Svenja’s willing and Abel despite injury as she makes history for Highgate Harriers in Metropolitan League

Svenja Abel snatched triumph from the jaws of disaster at the weekend as she made history for Highgate Harriers at Wormwood Scrubs in the Metropolitan League.

Abel, who only returned to racing for the Harriers in October after six years out, took first place once again to keep her club at the top of Division One.

She has now won eight Metropolitan League races – more than any other runner in the history of the women’s event – yet she was almost prevented from even taking part.

Abel was knocked off her bike last week and, battered and bruised, she revealed she had doubts about racing – even when she was lining up for the event.

“Right up to the start of the race, I was not sure whether my back would stand up to it,” Abel said. “I had bruised my knee – that swelled up and my back was hurt. I did not run again until the day before.”

Abel managed to grit her teeth and plough on, going into the lead after a mile and staying there to finish in 23 minutes 50.5 seconds and take her club’s total to 916 points for the season – well ahead of Serpentine RC (687) and London Heathside (685).

Ashley Scott-Wilson (24:56) and Hannah Viner (25:14) were fifth and sixth respectively, while Alex Gounelas (25:34) was 10th.

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Emma Burgess achieved her best-ever finish in the Metropolitan League, coming 16th in 26:33, followed by Emma Dixon (30th in 27:28), Rhian Ravenscroft (39, 28:03), Natasha Cendrowicz (95th, 31:16) and Emma Wilson (122nd, 35:24).

There was similar drama in the men’s race, where five runners broke away in a group. Highgate’s Pete Chambers and Shaun Dixon led for a while and it was Chambers, thriving on the firm course, who pulled away in the final 600m to win in 24:02.

Dixon was fourth in 24:16 and Chris Rainsford (10th in 24:54), Robel Bahelbi (12th in 25:13) and Audun Nordtveit (14th in 25:22) were closely bunched behind him.

Indeed, all of Highgate’s 12 runners were inside the top 42 places out of 443 finishers, and the men’s side consequently sit top of Division One with 3,448 points, ahead of Woodford Green & Essex Ladies (3182) and Serpentine (3092).

Highgate schoolgirl Ava Mulvihill also caught the eye, staying neck and neck with the three-time winner of the Under-13 girls’ race, Ava White of Thames Valley Harriers. The officials could not split their times as each recorded 13:13 – an impressive result for Mulvihill, who had played a netnall match on the morning of the race.

Highgate are also leading the Under-17 boys’ table. Terry Fawden finished second in 12:25, while Dempster Fawden (13:07), Aurel Sinko-Uribe (13:11), Louis Griffin (13:12) and Austin Harris (13:23) were all inside the top 13 places.

In the women’s Under-17 event, Highgate had three runners and Phoebe Littler impressed with her fourth-placed finish in 14:53.

Two Highgate Harriers will compete internationally this weekend – Andy Maud will be represent ing England at the Lotto Cross-Country Cup race in Brussels, and Nordtveit will be running for Norway in the European Cross-Country Championships in France.