Shrewsbury School

RSSH: Inter-House Steeplechases 2014

Friday 25 April 2014

Matching last year's impressive 22 squads entered for the annual Inter-House Steeplechases, this year's event was equally exciting and competitive with almost every House entering an 'A' and a 'B' team for the relays. Teacher in Charge of the Hunt Peter Middleton reports.

The modern version of this historic event is a six-man relay of 1.5mile legs (4 legs for the girls) with the first leg runner being a Third Former, second leg runner a Fourth Former, third leg runner a Fifth Former, fourth leg runner a Sixth Former, and the final leg coming from any year group.  In recent years, Severn Hill have proved dominant in the event, with the 2013 event seeing them take the 'A' and 'B' team trophies and also the trophy for the fastest leg (Huntsman Ed Mallett).  In the girls' race, the past two events had been won by Emma Darwin Hall who this year were looking to maintain their dominance over the event.

The girls' race in fact proved to be a much closer race than perhaps anticipated, certainly in the opening stages.  Indeed, it was Mary Sidney Hall who took the early lead with their tactic of going out hard, placing Captain of Girl's Running Lucie Cornwell-Lee in the first leg, opening up a gap of nearly two minutes between them and Emma Darwin Hall.  In fact, it was MSH 'B' who were in 2nd place at the end of the first leg following an excellent run from speedster Jasmine Douglas.  By the end of the second leg, EDH had clawed back a position, moving past MSH 'B', but the lead was still comfortably over a minute.  The damage was done, however, in leg three when Tory Mobley got going.  Her fastest lap of the day was considerably faster than any of the other runners, and as such the positions were reversed by the end of the penultimate leg, with EDH now controlling the race.  With Tatty Hunt in the anchor leg – the second fastest runner in the Hunt this year – the result was never in doubt, and EDH came home to clinch their third consecutive win, with a margin of nearly three minutes.  The quartet of Tatty Hunt, Tory Mobley, Cecy Price and Eliza Thompson continued the strong tradition of running in the House, and they were deserved winners of this race.  Next year, of course, will see the debut of The Grove in the girls' competition which will add further flavour to this race!

After the dominance of Severn Hill in recent years in the boys' event, there was a sense this year that now their stalwart seniors had left Shrewsbury there was an opportunity for new challengers to emerge.  There were a number of houses that looked to be capable of running quick times, with Rigg's tipped as favourites (according to their Housemaster!).  The nature of this race with a runner from each year group perhaps suited Rigg's particularly well , given that the last three winners of the New Boys' race have come from Rigg's.  Indeed, following the opening leg, New Boys' Race winner Owen Mock had established a 24-second lead for Rigg's over Radbrook's Sam Elliot, with Rigg's 'B' in third following a strong run from ever-improving Niklas Amthor.  Sadly, Churchill's top Third Former George Garrett was unable to run as he was competing in the Fives Nationals, so the eagerly-awaited duel between Garrett and Mock was not to be, and Churchill's were severely disadvantaged in their bid to go one better than their silver medals last year; at the end of the first lap their squad were trailing in 16th position.  What they would later achieve by moving into a podium spot was an astonishing achievement given their initial starting point from right at the back of the pack.

The second leg saw Rigg's further assert their lead, extending it to over a minute after an excellent run of 8.15 from Will Hayward (the 8th fastest of the day – a superb effort from a Fourth former).  Ridgemount pushed through into the silver medal position following another quick time from a Fourth Former (8.28 from Charlie Home).  Severn Hill began their challenge with Charlie Tait-Harris dipping under 8 minutes to put the house in 4th just a matter of seconds behind Rigg's 'B'.  By the mid stage of the race, Rigg's looked to have secured the victory with an extremely quick time of 7.45 for Oscar Dickins (the joint second fastest time of the afternoon).  Exactly the same time was run by Churchill's Ben Remnant, an astonishing coincidence, particularly as they had run exactly the same time at the Shrewsbury Relays a few weeks earlier. (The pair have developed something of an Ovett/Coe rivalry over the past few years!)  Particular mention must go to Remnant who simply tore through the field to take Churchill's from 14th place to 7th place over the course of his lap.  Churchill's were back in it!

The final two legs saw Rigg's further extend their lead with a solid captain's run from Toby Harvey-Scholes and a blistering final leg from Fourth Former Freddie Huxley-Fielding, with his time of 7.55 making it onto the top 5 times of the day and bringing home the team trophy and winning the fastest junior lap trophy in so doing. 

Rigg's won by a decisive three minutes over Severn Hill, with next year's Huntsman Theo Clarke bringing his team home for the silver medals.  He was just able to hold off the challenge of his predecessor, this year's Huntsman Rory Fraser, who had begun his leg in 6th place and had charged through the field to get past Port Hill, Radbrook and Ridgemount.  He very nearly caught Clarke, but in the end, a six-second margin separated the two rival Houses.  It was an extremely exciting end to the race to see Churchill's push up into the medals having gone into the second leg in 16th position, and Rory Fraser's time of 7.42 was unsurprisingly the fastest of the day, with Rory concluding a glittering Hunt career by taking home the trophy for the fastest senior, fittingly presented by OS Hunt chairman Peter Birch who had himself won the trophy as a schoolboy in the 1970s.  In many senses, it was an emotional moment as Rory came up to collect the trophy, officially marking the end to his Hunt career, one that has been extremely successful, including multiple national team medals and individual titles at the County Championships and at the Midlands & Northerns' Championships.  Rory has been a superb Huntsman, leading the club in a highly successful season, encouraging and inspiring others, and ensuring that The Hunt remains a very special and unique club, and one that seeks not only to achieve at a high level but also to maintain its traditions and heritage.

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