Hill start! Islington athletes in the running as Youth Games returns

Friday, 26th November 2021 — By Steve Barnett

Ruby Walls

Islington’s Ruby Walls, who was 22nd in the Under-15s girls’ race

CHEERS of support and excitement cut through the crisp autumn air on Saturday as hundreds of young runners descended on Hampstead Heath to celebrate the start of the new London Youth Games season.

As always, Europe’s largest youth sport festival kick-started its new campaign with cross-country, attracting more than 1,200 athletes from across the capital to Parliament Hill Fields in neighbouring Camden.

Following a two-year absence due to the pandemic, this time around there was an even bigger buzz surrounding the showpiece as youngsters took to the mud in four age groups – Under-11s, Under-13s, Under-15s and Under-17s – with the first three runners across the finish line from each borough scoring valuable points.

Daniel Bank, Islington’s London Youth Games team manager, said he hoped the big race day helped “inspire” the borough’s newest squads of young runners.

He added: “With the return of the traditional cross-country opener there is hope that we can have a busy season of events and re-engage some of those youngsters who have slipped into inactive habits.

The starting line at Parliament Hill Fields

“We had 28 runners at the event with some great individual performances, but what encouraged me the most was the new Under-11s teams. It’s the first time we entered competitive squads into that age category with some participants who aren’t yet even in running clubs.

“I hope they feel inspired and find a passion for running. Thanks as always to London Heathside Running and Athletics Club who supported the training and on-the-day coaching.”

And it was in fact Islington’s new Under-11s boys that secured the borough’s best team result of the day, finishing 11th out of 32 boroughs. Noah Iffland led the charge, completing the 1.5km race in six minutes, four seconds to take 26th place out of a field of 153 finishers. Joshua Daynes (6.13) and Arun Chopra (6.29) also raced well, hitting home in 39th and 72nd place respectively.

Meanwhile, Islington’s new Under-11s girls’ team took 18th place. Abigail Henderson raced home in 7.09 to take 38th spot, finishing one second ahead of Phoebe Willhoft-King (7.10) who was 43rd. Reke Szentes (7.45) took 101st place out of 154 finishers.

Noah Iffland, who finished 26th in the Under-11s boys’ race

Islington’s best individual performance came in the Under-13s girls’ race, where Kiara Corkin completed the 2km course in 8.26 to take ninth place out of 205 runners. Lettice Gundry (9.11) and Cecily Hayward (10.52) were 43rd and 169th respectively, helping their borough finish 18th overall in this age group.

Islington’s point-scorers in the Under-13s boys’ race were: Koppany Szentes (7.54) 23rd; Frank Bailey (8.53) 108th; and Christopher Baah-Okyere (9.06) 119th. There were 206 finishers. Islington were 18th out of London’s 32 boroughs.

The point-scorers in the Under-15s girls’ race, run over 2km, were: Ruby Walls (8.23) 22nd; Lucy Corkin (8.49) 58th; and Amara Odeogberin (9.27) 108th. There were 177 finishers. Islington were 17th.

The point-scorers in the Under-15s boys’ race, run over 3km, were: Ivor Joslin (11.59) 65th; Gregory Sweet-Berrisford (12.05) 72nd; and Alex Smith (12.32) 101st. There were 181 finishers. Islington were 17th.

Islington didn’t have any runners in the Under-17s girls’ race, and only two runners in the Under-17s boys’ race.

The boys’ event, which was held over 4.5km, saw Bedo Draskoczy (17.36) finish 10th and Michael Smith (20.14) finish 76th out of a field of 117 runners. Islington finished in 20th position.

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