Saturday's County Championships at Oswestry served up the usual fare of mud, hills, and the odd bloodied knee, though this year we were racing in glorious sunshine and unusually dry weather. Having taken an unprecedented clean-sweep of trophies last year across four separate races, this year our goal was to retain these titles, albeit a tough ask! The first race of the day saw our senior girls in action, and the first medals of the day. Whilst it wasn't to be gold this year, our girls nevertheless ran well to secure bronze, and given that one of the key runners in Libby Naylor twisted her ankle early on, the girls did well to get through the course just behind the two leading schools.
Lower Sixth Former Lucie Cornwell-Lee was the first Hunt runner home in 10th position, and she will look to build on this next year, and with the exciting addition of Tory Mobley joining the Sixth Form next year, we will look to reclaim the trophy in 2014!
The Inter Boys were up next, and whilst we perhaps didn't have the same depth as we have enjoyed in the past two years, nevertheless the team got off to a strong start with Oscar Dickins joining the lead pack with Ben Remnant closely following behind. The squad packed well, with exceellent support running from John Dempsey, Jake Samuel, Charlie Godman and Charlie Davis. Oscar came home in 5th place, thereby earning county selection for the English Schools' Championships, and with Ben in 11th, John in 13th, and final counter Jake in 16th, the team total of 45 points provided a very comfortable 30-point margin over Bedstone College in 2nd. The Intermediate trophy has now been won by The Hunt for the last four years, and we certainly don't intend to loosen our grip on the trophy any time soon!
The Senior Boys race was always going to be a cracker, and the race that in many senses we were most eagerly anticipating. Despite drafting a number of our top senior runners to the Midlands League fixture the same day at Worksop, we were able to take an extremely strong senior side to the County Champs, and their dominance was clear right from the very outset, with our lead trio of Huntsman Ed Mallett, Senior Whip Seb Blake, and Lower Sixth Former Rory Fraser taking on the rest of the field and stretching it out within the first kilometre. Despite the challenge of track specialist Josh Burrows from William Brookes, there was never any doubt about who would be on the podium at the end of the race, and indeed, Ed Mallett made sure of retaining his Senior County title with yet another startling individual run to come home 1st in a time of 18.36. Having been Intermediate champion in 2011 and Senior champion in 2012, this win in 2013 was a fitting way to end his school career, particularly as elder brother George had won the Senior County title in 2011! Seb Blake's silver medal with a time of 19.05 was an improvement on his bronze medal the year before, and Rory Fraser's bronze with 19.34 was an excellent result in his first year in this age-group. Intermediate county champion in 2012, Rory will look to add the senior individual title to his collection next year. Fourth counter home for The Hunt was the ever-improving Ralph Wade, whose 4th place dipping under 20 minutes was extremely impressive in his first ever outing at the County Championships. Just missing out on the 'perfect score' of 10, the Hunt's score of 11 points was nevertheless a superb achievement, and well clear of 2nd placed Wrekin's 58 points.
The final race of the day was the Junior boys, and whilst we were without the injured Freddie Huxley-Fielding (who had not only broken the New Boys' course record last term, but had also placed 5th in the English Schools' Cross-Country Cup), we were nevertheless confident that we had a strong squad. Indeed, despite an unfortunate slip on the startline from stalwart Will Hawyard, The Hunt nevertheless had three runners in the top 10 in the early stages of the race with Charlie Tait-Harris imposing himself on the race leader. A tough race ensued, with Charlie demonstrating the sort of form that has led to him securing a place in the Hunt's national relay 'B' squad, a superb achievement for someone so young. Charlie came home in 2nd place, another silver medal to add to his team silver at the English Schools' Cross-Country Cup, and along with Will Hayward (who placed 5th), he will represent Shropshire at the forthcoming English Schools' Cross-Country Championships. Dan Orchard impressed with his 7th place (despite needing to save a little energy for his rugby match that afternoon!), and our final counter Jonty Schofield came home in 14th. Sadly, without Freddie, our team total struggled to match Thomas Telford School's very impressive 20 points, though we were agonisingly close with 28 points. Alas, it was not to be, but there will certainly be many more opportunities for this talented group of young runners to win some silverware!