Shrewsbury School

Historic wins for The Hunt at ESAA Cross Country Cup

Friday 19 November 2021

On Saturday we took four teams to the regional round of the ESAA Cross Country Cup. In previous years, we were only able to field an U15 girls and boys team in this event, but thankfully this year they have introduced the Senior category for the 5th and 6th form. 

Several hundred schools compete nationally in this event at county level, with only three from each county taken through to this regional round. For us to have all four of our teams qualify back then was already a significant achievement at county level, of which we were very proud. Now, against schools across the ‘West Central’ region at a race hosted by Bromsgrove School, we were aiming to place again in the top three, which would allow us to qualify for the national final, at which only 24 teams qualify in each category. 

First up were the U15 girls, and it was no surprise to see recent Tucks winner Sophia C (MSH, IV) get a strong start. She kept up a fine pace and despite concentrating almost solely on hockey this term (she has recently debuted for the 1st XI) and she was able to keep up with the front group, finally achieving a terrific seventh place. Millie B (MSH, III) was our next finisher in 23rd, with further support from Liv K (M, IV) in 27th, Ottilie G (G, III) in 35th and Artemis W (EDH, III), making her debut for the RSSH, in 44th. Across the 12 school teams, Shrewsbury School placed an admirable 7th, but this was sadly not high enough for our U15 girls to progress to the final. 

Next up were our U15 boys, who had cruised through the county round and looked confident on the start-line as the 12 schools prepared for the starter’s whistle. Harry P-M (I, IV) and Jack K (PH, IV) both started very strongly, and were together in the lead at the first bend, but a very strong runner from Marling soon broke free of the pack and set a pace which none of our runners could match. Harry settled into a very sensible rhythm at the head of the remaining pack, while Jack faded in the second half of the race. Harry held on extremely well for his second place, and it was our third formers Will R (O) in 7th and Johnnie T (Ch) in 9th who would cross the line next, with Jack finishing 10th. Further support came from Dom W (Rb, IV) in 22nd and Zac W (Rb, III) in 30th. A team score of 28 would, we knew, be enough to qualify but as it turned out it was only enough for second position in this round, with Marling School posting a very impressive total of 24 points. Nevertheless, it was a job well done. 

In the Senior girls’ race, Iris D (G, LVI) set off very conservatively, staying with the leading pack but not wanting to set the early pace, and she waited until after the first kilometre before breaking away. By the end of her second lap, her lead was considerable, and she demonstrated superb form as well as tactical judgement in the way she ran this race to claim a convincing victory. Our Huntswoman Sophia U (EDH, LVI) started well but was fading a little in the second lap. However, when she looked around, she was spurred on by the sight of Hattie A (G, V) running arguably the performance of the day in catching up to her and they eventually crossed the line together, taking places 8 and 9. Kate R (EDH, UVI) came through next in 12th, with further support from Amelia G (EDH, V) in 18th and Eva H (G, LVI) in 20th. This meant that our team score of 30 points was not only enough to qualify – the first Shrewsbury School girls’ team ever to do so for a national schools final – but that they had won the regional round outright! 

The last race of the days was the Senior boys. Kristian T (I, LVI) was in the mood to show what he could do and his pace in the early stages of the race put him in second position, though well behind a runner from Dean Close School in Cheltenham, who was clearly too quick for everyone else! Harrison C (R, UVI) remained cautious on the first lap, having suffered from a slight calf injury earlier in the week, but came through very strongly in the second half and in the end was not too far behind Kristian, meaning we had positions 2 and 3 on the board as they crossed the line. Our Huntsman Jonny P (I, UVI) placed in 7th after a determined performance a little further back, while Brad K (R, V) managed to make up some ground in the second half of the race and finished in 11th place – a valiant effort from a 5th former up against mostly 6th form boys. Two more 5th formers made up the rest of the team, with Archie T (Rt) placing in 17th, and Massimo W (PH) running superbly for his 30th position. Our team score of 23 allowed us to claim a convincing victory, meaning that we will be taking three of our teams through to the final on 4th December, held in Newquay, Cornwall.  

It promises to be an exciting and – given the girls’ groundbreaking achievement – historic day for the RSSH next month. It was a fantastic team effort against some very strong opposition. 

Ian Haworth

Master i/c Hunt

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