Herne Hill Harriers coach James McDonald says his all-conquering U13 girls cross-country champions will one day take on the best in the world.
The quartet of Alex Brown, Eloise O’Shaughnessy, Kayah Wilks and Ella Newton defended their ECCA English National cross-country championship title in Nottingham last weekend, finishing ahead of nearest rivals Manchester Harriers.
Supported by more than 80 travelling Harriers fans, the U13s’ win was their fifth national title in 16 months.
Moreover, Brown was only pipped to individual gold on the finishing line and had to settle for silver behind Wimborne AC’s Grace Copeland, missing out on being national champion by one-hundredth of a second.
Even if Brown, pictured, had been unable to compete, the strength of the squad is such that if the score of the next highest Harriers runner, Lucy Olsen, was taken, Herne Hill would still have come out on top by 29 points.
McDonald, who recently collected the Active Wandsworth sports award for team of the year 2013 for the Harriers, said: “Words cannot describe how I feel about their achievement.
“I was concerned about how they would perform given Alex was under the weather and a few were off form.
“But I am so proud of them and all the hard work they have put in, there is no doubt in my mind that some youngsters at the club can go all the way to the highest level.”
He added: “The girls have the desire and the commitment needed to continue their progress.
“They have bought into my philosophy of training consistently and this is the result of their hard work and dedication.”
The U13 boys’ squad also put in a fine performance, finishing just three points adrift of the bronze medals.
Their stand-out performer was Turkay Korkmaz, claiming an individual bronze having only joined the club in November.
McDonald said: “It’s no coincidence the success of the girls is reflected in the boys.
“Both squads train together, and there is a lot of competition as the girls desperately want to beat the boys.
“It’s not rare for an easy training run to turn into a race.”
Herne Hill Harriers train several times a week. For more details on the club, go to hernehillharriers.org.