The National Cross Country is perhaps the best event on the British endurance running calendar. The quality is immense, but also the numbers competing are impressive. No venue brings it home quite like Parliament Hill. Seeing the masses of runners surging up there brings home what British running is all about.
One thing that has always been a disappointment for the club is the junior representation. We have had very successful adult teams in the past, but little in the way of U13-U17s. While the U15, U17 and boys were still empty this year, we were hoping to build on last year’s three performances in 2017 and complete a team in the U13 girls. I had to travel some way back in the record books before I could find mention of the club having done this before. If that is accurate, it seems to have been 1992. 26 years ago, when I was about their age!
I am delighted to say that we managed to do that with five girls completing the course. We actually had nine girls entered, with the other four disappointed not to manage it for a variety of reasons, but still offering full support and encouragement through modern technology.
So on to the heroines that made this happen. Esme Pearson was our first finisher in 180th. Esme has completed the most races over the XC season and is always pushing the team up the rankings. Her commitment to taking part in club events is a fine example to everyone. Second finisher in 193rd was Holly Newton. Holly overcame some travel sickness to perform really well in securing a top half finish. She has two more shots at this age category to improve on this performance. Third home was Beth Robinson in 258th. Beth is always a contender to improve the team’s placing when she is able to run. Fourth counter was Eleanor Nicholson in 357th, who also has two more years to try and improve on this performance. I’m pretty confident she can do that given her level of enthusiasm. The final finisher in 385th was Eva Bucknall. Eva has been a fantastic supporter of these events over the year and although she was not a counter on this occasion, without her contribution the U13 girls would not have got a final finishing position in the Manchester XC League series. Of course, all the girls have the potential to improve and hopefully this will become an event that they will target each year. There were 467 finishers in this category, which contained the largest number of entrants since 1998. Great to see the sport on the ascendancy!
Overall the team finished 42nd out of 51 completed teams. Although this might not sound overly impressive, we should emphasise how difficult in is to complete a team, especially given the distance from home. Many very successful Northern clubs failed to manage this and it is something for the girls to be proud of. Showing the commitment to support a team like they have done this weekend will stand them in good stead for the future.
Ironically, all five finishers this year were different to the girls that finished last year. Most unfortunate was Aisling McHale who found the crisp, cold air exacerbated her asthma and was unable to complete the course. As our strongest runner, any good performance by her has the potential to bump the club up the rankings significantly, so we definitely have the potential to do better. The other thing that the different finishers shows is that we now have a large group of athletes who are clearly of a good enough standard to compete in these events, with others hopefully coming through in the next couple of years. The challenge is how we tap into this.
So a very promising day for the club, and great for the girls to be part of something new. Let’s hope next time it comes round to Parliament Hill we are again completing a full junior team, perhaps even two or three?
Thanks to the parents and families for supporting.