McDonald canters away with pair of National titles

Four girls from south London between them lifted two national sporting titles on Saturday.

Former world champion Steve Cram presents the Herne Hill under-13 girls' team with their National trophy and medals. The team, from left, is Eloise

Former world champion Steve Cram presents the Herne Hill Harriers under-13 girls’ team with their National trophy and medals. The team, from left, is Eloise O’Shaughnessy, Alex Brown, Saskia Millard and the race winner, Katy-Ann McDonald

Katy-Ann McDonald, aged 12, won the gold medal and led the quartet of girls from Herne Hill Harriers to under-13s team victory at the English National Cross-country Championships, staged in a snow storm at Herrington Park in Sunderland.

McDonald and her team mates Saskia Millard, who was fourth, Alex Brown (11th) and Eloise O’Shaughnessy (26th) all train at Tooting Bec track with one of the area’s longest established athletics clubs. Yet in Herne Hill’s 124-year history, this was the first junior team to win gold at the country’s most traditional and historic of running races.

McDonald attends Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, Millard is at Alleyn’s, while Brown and O’Shaughnessy are both in Year Six (and so have another year in their age groups) at Putney High and at Streatham Hill and Clapham High respectively.

The squad has already won one national title this season, in the cross-country relays in the autumn. But the National Cross-country, with a field of nearly 300 runners from across the country, is seen as the defining test of distance running talent, and the muddy Sunderland conditions provided a stamina-sapping course.

But just as she had in winning the Surrey county title at Lloyd Park last month, McDonald broke clear after about 450 metres, with her closest chaser for a long period being Millard, to set up a 50-metre lead and had enough strength to retain her lead in the energy-sapping conditions.

With the Herne Hill under-15 girls finishing fifth and their under-13 boys in eighth, while the under-15 boys were 11th team, led in by 20th placed finisher Ed Olsen, this was an outstanding day for the local club.

At the British Universities’ indoor championships at Sheffield, another Herne Hill Harrier, Katie Snowden, won the 800 metres gold, clocking 2min 10.63sec.

Rosie Clarke, the Caterham 21-year-old studying at Bath University, having won 1,500m silver with a breakthrough run at the national indoor championships earlier this month, this time placed fourth against her student rivals.

  • Herne Hill Harriers is staging the Frank Harmer Memorial 10km road race, for all standards of runners, this Sunday, March 3, over a gruelling three-lap course over the hills around Brockwell Park. There’s also a one-mile fun run for younger kids at 10am. For entry and further details, click here.
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