This event would of course be rather different from previous years – the socially distanced pens beforehand, the altered course to ensure we stayed entirely on site, the lack of parents to spectate – but the tension as they gathered to put on their numbers was as palpable as ever. Clearly nervous (perhaps influenced by some mischievous older pupils telling them that the entire School would be watching, and that the course was at least 10km long), they listened intently to the Master in Charge’s briefing, learning to their great relief that the race was in fact just over 2km long and that the only people watching were the many teachers who would act as marshals along the route.
One significant change to previous years was seen on the start line, as we separated the Houses into three waves: five boys’ Houses, then all four girls’ Houses, then the remaining four boys’ Houses, separated by a gap of five minutes each. This meant that as the third wave set off, they could already see the leaders of the first wave come through the tape and stagger back to their House pens to await the results.
It is difficult with an amended course to compare times with previous years, but the course was measured to be a shade shorter than normal, and flatter (the climb up from the river back along Ridgemount Lane having been eliminated) so we were expecting times to be a little quicker. And so it proved, with the leader of the first wave, Jack Kinrade (PH), crossing the line in just 7:35, which – altered course notwithstanding – probably puts this among the very best performances in the Third Form Race in recent memory. Harry Parker MacLain (I) was not far behind, in an impressive 7:55.
With the three waves setting off separately, we would have to wait until all the results were compiled before we knew the outright winners and the House victors. Neither Jack’s time nor Harry’s was to be beaten by any runner from the other two waves, and so they claimed gold and silver medals respectively. A remarkable run from Sophia Coulson (MSH) in a time of 8:36 meant she claimed not only the girls’ gold medal, but also third place overall. Claiming the boys’ bronze medal was George Moody-Stuart (R) in a time of 8:51, while the girls’ silver was won by Olivia Kerley (M) in 9:12, ahead of third-placed Catty Collings (MSH) in 9:22.
The boys’ House winners were Radbrook, who though they only had one boy finish in the top ten, they packed in brilliantly and have five finishers inside the top 15. Second place went to Ingram’s, who also showed significant strength in depth with four finishers in the top 15, and third went to Oldham’s Hall. The girls’ House winners were once again Emma Darwin Hall, reclaiming a title they’ve won for several years in a row now. Second place went to Moser’s Hall, with the team bronze medals being picked up by Mary Sidney Hall.
It was terrific to see the House spirit on display at this event, and the efforts made by pupils right through the pack, even to the last few places who were determined to cross the line and complete what was in some cases their first-ever cross-country race. After the tension beforehand, the collective happiness and camaraderie after the race was wonderful to witness. Well done to everyone who competed.