L to r: Nicky Davis, Will Hayward, Freddie Huxley-Fielding, Monty Hardcastle, Christian Cavenagh-Thornhill and Owen Mock
Having qualified through the regional stage of the ESAA Cross-Country Cup in early November, six members of the Junior Hunt travelled down to Southend-on-Sea for the national final. Over 1500 teams initially compete for this event at county level across four categories, so to have made it as far as the final was already a considerable achievement. Having said that, a remarkable 2nd place overall last year meant that the bar of success was raised particularly high.
A forced change of personnel meant that this was a rather inexperienced team who made the journey south, though it was admirably led by the fantastic running talent of Freddie Huxley-Fielding (R IV), who came 5th in the race last year as a Third Former. He was hoping to improve on this result now that he was one of the 'old guard', though on arrival it was noticeable that many of his contemporaries had grown to nearly twice his size!
Fellow Riggite Will Hayward also returned for a second year, though he was still shaking off a nasty cold as he drew up to the start line. Our other competitors were Nicky Davis (PH) making his debut in a national event and the only other Fourth Former. He has shown considerable improvement over the course of the term and was duly rewarded with a place in the starting six. Owen Mock (R 3) has run very well over the course of the term since his victory in the New Boys’ Race way back in September, hotly pursued by Monty Hardcastle (I 3) who has been extremely committed to the Hunt and has developed his running really well. The sixth member of our group was Christian Cavenagh-Thornhill (SH 3), who has mainly rowed this term but who has also been steadily working on his running.
A massive field of 145 lined up on the start line in the afternoon of the last day of November and as the gun fired, we got a decent start. Freddie got away very well and was in second position by the second bend. However, after a decent first lap he began to struggle and was losing places in the field down to 19th by the end of the second lap. However, a really impressive fightback, which showed a level of grit in Freddie that he's revealed on more than one occasion this year, saw him work his way back up the rankings to 14th by the finish.
Further back, Will Hayward struggled in the middle of the pack but fought on valiantly for a hard-won 62nd place. Monty overtook the Owen on a final lap which proved just one too many for him, the two finishing 117th and 124th respectively. Christian showed a huge amount of determination against this extremely strong national field and was of huge credit to the School in the way that he ran. The team scored a total of 317 points, placing them 23rd out of the 25 teams who had qualified for the final.
Though this was never going to quite live up to the astonishing performance of last year's team, this collection of six runners put in a really fantastic effort a long way from home and can hold their heads up high as national finalists in an extremely competitive event. I am hugely proud of their commitment in their training and on the day. Well done to all.