THANKS to a sterling effort over three tough laps of Mitcham Common on Saturday, Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club’s senior men’s team will go into the final Surrey Cross Country League match next month in pole position to take the Division One title.

Since storming to victory in the first match in Richmond Park back in October, the team’s focus has been on clinching the title for only the second time since 1967 when Hercules AC (who were champions in 1965) amalgamated with Wimbledon AC to form Hercules Wimbledon.

Meanwhile at the same venue the club’s senior women’s team finished in fifth place in the Ladies League, their best performance this season.

Wandsworth Times: Hercules Wimbledon men's cross country teamHercules Wimbledon men's cross country team

Having won the first two matches, the senior men were just pipped by Belgrave Harriers. However the slim nine-point victory did little to eat into the lead of over 380 points which they will take into the final showdown on Effingham Common on February 19.

First home for Hercules Wimbledon in the five miles race was Dan Cliffe who clocked 26 minutes 56 seconds to finish fifth. He was followed by the in-form Tom Jervis (eighth in 27:09) with team captain Fred Slemeck, who won the individual silver medal at the Surrey championships the previous weekend, finishing in 11th in 27:33. Four of the athletes who took team bronze at the Surrey championships were also in action.

Other leading Hercules Wimbledon finishers were Andrew Penney, (14th in 28:00), Jonny Cornish (18th in 28:05)and Richard McDowell (20th in 28:14), only a week after winning the gruelling 43-mile Country to Capital Ultra race from Wendover to Little Venice, Paddington.

Wandsworth Times: Hercules Wimbledon women's cross country teamHercules Wimbledon women's cross country team

Jackson Creegan finished 34th in 29.04, with Rhys Boorman a place behind in 29:07. Finn Johnson i43rd in 29:21 and Sam Todd in 45th in 29:31 completed the 10-man scoring team.

Balancing experience with youth, the senior women were led in by team captain, Claire Grima, who covered the 8km course in 34:10 to finish 16th. Fellow veteran Gina Galbraith was 31st in 35:08.

Completing the scoring team were under 20s Albane Fery (33rd in 35:14), Kiara Valkenburg (40th in 35:39) and Niamh Thompson (50th in 36:04) demonstrating that the future of the women’s team is in good shape.

The Under-17 women’s quartet of Lulu Weisz (race winner), Eloise Davies (second), Millie Thorpe (fourth) and Abbie Grey (ninth) were team winners as were the Under-13 girl's squad of Ava McAndie, Iona Alexander, Leah Paulson and Julia McDonnell.

The Under-15 girls were fourth, the Under-13 boys third, and the combined boys Under-15 and men’s Under-17 team fifth.

In this winter season, the races come thick and fast and before the final match Hercules Wimbledon will be fielding strong teams across the age groups in the Southern Cross Country Championships, which this year are being held at Beckenham Place Park, on Saturday January 29.