By Tom Pollak
Hercules Wimbledon’s ended their domestic cross country season with some outstanding record-breaking performances in the annual English National Cross Country Championships.
The senior women’s team produced their best-ever performance while the senior men posted their best team effort since winning bronze medals at Graves Park, Sheffield, in 1974. A record 25 Hercules Wimbledon runners finished the senior men’s 12km championship.
London Marathon runner Claire Grima led the women home, finishing 71st in 32:33 but the standout performance came from Eileen Brandley who was competing in her fourth national. She finished 114th of the 1,113 finishers – a massive improvement on her previous efforts of 446th at Parliament Hill Fields in 2015, 387th in 2016 and 474th last year. Completing the team were Lucy Wertheim, 230th in 36:15, and Gina Galbraith, 237th in 36:20. Hercules Wimbledon’s 19th team place was a big improvement on 23rd in 2016, their previous highest placing.
The senior men confirmed their rating as the top club in Surrey. In addition they finished ahead of Surrey League champions Kent AC. They were led in by Fred Slemeck who enjoyed his best performance of the season by finishing 61st in 42:43, his highest ever national placing. Running in the national for the eighth time, Slemeck improved on his previous best of 69th, also at Parliament Hill Fields, in 2015.
Andrew Penney, making his national debut, finished in the top 100 (75th place in 42:57), while Ben Toomer, running his third national, was 85th in 43:09, another big improvement on his 166th place in 2016. Jonny Cornish was 138th in 44:13, Finn Johnson, also making his national debut, 142nd in 44:18 and, Dimos Evangelidis, 173rd in 44:50, also an advance on his 389th place on his debut appearance at Parliament Hill Fields in 2015. Hercules Wimbledon finished eighth of the 162 teams.
“It was an excellent day for the club,” said senior men’s team manager Fred Green. “We posted our best men’s performance for 44 years with a record number of runners and this was our best season since 1974. The senior women had their best-ever team result and some of our youngsters also ran well.”
Best of the youngsters was Ellen Weir. She was the highest-placed Hercules Wimbledon runner of the day, finishing an excellent 26th of the 464 runners in the girls under-15 4km race in 15:37. It was a big improvement on her 38th place in last month’s South of England championships at Brighton. Georgie Clarke (59th in 16:00), Johanna Tofte (142nd in 16:49) and Niamh Thompson (220th in 17:31) completed the scoring team which was 15th.
Lulu Weiss (65th in 13:42), Millie Thorpe (116th in 14:10), Millie Doyle (140th in 14:20) and Ore Adele (209th in 14:50) made up the Hercules Wimbledon team that finished 16th in the girls under-13 3km championship.
Lloyd Hodgson (105th in 13:00) led the boys under-13 team home while Lucas Farmer (50th in 16:38) was the first Hercules Wimbledon finisher in the boys under-15 4.5km race. Zac Purnell was the best of a trio of Hercules Wimbledon runners in the under-17 6km race, finishing 90th of the 356 runners in 22:05.