Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Southern Cross Country Champs (February 2016)

Ben Pochee, the Manager and Robert Wilson, the Captain of the Highgate Harriers cross country team, predicted the club could win a ‘Big One’ which was considered a Beacon race. That happened on Saturday in the Men’s Senior South of England Championships at Parliament Hill Fields and, there will be more to come this year of that there is little doubt!.
How right they were, as Highgate Harriers won the prestigious team award, with two of the athletes, Shaun Dixon & Ben Noad in the Highgate Harriers team that won last in 2012.

The conditions were very muddy in parts, on the Hampstead Heath course with some faster drier grass bits, over the winding three lap course, which started near the Lido, at the bottom of Parliament Hill Fields.

The first six of the 70 club teams, makes impressive reading. 1 Highgate Harriers 162; 2 Serpentine RC 186; 3 Bedford & County AC 206; 4 Tonbridge AC 408; 5 Kent AC 446; and 6 Herne Hill Harriers 567.

The counters for Highgate, out of the 1030 plus starters, were 5 Shaun Dixon (Coming back to good form) 50:25; 8 Andy Maud (A good runner we will hear a lot more about, as the season progresses) 50.47; 17 Chris Rainsford (2 ahead of Serpentines’ Richard Phillips, who won the Middlesex cross country Championships ahead of him); 30 Ben Noad (Ex-International still running very well) 53:12; 42 Robel Bahelbi (A good run for him) 53:46; and 60 Rob Wilson (Having a very good run) 54:38. One must add that, had Pete Chambers not have had  such a heavy cold, he would have had an excellent chance of being a scoring man but, he was slipping back in the closing stages and, is not in the result. Next came 93 Peter Hawkings 56:04 and 94 Victor Mound 56:07. They were excellelnt results, to finish in the first 100, which has to be good for any club runner.
Jon Laybourn, who came in 107 in 56.49 and 198 Dominic Smith in 56.41, were a good back up for the team. Two other high placers were 137 Brahma Pochee in 57.31 and 156 Guillaume Cribier,(A Vet 40) in 58:15.

International, Johnny Hay of Aldershot & Farnham won the race 49:08; 2nd C.Zablocki (Chichester Runners) 56:36; 3rd Antonio Silva (TVH) 56:38.

This all looks good for the Final Metropolitan League race, where Highgate Harriers men hope and should, retain their title as ‘Top dogs’ of the Leagues of 30 or so clubs. That will be, at Alexandra Palace’s hard course, on the 13th of February.


HIGHGATE HARRIER SVENJA ABEL, was the heroine of the day. Running her best race for many years. She took the bull by the horns, in the Women’s race and, out 501 women she was soon in command of the event. By the end of the first of the two laps, a previous Southern Champion, who sometimes trains at Parliament Hill; called Naomi Taschimowitz of Shaftesbury Barnet, was just behind her. It was only towards the end of the second lap, going down the muddy hill, before the short finishing straight that Taschimonitz, got away to win the race in 30:34 with Svenja Abel second in 30:43 but, ahead of Brunivels of Aldershot & Farnham, a more established cross-country runner, who was timed at 30:58 in third place. 33rd and running strongly was Ashley Scott-Wilson, timed at 33:21 and Emma Burgess was 69th in the large field in 35:09. Sophie Sheldrake got in the first 100 in 95th place in 36:05. She was fourth scorer in the Highgate team that finished 5th with 199 points. 53 teams closed in and behind Highgate were more favoured clubs like Winchester. Highgate, with a bigger womens team are one of the favourites to win in the Final Met League.

Alastair Aitken

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