Young runners display mud and guts in London Youth Games

Champions: Croydon's under-17s boys' team who, with Paul Burgess making up the scoring trio, took team gold at Parliament Hill Fields on

Champions: Croydon’s under-17s boys’ squad who, with James Lyne, Paul Burgess and Omar Harhara making up the scoring trio, took team gold in the London Youth Games cross-country at Parliament Hill Fields on Saturday

Report by Matthew Kiernan

More than 60 young runners represented Croydon at the opening event of the 2015 Balfour Beatty London Youth Games at Parliament Hill Fields on Saturday, delivering a batch of team and individual medals.

The 67-strong Croydon cross-country squad placed fifth overall of 33 London boroughs after the eight races were run, finishing third overall in the boys’ competition and 11th in the girls’.

There were gold medals for Croydon’s under-17 boys, who beat borough rivals Enfield by a single point in the team competition after racing around the gruelling three-mile lap on possibly the most famous cross-country course in the world.

South London Harriers’ James Lyne placed 11th, 15-year-old Paul Burgess, of Herne Hill Harriers, a past Youth Games champion, was 12th and Croydon Harriers’ Omar Harhara in 18th completed the scoring three.

Whitgift School pupil Harley Norman was the highest placed individual finisher for Croydon, winning a silver medal after a thrilling sprint finish in the under-13 boys’ race.

Norman is an athletics all-rounder: during the summer, he won the Surrey county pentathlon title. On Saturday, he covered the 2km hilly and muddy course in 7min 34sec, as just six seconds covered the top five finishers. With Joseph Seal (15th) and Jaan Stanley (30th), Norman helped Croydon to a team bronze medal in his age group.

Croydon's under-13s girls team after racing in the London Youth Games cross-country

Croydon’s under-13s girls team after racing in the London Youth Games cross-country

In the under-11 boys’ race, Alex Dunn and Jack Cork recorded identical times in their 1.5km challenge and their 22nd and 23rd places in a field of 96 meant Croydon placed seventh.

There were a further three top 10 team finishes in the four girls’ races. The under-11 duo of Croydon Harrier Kyra Sethna-McIntosh (18th) and Tay Blair (24th) contributed to the highest team finish for the borough’s girls in seventh.

Herne Hill’s Amy Miller finished 12th to lead home the under-13 girls for eighth place in the team event, together with Rochelle Joyce (47th) and South London’s Jessica Goveia-Slatter (54th).

Croydon High pupil Charlotte Rhule, a 2011 bronze medallist at these championships, finished 18th in the under-17s, as the Croydon trio (including Lili Collins and Naomi Carty) was 10th overall.

The Balfour Beatty London Youth Games were first staged in 1977, and now across the course of a year provide competition for youngsters from across all 32 boroughs and the City of London, aged between  7 and 18 years old, across 30 sports. The Croydon borough teams won the London Youth Games overall in 2012 and have been runners-up in 2013 and 2014.

The London Youth Games is the largest multi-sport event of its kind in Europe, although what the organisers do in the event that London Mayor Boris Johnson and his friends from China get their way to demolish the athletics stadium at Crystal Palace – where so many of the events are staged at the culmination of the Games in July – could be a significant challenge.

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