Highgate’s history boys secure club’s first ever league crown

Highgate Harriers are celebrating their first ever Metropolitan League title after Ben Noad led the triumphant men’s team home in the fifth and final fixture on Saturday.

Highgate led Division One going into the final meeting at Northwood, needing to hold off the challenge of their closest rivals Woodford Green with Essex Ladies, who have won the crown 13 times since 1989 – including the last three years.

The Harriers, on the other hand, had never won the league since its inception in 1966 – but that all changed on Saturday as they placed all of their scoring 12 runners inside the first 42 of the 288 finishers.

Woodford could only manage to place their 12 inside the first 88, leaving Highgate first on the day and in the final standings as they celebrated a momentous day in the club’s history.

Noad, who finished fourth overall and first for Highgate, said: “It’s team bonding all the way through.

“It was after the first meeting, when we came second behind Woodford, that things came together. We got encouraging emails from Ben Pochee [the team manager] and it all came together with the team spirit for the other fixtures.”

Noad crossed the line in 30 minutes 18 seconds, and his team-mates Tim Gardner (30:28) and Ryan McKinlay (30:33) both finished inside the top 10, coming eighth and ninth respectively.

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Pochee was 11th in 30:38 and he was also the first veteran Over-40 runner to finish – as he had been in all of the previous four fixtures.

Richard Scott was 17th in 31:13 and he was followed by Henry Dodwell (31:35), who had been struggling with an achilles injury but elected to take part in the big race and came 23rd.

Peter Downie was 25th in 31:41 ahead of Robel Bahelbi (28th in 31:54) and Fergel Smithwick (30th in 32:13). John McKeane was 33rd in 32:20 and Andrew Lawrence was 35th in 32:23; while Over-40 veteran Nick Gold completed the scoring 12, coming 42nd in 32:42.

There was even more for Highgate to celebrate on Saturday as their B team finished top of the 20 clubs in Division Three and earned promotion to Division Two, with Rob Walker leading the side home in 54th place (33:16).

Meanwhile, Highgate’s women’s team came fourth on the day, with Kate Meredith coming sixth out of the 131 runners in 26:58 – and they also finished fourth overall in Division One.

Highgate’s Shaun Dixon ran his first race for England abroad at the weekend, coming 15th in the 10k at Caeres de Campo Traves in Spain.

The 30-year-old was the second English athlete to finish in 30:13, having run on a sandy surface in 20 degree heat against rivals from Spain, Portugal, Uganda and Kenya runners.

Dixon consequently missed Highgate’s climactic Metropolitan League race – but he is set to line up for the Harriers at Parliament Hill Fields on Saturday as they defend the South of England Championships title they surprisingly won last year.