By Henry Fagan
The Hampton Cross Country team has flourished this year, from defending champions, shattered personal bests, and several debuts by the future of Hampton distance running, Mr Clarke couldn’t have asked for more in his final season coaching at Hampton.
The first race was early in the calendar, with the team trekking all the way to Wimbledon Common in early October to take part in the King’s Cup, held by KCS. In the race, Hampton showed great strength in numbers, fielding one of the largest teams of the event, and runningstrongly despite the precarious route due to the storm blowing several trees over the night before.
After a short rest from the 8km race, the team made the trip south for the Haskell Relays in Guildford. As usual, Hampton had the largest squad, deploying three teams of four to race the 3km course in a relay format. The A team narrowly missed out on what could have been the first medal of the season, with their fourth runner being overtaken in the final stretch, finishing only two seconds behind third.
Having completed a few weeks of solid training, Hampton were ready to strike again, this time more locally at the Judge Cup, held by Tiffin School. This race was yet again another relay with one runner from each year group allowed to take part in the team. Several medals were collected for both the team position and the individual position (based on time).
Hampton had put their name on the map.
Only two days later, was the Richmond Schools Cross Country Championships, the first stage of the qualification process towards the National Schools race. Here, Hampton dominated. Medals included Marcus Solomon defending his title from last year in the junior category, beating second by over a minute in only an approximately 2km race, whilst cross country captain Henry Fagan finished second in the senior category. Several other Hamptonians including a stalwart of Hampton cross country, Daniel Clarke, also qualified for the next round: Middlesex Championships.
The following week was Hampton’s home fixture: the Parlauf Relay. A race like no other, this comprised a race of teams of four runners who had to run as far as they could in 28 minutes round the school fields, with each runner running as far and often as their teams saw fit. Be it tactics or superior aerobic capacity, the Hampton A team won, lapping their next competitor, with the B team also winning the B team race. Yet again two days later was the Christmas Handicap, a 1.8 mile time trial around a route devised by Mr Clarke when he first joined Hampton. This race saw almost everyone beat their personal bests, with the cross country captain moving to second on the all time Hampton (student) list, only two seconds shy of first place. This race was significant as it concluded the cross country season for the majority of Hampton’s athletes, and for the Upper Sixth, their last ever.
After some hard training over Christmas and into the New Year, Hampton’s finest took the trip north, all the way to Harrow, for the Middlesex Schools Cross Country Championships. Despite the usual brutal course making our athletes regret choosing this as their sports option, Hampton came away with two qualifications to the English Schools Cross Country Championships, the author and Marcus Solomon, who similarly to November, defended his title from last year.
The final race of the season: nationals. This year held in Nottingham, this is the furthest they have had to travel for a race all year, and the fastest they will have had to run. Both Hampton runners raced well and came away satisfied with their season, enjoying the most competitive race for any schoolboy runner against the best in the country.
None of this would have been possible without the encouragement, kindness and enthusiasm of Mr Clarke, who leaves Hampton this year, having transformed Hampton Cross Country into what it is today.