Nene Valley Harriers enjoyed a hugely satisfying start to the cross-country season at Derby on Saturday with a winning display in the opening fixture of the North Midlands League.
A record 75 athletes turned out for the club, turning Mark Eaton Park red, white and blue as the vests just kept coming and coming.
The girls provided the day’s biggest highlights – winning the under-13 and under-17 age groups – a highly impressive achievement given the calibre of the other participants.
Flo Brill led the under-13s home, finishing as runner-up in a hotly-contested battle, while Lottie Hemmings in eighth and Sophie Reeves in 16th place completed the three-girl scoring team.
Megan Ellison ran a mature race as she came home third for the under-17s, making light work of the testing 4.6k circuit with a 17.59 clocking.
Ellison received strong support from Josie Fortune (12th) and Ellie Piccaver (14th).
An exceptional turn-out by the Nene Valley senior ladies saw 13 athletes on the start line.
Harriers finished fifth out of the 29 clubs in action and with the strength in depth that they now possess, confidence is high that they can improve on this placing as the season develops.
Nicky Morgan was first Harrier home, finishing 32nd in 29.01, with a typically gutsy run over the 6.5k course.
Morgan has been rewarded for her good form over the past couple of years with a call-up into the England veterans squad for a home counties international in Glasgow next month.
The rapidily improving Laura Grimer and Ruth Jones, who impressed on her return from a career-threatening injury, were the club’s other scorers.
Such was the strength in depth that the club’s second three finishers would have been good enough for eighth position as a team and the third trio home would also have been in the top half of the team stakes had more than one scoring team been permitted per club.
The Harriers under-11 girls claimed sixth position with Nora Brill, Evie Blow and Evie Hemmings impressing, while the under-15 girls were eighth thanks to Katie Tasker and Hana Ray, who secured top-20 finishes.
Nene Valley’s under-13 boys were the pick of an impressive bunch in the male categories with the team finishing as runners-up.
Sam Oakley’s third place was a clear highlight but with Kai Chilvers 17th, Adam Blackbird 18th, Jacob Bush 19th and the third Brill sibling Hugo in 21st place, there was no doubting the strength in depth of the squad.
Matt Church led the under-13 boys into third place with a strong run, coming home 14th.
Matt Dowling finished just two positions further back with Ben McCann completing the scoring team in 25th.
Brad Allen in seventh, Keilin Spurdens 20th and Mapheso Mukatuma 22nd helped the under-17 boys into fourth place while the under-11s were fifth. Jack Haunch, Kyle Warrener and Toby Bush made up the scorers.
Five runners scored per team in the seniors men’s race and Nene Valley were pleased to finish sixth out of 30 teams.
The impressive Michael Channing was the first Harrier home in 32nd after covering the three-lap 10k course in 35:47.
Nathan Tweedle was 50 seconds further back in 38th with Bradley Spurdens hot on his heels.
Ollie Slater took 69th place and Sam Hunt completed the scoring team two places further back.