CROSS country runners from Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club have a challenging start to 2022 when they race in the annual Surrey County championships which are being staged at Denbies Vineyard, Dorking, on Sunday (January 9th).

The championships are returning after a year’s absence due to the coronavirus pandemic. They were last staged in Dorking in 2020 but were cancelled in 2021 when they were due to be held in Lloyd Park, Croydon.

In 2020 Hercules Wimbledon took the senior men’s team title to add to the gold medals won in the age category in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Four of the gold medal-winning six from two years ago - Finn Johnson, team captain Fred Slemeck, Joe Clark and Joe Toomey are in the squad which also includes Andrew Penney. He clocked a personal best half-marathon time of 69 minutes 44 seconds in winning the Gosport event on the South coast last November. Supervet Richard Evans, 60, is the oldest of the 20 Hercules Wimbledon runners in the 12.2km senior championship.

Two years ago, Hercules Wimbledon’s Ellen Weir, who has since gained international honours at both cross country and on the track, posted a runaway win in the girls Under-17 championship. After helping Great Britain take the bronze team medals in the European cross country championships in Dublin last month, she is clearly the hot favourite to win the junior women’s 5.4km championship at Dorking this time.

Wandsworth Times: Ellen WeirEllen Weir

Dad Andy said: “Her initial targets for 2022 are this weekend’s county championships and the Home Countries International in Belfast on January 22 where she has been picked for England.”

Ahead there are the English national championships at North London’s Parliament Hill Fields on January 29, the Inter-Counties championships at Loughborough on March 12 and the English Schools championships at Hop Farm Family Park near Tonbridge, Kent, on March 19.

He added: “We will have to see how many of these races actually happen. I don’t think you can peak for all three so we will have to decide which ones she targets.”

Due to the pandemic, the IAAF World Championships due to be staged in Australia next month have been cancelled so there are no international cross country opportunities for Ellen this spring.

Looking ahead, the IAAF World Junior track and field championships are being held in Colombia in August but Andy thinks the qualifying standard for 5,000 metres of 16 minutes is too tough for Ellen who has a best time of 16: 34.29.

With more than 80 runners from Hercules Wimbledon due in action at Dorking on Sunday, the club is represented in all 10 races with strong hopes of picking up both individual and team medals across the age groups.

The five hours of action kick off with the boys Under-13 2.75km championship at 10.15am followed by the Under-13 girls over the same distance at 10.35am. The boys and girls Under-15 4.2km races are at 10.55 and 11.20am followed by the senior women’s 8.4km race at 11.45am and the joint men’s Under-20 and Under-17 6.1km race at 12.55pm. The women’s Under-20 and Under-17 5.4km race starts at 1.25pm with the final race of the day for senior men over 12.2km due off at 2pm.

Hercules Wimbledon supervet Gina Galbraith continued her winning form when she took the women’s event in the Wimbledon Common parkrun on New Year’s Day in 19:45. Richard McDowell led in a 270-strong field in the Alice Holt event in Guildford in a personal best of 16:35. It was 70 seconds faster than his previous best for the course set in June 2015.

Completing a quartet of winners on January 1, Ben Toomer clocked 16:50 in heading home a 265-strong field at Pomphrey Hill, Bristol, while Alex Milne took the Stratford Park event in Stroud in 17:43.