BY TOM POLLAK
Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club’s senior men’s team saw their hopes of a top-12 finish in the English National Road Relay Championships suffer a major blow when top runner Jonny Cornish dropped out due to illness 48 hours before the race.
The weakened team still managed to repeat their 2018 performance to finish 13th out of the 79 that started to be the top South London and Surrey squad at Birmingham’s Sutton Park on Sunday.
Ross Franks got the team off to a strong start, handing over in 34th place after covering the 5.85km lap in 18 minutes 19 seconds. Second leg runner Charlie Eastaugh (18:29) gained 10 places before Howell Craske, the fastest member of last year’s squad in this year’s team, gained a further two places in clocking 18:37.
Fourth leg runner Alex Milne gained further ground in the buffeting wind as he moved up to 19th place with the third fastest time of the team (18:15) before Richard McDowell (18:06) and Tom Jervis (18:06) ran the two fastest legs of the quartet.
The total time of 1:49:52 was slightly slower than the 1:49:24 in 2018 but team manager Fred Green put this down to the much windier conditions this year.
The club also fielded a B team after qualifying to do so by finishing 23rd at the South of England Championships at Crystal Palace a fortnight earlier.
First-leg runner Fred Slemeck (18:42) got them off to a strong start handing over in 47th place. Finn Johnson (18:41) posted the best performance of the sextet in moving through to 34th with Joe Clark (19:11) gaining a further place on the third leg.
Andrew Parker (20:06), who ran the previous day in the Richmond Park 5km parkrun, slipped to 41st place before Rob Tuer (19:49) lifted the team to 39th. The youngest member of the squad, Matt Gibbons (21:35), brought in as a late replacement, slipped to 45th place.
The club’s youngsters were in action in the opening East Surrey League meeting of the season at Croydon’s Lloyd Park on Sunday. The U13 runners pack well to take the team honours. Benjy Street was second covering the two miles in 11:59 and finishing six seconds behind the winner.
Oliver Warby was third (12:13) with Ibrahim Mohamed Achchi (12:21) completing the winning team. A fourth finisher was Jack Hobden who was 14th in 13:23.
The club took third place in the joint U15 and U17 2.5 miles race. They were led in by U17 Morgan Rennie, third of the 51 runners in 14:21. Adam Hammadi was second U15 finisher in 15:42, taking 11th place overall with Joseph Willis 18th and sixth U15 boys finisher in 16:52.
Hercules Wimbledon runners took the men’s and women’s honours in the Kingston 5km parkrun on Saturday. Will Russell headed home the 373-strong field in 16:42 with over 40 veteran Gina Galbraith posting the top age-graded performance in taking the women’s race in 18:16.
Over 50 veteran Stuart Fraser also posted the top age-graded performance in finishing seventh out of 501 runners in 17:39 on his debut appearance in the Burgess Park event.
Jesse Coulson, running in her 50th parkrun, was runner-up in the women’s race at St Mary’s, Bridport, Dorset, in a personal best of 22:30. It took more than a minute off her previous best set in August. Lisa Thomas was in action in the de Montsouris parkrun in Paris where she was second woman in 20:30.
This weekend, Hercules Wimbledon start the defence of their Surrey Men’s League cross country title with the opening Division One match on Effingham Common on Saturday. The first race for under 13 boys over two miles is at 2pm with the under 15/under 17 race over 2.5 miles at 2.30pm and the seniors over five miles at 3pm.
The opening Surrey Ladies League meeting is also taking place on Saturday at Reigate Priory with the senior Division One match over 3.75 miles at 11am. It will be followed by a joint under 15 and under 17 2,.5 miles race at 12noon and an under 13 two miles race at 12.30pm.