On the last Saturday in February three of our junior Harrier girls travelled to north London to experience the iconic National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hills.

There were blue skies and calm conditions but as usual on Hampstead Heath the mud underfoot was thick and challenging. Add to this the famous Hill itself, right at the beginning of the race when runners are full of adrenaline and jostling for a good position.

In the first race of the day was Under 17 Lizzie Wellsted. Lizzie is in fine form, coming off of a fantastic second place in the Essex XC League race at Writtle University College the previous week. Despite an injury niggle and a tentative start Lizzie came through the field in a very mature and confident way to finish 19th of the 275 finishers in 20:55.

Next up in the Under 13 race was Isla Widdowson who is also in excellent XC form having recently finished seventh at the Anglian Schools and in doing so qualifying for the National Schools in Kent. Isla made a strong start up the hill and traded places with some familiar running and triathlon friends from across the UK. The pace was high throughout but Isla remained calm, running strongly to 29th place of the 393 finishers in 13:23.

Isla Widdowson was an excellent 29th place in the Under 13 Girls race.

Completing the Harriers trio, Lyla Belshaw ran a two lap course in the Under 15 race. Again, Lyla is in top condition, having had a clean sweep of the Essex XC league races and running an astonishing 17:34 park run a fortnight ago. Lyla pushed herself hard throughout and battled the competition in the closing downhill section to achieve a newsworthy 11th place of the 353 finishers in 17:18.

Lyla Belshaw (2829) was an excellent 11th place in the Under 15 Girls race.

All of the girls gave it all that they had in their first attempt at this prestigious event and in all cases were only a handful of seconds outside of the top 10. Parents and coaches were justifiably proud. They set the tone for the senior races later in the day when adult Harriers ran the now churned up course alongside Olympic medal winners Alex Yee and Georgia Taylor-Brown.

Report by Dan Widdowson