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12th Nov, 2021, dbrewer

Jonny Laybourn (Words), and Lewis Greaves (Photography)

A mixture of seasoned Highgate men as well as some newer faces banded together as a 12-strong outfit for the National Cross Country Relays last Saturday 6th November. The scene was set at the event's usual venue of Berry Hill Park in Mansfield, its home of a rather impressive consecutive 31 years until 2020 before falling victim to you-know-what, and it was as if it had never been away for our boys.
Our A team got things into motion with an impressive run by Taha Ghafari, still cutting his teeth on the unique English cross country scene after joining us during lockdown. A fabulous run of 15:26 over the two-lap 5km course was enough for 9th and to put us very much in the hunt early on.  For the B team, Ash Harrell returned to racing ways after the Manchester Marathon with an effort of 16:15. Sean Renfer found himself not too far behind for the C team with 16:29, and was vocally satisfied with his performance afterwards, something we all like to see as runners.
Leg 2 was where the serious stuff began for the A team. Jacob Allen, despite a minor hiccup involving the need to jump a barrier, cemented chances of a win with a blistering 15:38 and establishing an imposing lead.  Peter Chambers then demonstrated his recent fine form and hard work in training for the B team with a run of 16:04, cutting through half the field ahead of him by going from 42nd to 21st. The C team were represented on this leg by photography supremo Lewis Greaves with an excellent run of 17:34, also reflective of some solid Tuesday night grind.
Onto the third it was, and in perhaps the most impressive Highgate performance of the day, Alex Leprêtre let the country know he was very much back to form with a 15:44, widening the gulf between our A team and the following pack.  To follow for the Bs was Captain Rob Wilson in 16:55, himself also enjoying the post-marathon aerobic afterglow, and Jonny Laybourn for the C team in 18:06.
Finally, Robel Bahelbi, now of a decade of service at Highgate Harriers and, along with Ben Noad, one of only two men to have featured in every single Met League title since 2013, took up the reins for the A team and produced a very solid 16:24. Alas, he was passed by Liam Dee of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers in the process, for whom there was absolutely no legislating. The lads were nonetheless rightly ecstatic with a silver medal, our first appearance on the men's national winter rostrum for three years and the fruits of some unwavering commitment. The supporting party closed with Roger Poolman, also back on the up following the pandemic, securing 19th in 16:55 for the B team, and Rob Saunders for the C team, relishing his first appearance at this event with 21:39 for 74th place.
Mr Saunders quite aptly described the day as a "sacred shared experience" which I think will hit home with everyone involved in the Club's recent successes. We keep going up and up and up!