Shrewsbury School’s cross-country running team, known as ‘the Hunt were crowned National Champions on Saturday 16th January at the Knole Run in Kent.
The Knole Run is one of the major races on the schools’ national circuit. It is a tough and gruelling 9.5km cross-country race now in its 42nd year of competition.
Having placed on the podium for three years in a row between 2012 and 2014, this is the first time in the Hunt’s long and impressive history that they have won the Knole Trophy.
It is also the Hunt’s first national title in 20 years.
Peter Middleton, who has been Master in Charge of the Hunt since 2008, was absolutely thrilled with their win.
“This is something we have all worked so hard towards for a very long time and it means so much to the boys and indeed to the Club as a whole. To finally triumph at The Knole, in the one competition that has always eluded us, marks the return of Shrewsbury School’s cross-country running team to the very top of the national podium.”
Almost three hundred runners took part in the Knole Run, racing in teams of eight; the first six runners to finish are the team’s ‘counters’, with their times and positions crucial in determining the team’s overall result.
“The team ran with incredible heart and courage,” said Peter, “and we had all six of our ‘counters’ (the runners who finished first) inside the top 25, with Freddie Huxley-Fielding in 4th place overall and Oscar Dickins in 10th.
“Our mantra in the build-up had been ‘every position counts’ and we had focused on the unique camaraderie and team bond of the Hunt. This proved to be the case, as our victory was only by the narrowest of margins – 1 point over The Judd School, who have won this title for six of the last seven years.
“We knew it was close and in fact we thought Judd had just pipped us, so when the guys were announced as winners, you can imagine the euphoria.”
The Hunt’s B team also performed spectacularly well, finishing in 7th place out of 36 teams and beating many other schools’ A teams.
In the girls’ race, Shrewsbury’s girls’ team finished in 10thplace, the second year in a row they have been in the top 10, with Olivia Papaioannou finishing in 7th place overall among 160 competitors.
The Hunt is the oldest cross-country running club in the world, with records dating back to 1831 and a long and distinguished history of success at a national level. In recent years, under the guidance of Peter Middleton, a talented athlete in his own right, it has been enjoying a huge revival in popularity amongst both boys and girls at the School. Shrewsbury is now recognised as the leading school for boys’ and girls’ cross-country running in the country.
The journey towards the win at Knole began back in 2012 when, for the first time in years, The Hunt qualified for the national final of the English Schools’ Cross-Country Cup. The team of talented young runners – aged 13 and 14 at the time – not only held their own in the national final that year but came away with national medals. It was a pivotal first step back onto the national stage for the Club.
Last Saturday, all six members of the 2012 medal-winning squad, who are now in the Sixth Form, took to the start line at Knole, with Charles Wade captaining the ‘B’ team and the five remaining members all in the ‘A’ team: Oscar Dickins, Ben Remnant, Freddie Huxley-Fielding, Charlie Tait-Harris and Will Hayward. The ‘A’ team was boosted by the talents of Charlie Rogers, Henry Newbould and Scott Hatton, all three of whom joined the Hunt at a later stage in their Shrewsbury careers but have made huge improvements over the years to develop into athletes of considerable ability.
Boosted by a major national win so early in the year, the Hunt have now become “the team to beat” and look forward to an exciting season ahead.