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6th Feb, 2022, Alastair Aitken

Highgate Harriers’ Senior Men’s team men gained silver medals in the South of England Cross Country Championships at Beckenham Place Park on Saturday 29 January.  It was over a winding, undulating, but dry, course. The first six teams, out of the 60 odd clubs entered were: 1, Southampton A.C. 121; 2, Highgate Harriers 221; 3, Tonbridge A.C, 230; 4, Hercules Wimbledon, 313; 5, Belgrave, 474; and 6, South London Harriers 526.

Alex Lepretre, led Highgate home in seventh in 48:23. Just before half way he led the field but, several international runners were close behind, ready to pounce. One of those was the winner Andy Coley-Maud of Guildford & Godalming. He won in 47:41. He will be remembered just a few years ago running some very good races in the Highgate Harriers colours but the last time he ran the Southern for Highgate he had to drop out with an injury coming on. However, he has run uninjured recently and told me he is now training on forest trails, which helped him not get injured again. He will be one to watch for a possible top three place in the National Cross Country at Parliament Hill Fields on the 26 February. Highgate are expected to have a strong team for the National but, unfortunately, two of their outstanding runners, Seyed Taha Ghafari and Jacob Allen have been injured. Allen should be back fairly shortly but Ghafari has a more serious injury. I am sure the Manager of the best runners, Ben Pochee, hopes both will be in good form for the National 12 Stage Road Relay on 9 April at Sutton Park, Birmingham. It could make a great deal of difference in that for the club!

At the Southern, Highgate’s first 9 home out of 685 finishers were well inside the first 100. They were: 7, Alex Lepretre 48:23; 27, Robel Bahelbi, 50:12; 40, Charlie Haywood, 50:59; 47, Roger Poolman, 51:26; 49, Sean Renfer, 51:30; 51, Alex Bampton, 51:43; 56, Pete Chambers, 51:55; 82, James Ross 53;17; 85, Henry Murdoch 53:31.

In the Under 17 Men’s race Jack Bailey came 24th of 139 finishers in 21:18 and, his father the 'over 55' Highgate Harriers Club President Chris Bailey, went round in 603 place in the senior race out of 685 finishers. Monte Watson did well to come 46th in the Under 20 race.

Hannah Viner of Highgate was 6th of 366 finishers in the Senior Women’s race in 29:43. She finished very fast but said she had a bad patch in the middle of the race. The other high placers were: 23 Yasmin Goater (31:06); 58, Karina Thornton (32:59); and 148, Sabina Russell 36:13. Highgate Harriers were the 5th team of 45 clubs. Aldershot Farnham & District A.C was the winning team.