boys (4 to count)
1st Maidwell Hall 25 points
2nd Prestfelde 48 points
3rd Packwood Haugh 73 points
U13 Team results - Girls (4 to count)
1st Maidwell Hall 39 points
2nd St Hugh's 57 points
3rd St Richard's 65 points
As ever, the event saw some gritty performances from all athletes, and it was terrific to see such enthusiasm and determination. In the past three years we have seen a number of the top performers join Shrewsbury School and its running club the Hunt, and this can only be good news for Shrewsbury running in the future! Well done to all the competitors, and we look forward to next year's event.