By Ruth Jones
Rain, strong winds and boggy hills did nothing to deter 82 steely athletes who travelled to Kettering to compete for Nene Valley Harriers in the second of the North Midlands cross country league fixtures of the season on Saturday.
Club coach Russ Prosser praised every athlete who fought the conditions to place as highly as they could manage at Wicksteed Park, resulting in two of the age groups taking top honours in the team points tables.
Prosser said: “On a very wet day at Kettering, every single one of our runners represented the club with true grit and determination – well done to all.”
Sam Hughes and Flo Brill played an integral part in the mixed under-11s team, winning their competition when they placed third and 11th in their 2km race, while Sam Oakley did well to climb back up the finishing positions to 41st after he was sent the wrong way.
The senior women also took the virtual podium prize when they won their event after Cat Foley and Grace Mullins fought hard to take third and fourth places, with support from Ruth Jones in 19th helping the 2012 team champions to mount a valiant effort to retain their trophy.
The under-17 boys’ and girls’ teams did well to take second place each respectively against some very strong opposition, with Alex Hampson, Olly Bowling and Jevan Robertson all placing in the top ten of their race.
Beth Goymour, Jasmine Oldfield and Rosie Marshall also had to fight against near-gale force winds to finish strongly.
The two under-15 boys who did run for the club, Olly Oakley and Mapesho Mutumka, crossed the uphill finishing line in 17th and 20th, heroic efforts by the two determined youngsters.
Meanwhile, the under-15 girls were not affected, like the boys, by the English Schools Cup, which was run on the same day – and as a result finished third team.
They were helped by eight athletes, including fourth placer Megan Ellison.
Jake Richardson, still an under-20, had the race of his life in his first senior cross country event, finishing 13th over a very demanding 9.5km course which saw the worst of the day’s weather drench every one of the 16 men who represented the Harriers.
Lloyd Kempson, Nathan Tweedie, Rhys Goddard, Sean Beard and Aaron Shepherd all ran excellent races to help the team finish third in the league tables on the day.
Last, but certainly not least, were the under-13 boys’ and girls’ teams, who both came third.
Amber Park led the girls in ninth place, while Calypso Priestly and Jess Mackenzie also had good runs, placing in the top 20.
Megan Ellison’s younger brother, Ethan, led the under-13 boys in with a notable third place finish, while Matt Church, grandson of club legend Ray, placed 17th, closely followed by Sam Garner in 19th.
Every single athlete who ran at Kettering is a credit to the club, and will be needed to once again fight the elements when the Harriers travel to the third North Midlands league fixture at Heanor next month.