Christmas comes early

It was a bumper weekend for the Hermitage Harriers as the festive season got into full swing with three events over the first weekend of December.

It all kicked off on Friday night at the Harriers’ Annual Presentation Evening and Christmas Party. Eighty-four members and their nearest and dearest attended the formal dinner event at Forest Hill Golf Club in Botcheston and saw many of their team-mates collect awards and accolades. Jason Williams was the brightest star of the evening as he collected a total of three awards: Season’s Best Male Runner, Club Coaches Men’s Award and Runners’ Runner. Williams, who joined the club just over a year ago, was 'overwhelmed by the praise' and moved by the 'personal comments' from his fellow runners. Team-mate Paul Gregory scooped the Season’s Best Male Vet Runner Award after a series of impressive performances this year. Also receiving recognition for a string of notable accomplishments was Darryl Johnson, who collected the award for Most Improved Male Runner. Johnson was astounded to receive the award but was delighted at the same time. The club’s Single Outstanding Achievement Award was awarded to Bobby Wisehall who won a place in the Ugandan Marathon earlier this year. Bobby went on to raise a lot of money for the charity organising the event and flew out with cases full of sports clothing and footwear to donate to the local residents. However, these weren’t the only reasons that the award was bestowed upon Bobby. The Ugandan Marathon was Bobby’s first marathon and he completed the event in the stifling heat of the African country...with a broken leg! He received the award to the sound of rapturous applause from his fellow runners. The presentation ended with a surprise award for event compère and club chairman Andy Buck who was presented with the Club Dedication award following 12 years service in his role. As his award was presented he received a standing ovation from the members of the club he helped to set up in 2003.

Not to be outdone, the ladies also scooped a collection of awards. Mia Weston’s return to top form following injury in 2014, secured her the Season’s Best Female Runner Award. Last year’s most improved female, Judith Brand, was back to claim another award, this time in the shape of the Season’s Best Female Vet whilst the Most Improved Female Award 2015 went to Hannah Wheeler after her dramatic progress across a range of distances this year. Two club newcomers were also recognised in the awards ceremony with Teresa Bradshaw collecting the Chairman’s Award and Charlotte Pollard being awarded the Club Coaches Lady’s Award. Both ladies were delighted with the recognition and thanked the club members for their support in their first year of being Harriers. Each year, the club committee select a member for the Club Recognition Award. This award is presented to a member who has shown a real passion and commitment to club life. Club secretary, Kate Reeves, was the recipient of the 2015 award for her constant commitment to the smooth-running of the club, her dedication to club welfare and her infinite enthusiasm for the development of the club.

Also awarded on the night were medals for all the men and ladies who scored points for the team during the 2015 road racing season and awards for the winners in the club’s handicap league. It was a clean sweep for the gents in Division One with Paul Gregory collecting gold, Darren Weston claiming silver and Shaun Coulton taking bronze. Division Two was dominated by the ladies with Katie Wright scooping gold, Caroline Townsend collecting silver and Kelly Garrigan-Cooper taking bronze. Finally, Division Three places went to Ryan Twigg (gold), Zoe Sewter (silver) and Colin Mayes (bronze).

The weekend successes continued as five men took on the challenge of the North Midlands XC at Shipley Park on Saturday afternoon. The weather was far from ideal with gale force winds, but Matt Adcock, Alan Percival, Mark Perry, James Willoughby and Tony Woodward battled it out around the muddy 10k course to finish in strong positions. The team competed well with three of the men finishing inside the top 60 places: Matt Adcock (20th), Tony Woodward (22nd) and James Willoughby (59th) and all the men finishing well inside the top 200: Mark Perry (171st) and Alan Percival (178th).

Cross country was the racing style of the weekend with many Harriers heading over to Bradgate Park on Sunday for the latest Derby Runner XC fixture too. The course is notorious for its sharp climbs and swift descents but loved by many for its beautiful scenery. The Harriers team included two XC first timers, Amanda Daly and Collette Porter who said it was 'amazing'. With a total of 574 point, the men’s team for the event consisted of James Willoughby (18th), Matt Dumelow (42nd), Dan Booth (47th), Shaun Coulton (58th), Craig Attwood (78th), Neil Doherty (76th), David Pallett (85th) and Darren Wilson (170th). The ladies team scored a total of 114 points; Bonita Robinson came home in 19th position and was closely followed by Louise Mason in 22nd. Mia Weston and Zoe Sewter completed the team in 32nd and 41st place respectively. This gave the Harriers a combined team score of 562 after deductions and secured them 6th place for the men, 3rd place for the ladies and 4th place for the combined team. New men’s and ladies’ captains Jason Williams and Suzy Perry were delighted with the performances on the day and are excited for the next XC fixture in January.