The youth showed their elders how it should be done when Nene Valley Harriers’ U11 mixed team beat off ten other clubs to take the top honours at the penultimate North Midlands cross country league fixture on Saturday.
Sam Hughes and Sam Oakley led the team home on the testing 2km course at Heanor in third and fourth place, just ten seconds behind the winning athlete, with Flo Brill and Joe Garner never far behind. The victory places the team in a strong position going into the final race at Wollaton Park in January, where one final solid performance would be all it would take to clinch the overall title.
Providing further evidence of the club’s growing strength in the younger ranks, the Harriers filled half of the top ten positions in the U17 men’s 6km race, taking the maximum team points and putting them further out of reach for the other clubs to challenge them in the league.
Alex Hampson returned to his usual winning ways when clinching victory by just three seconds, while team mates Niall Payne, Bradley Spurdens, Ollie Bowling and Jevan Robertson took 6th to 10th places, finishing within 25 seconds of each other.
These two results placed the Harriers in the enviable position of being one of only two clubs in the league to be leading two age groups at once at this point in the season, an astonishing fact considering the club’s relatively small size compared to some of their rivals, such as Notts AC and Charnwood AC.
While the senior women only managed to field two athletes at Heanor, Grace Mullins’ and Cat Foley’s sixth and ninth place finishing positions still placed the team sixth on the day, and kept them in contention for the title with a second place overall in the tables.
Team captain and club coach, Russ Prosser, sent out a plea to the Harriers’ senior women to turn out for the club next month and help them win back their league trophy.
The U13 and U15 girls also produced fine performances, notably from Amber Park, Calypso Priestly, Megan Ellison and Beth Gaymour, with both teams placing second on the day, while the U17 girls fought hard against some very strong opposition, helping them to keep within 36 points of the league leaders, Notts AC.
It was a similar story for the U13 boys, when the two Ethans, Ethan Ellison and Ethan Russell, took first and second place for the club, closely followed by Sam Garner, to help the team take second place on the hilly 3km course.
Keilan Spurden led the U15 boys home with a top ten finishing position, supported by Nathan Davey and Ollie Oakley, while the senior men did well to place fifth team overall without many of their key performers. Jake Richardson, James McCrae and Rhys Goddard took the first three team places, while father and son Tim and Sam Hunt, Billy Mugnier, Paul Parkin and Dave Brown - better known for his international masters sprinting success - completed the club’s strong senior men’s performance.
Prosser reiterated the need for every athlete who is fit and able to turn out for the Harriers at the final North Midlands league fixture on January 10 to ensure the club achieves the success it has fought so hard for throughout the season.