The U15 House event got underway first, along a 3.5km route that took them around the edge of School Site before heading down the bank and along the river, crossing a brook to head back up the cruelly steep Canonbury hill towards the finish.
With the English Schools Cross Country Cup the following day, many of the best runners were under strict instructions not to push themselves too hard in this race. But nevertheless after the Huntsman’s cry they all charged off at a full sprint across Central, jostling for position ahead of the bottleneck through the Moss Gates.
At the halfway point, Tim Strebel (I) had taken the lead ahead of Bradley Keay (R) and a strong group a little way back including Archie Collings (Rb), Tim Manka (SH), Hamish Griffiths (PH) and Sam Jones (PH).
In the girls’ race, Eva Hall (G) established herself in a very good position, ahead of Eloise Jones (MSH) and Irina Liniger (G). These three held on for these positions across the line, but in the boys’ race the positions were a bit more fluid, with Bradley eventually coming through for the win, ahead of Tim in 2nd. Hamish took an excellent 3rd place ahead of Sam Jones, with Massimo Wyatt (PH) and Archie Tulloch (Rt) taking 4th and 5th.
The overall boys’ House winners were Port Hill, who impressively got all six counters inside the top 20. The Grove managed to defend the House trophy they won last year, with a ten-point victory over Emma Darwin Hall.
In the Senior race, Rigg’s were hoping to repeat their strong performance of last year when they narrowly beat Churchill’s. Sam Western (S) was looking to claim a possibly unprecedented ‘triple crown’ of Paperchases wins, having taken gold in the Fifth Form and in the Lower Sixth. He managed to get away cleanly and established himself at the head of the race after the opening dash. Two kilometres in, a good battle was emerging between Oscar Hamilton-Russell (R) and Harrison Cutler (R), ahead of a string of seasoned runners including Orlando Williams (Rt), Sam Freeman (SH) and an under-strength Paddy Barlow (R). Max Green (I) and Will Owen (Ch) were in hot pursuit.
Francesca Harris (EDH) cruised away from the pack in the girls’ race, with Lillian Wilcox (EDH) running well in second and Anna Cowan (MSH) pulling away from Livy Elliott along the river bank. These top three settled into their positions and took the medals, with Francesca completing the 4km course in an impressive 15:32 (around two minutes quicker than last year’s winning time).
Though they missed out on any medal winners, The Grove packed their runners in very well, with all their counters finishing inside the top 22, and they took the girls’ 1st House trophy ahead of Emma Darwin Hall, who may have won had some of their 2nd House runners been running in their 1st House team.
In the second half of the boys’ race, Sam furthered his lead to almost 30 seconds ahead of second place, taking gold for the third time – an impressive achievement. Harrison managed to pull away from Oscar to take second, showing what terrific form he has managed to build over the course of the term. Another very impressive run was by Max Green, whose rise within the ranks of the Hunt has been meteoric in the past 12 months or so; his 4th place was a sign that he will be a very important runner for the team in the Lent Term. Will Owen (Ch) took 5th, another who has improved very rapidly over the course of the last few months.
In the 1st House competition, it was again close between Rigg’s and Churchill's, though this time the spoils went to Churchill’s, who won by 11 points. They also claimed the 2nd House prize, showing amazing strength in depth. It was a great afternoon of House cross-country, and the spirit showed by everyone – especially so close to the end of a long term – was really commendable. Well done to all who competed.