Simon Jones wraps up a successful Gwent League season for our Junior Girls teams.
The junior girls' cross-country team have had an amazing season, showing strength in running, resilience and dedication. This had all contributed to going into the final match with a real possibility of some podium finishes...
First up were the Under 11 novice girls. Faced with the prospect of the 'Pontypool Hill', they nervously waited on the start line. After a gruelling race, Cora Lambourne was first home for the team in 13th, securing a top 10 finish (ninth) after a brilliant season. Cora was chased all the way by friend and teammate Issy Spencer, who finished in 16th. Scarlett Smith, a talented multi-athlete, was third home in 21st, with Izzy Di Bartolo enjoying her second race for the club, in 45th. Loretta Chowdhury Barratt came in 72nd; even the hill couldn't wipe the smile from her face! We were delighted to welcome Katrina Wong to the club recently, and she finished her second race in 87th. It was a nervous wait for the girls at the end, but we were delighted when they were announced as bronze medallists, fully deserved after just missing out last year.
The Under 13 team went into the match as league leaders, just 12 points ahead of their nearest rivals (Westbury Harriers). Amazingly, 14 girls started the race for us, demonstrating our strength in depth and team spirit. Caitlin White was first home for us in ninth (for the second match in a row), having run all the way with her school mate Tilly Coomber, who finished in 11th, another strong showing for her in her first season for the club. Mairi Carver-Brown is always dangerous in the last 400m, again racing down the back straight to finish in 12th. One of the performances of the day came from Grace Rickards, who tripped at the start of the race, and picked herself up to finish in 16th, occupying the final scoring position. It's not just about the top four finishers, and this was demonstrated by Millie Pope, who raced into 19th, one place ahead of a competitor from our nearest rivals, points wise. Anisa Lawson is getting better and better and better (in the words of the late John Motson) and finished in 28th, amazing progress across the season, from 60th in the first race. Lucy Wilkinson is also demonstrating her strength in a variety of athletics disciplines and finished in 34th. Amira Chowdhury Barratt is one of the clubs brightest young long distance prospects and has demonstrated her strength across the season. As happens to us all in Cross Country, she was disappointed with her run, but we know that she will bounce back. She finished in 36th, closely followed by Silvie Ritter Sherratt in 37th who wanted to run the hills again! Maddie Smith (41st), Megan Purdie (45th), Alana Cooper (50th), Isla Brown (52nd) and Mya Cronin (57th) completed the team. We were delighted that all our lower age group (Year 7) athletes, Silvie, Alana, Isla and Mya, completed every race across the season, as lower age group athletes. It was a nervous wait at the ceremony, as the announcer described that the first two teams were separated by just two points! The agony was prolonged as we waited for the completion of some admin before it was confirmed that we had been awarded... gold! Assistant coach Matt, a historian by trade, confirmed that this was only the second time this century that a title had been retained in the Under 13 competition. It has only ever been won 3 times in a row, by Carmarthen (in 90, 91, and 92). Next year could be interesting! Fully deserved for all of the girls, who will all receive a medal.
The Under 15 team were too far away from a podium finish, but wanted to secure fourth place, which they did in style by finishing in third on the day. The team was led home by Gabi Ritter Sheratt who, like her sister, effortlessly glided up the hills. Gabi finished in sixth, and secured a very deserved individual medal, finishing fifth overall in the league. Gabi will be joined at English Schools by Molly Smith, who finished in 11th on the day. Holly Massey-Jones demonstrated her track potential in chasing down another athlete around the rugby pitch to finish in 19th, before we all watched Imogen Sparrow in a similar personal battle, beating her rival in for 32nd. Olivia Stanley completed the team in 41st, before picking up my personal 'moment of the match' as she waited on the side of the course whilst the rest of us were watching a medal ceremony, to clap another athlete up the hill. A great performance, and with a bit more availability across the season, we probably would have secured a podium finish.
After match 3, the Under 17s were in seventh position in the league but with our strength, we knew we could still be competitive, and we certainly were. Eliza Bott ran the race of her life (so far!) to finish in fifth. Sophi Hayes Hoyle has demonstrated brilliant personal attributes across the season, and came home in seventh, securing fifth place in the overall league. Molly Thomas was the third runner home for the team in ninth, again looking strong across the distance and terrain. Flo Smith has really impressed since joining the club recently, and finished in 14th, with Zolana Coates Tanzi making a brilliant debut in 22nd. We were in third place going into the match, 39 points behind the leaders, and were hopeful of bronze of silver, being too far behind to compete for gold. We were stunned, then, when the announcer said (in a repeat of the nervous U13 announcement) that there was just one point between first and second! Again, a nervous wait, and the announcement that we finished in second, our girls collecting their medals before clapping league champions, Westbury Harriers. A brilliant display, and fully deserved medal for our girls.
All the coaches (led by Paul Owen, who we are delighted to have back in the fold), and I are super proud of all the girls. For their running of course, but primarily for their dedication, attitudes and, most of all, support for each other. Well done team!