Just before the Easter holidays, seven Yr6 boys travelled down to Torquay for the Devon Winter Games, to take part in the Cross Country Running County Championships. 16 schools took part in this event (two from each of Devon’s eight sporting regions), with almost 100 boys on the start line. Just like our team, each of those children had also proved their calibre by previously qualifying as regional gold or silver medallists. Although the course was relatively flat, heavy rain had drenched the valley in the weeks before the event. As our race followed 3 other races, almost 300 children had already churned the sodden ground into mud. It was wet, it was slippery and it was cold. It also involved a woodland section and a pair of lakes, complete with angry swans (not on the risk assessment!). But despite the early start, despite the nerves, despite the wet (despite the swans!) the Southmead squad performed brilliantly.
Coming into the final section, the Southmead team was led by Henry Jones, with Harry Hebard right on his tail. But Harry had been biding his time and with only a few hundred yards to go, he eased past Henry and several other boys, to come in a fabulous 11th , with Henry just behind in a splendid 15th. Fighting his way through the pack, Reuben Jones came in a terrific 28th, with Finley Grimshaw and Finley Jones almost neck and neck at the funnel, in 44th and 45th respectively. Resolutely battling his way through the increasingly treacherous conditions, Dylan McSherry finished a fantastic 54 th , completing the Southmead-six. Although disappointed not to be running, our super reserve (Ed Cork) was thrilled for his team mates, with whom he had trained and practised before the race. Each of the boys encouraged and congratulated his friends, and competed with sportsmanship and good humour.
For each 6-boy squad, scores for the top 4 competitors were combined to give an overall team score. With four runners in the top 50, and two of those in the top 20, our nerves were right on edge. We knew we must be close to a podium position . . . but how did the other teams perform? As the results were announced in reverse order, we nervously waited for our school name to be called. As we still hadn’t been called by 5th, we dared to hope that we’d achieved medals . . . only to be cruelly disappointed by the announcer as we were called out in 4th place, just one position behind the bronze medal team. Despite not gaining medals in the race, the team of boys from Southmead had competed against the best running teams in the county and beaten three quarters of them. To be the 4 th ranked team in the county is an amazing achievement and the boys were very proud to have done so well.
Cross country wasn’t the only county championship held at the Winter Games. Finals were held for a number of other sports, including volleyball, table tennis, and netball. By bringing all of these championships together and combining them with a series of sports taster events, the organisers created a festival of sports, and we were fortunate enough to be able to try Taekwondo, Athletics, Bounce (mini trampolines), Taiko drumming, and Fencing.
I would like to pay tribute to the effort put in by the year 6 boys. Several have been running with the club at Southmead for 4 years and all of them practised hard in the run up to the race. They are a super group of boys and each one of them should be proud to have represented their school so admirably, and at the highest sporting level. Well done boys: we are very proud of you!
I would also like to sincerely thank the two parents who accompanied us down to Torbay and who supported the school by helping to look after the children at the Games. Very many thanks to Maria Dudley and Rob Jones. We really couldn’t take part in these events without parent support, so thank you both once again!