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King Henry VIII Relay Race 2023
In this section
Race Report from 2023 event
King Henry VIII School hosted the 51st King Henry VIII Relay Race on Wednesday 1st February 2023, attended by 75 teams from schools from all over the UK. The Coventry War Memorial Park is the site of this much loved and highly regarded annual event, the preeminent cross-country race in the UK schools’ calendar. Similar to last year’s 50th anniversary celebrations, weather conditions were perfect: a dry day with very little wind made for good ground, and hopes were high for some record-breaking times once again. The course route, as always, was a 2.3 mile (3.7km) distance over grass, pathway and woodland, with six runners in a boys’ team and four runners in a girls’ team.
We weren’t disappointed – The Judd School, who for years have always performed superbly at the Relay, made it a hat trick, winning the Boys Race for the third year in a row – and this time with an incredible all-time course record of 69:05! This is an exceptional achievement, and really shows how Judd Coach Simon Fraser has selected excellent individual athletes (team captain Ed Coutts, Huxley Crush, Jamie Macdonald, Tom Claridge, George Hopkins, and Josh Prendergast), and developed them into an outstanding XC team. This year’s Boys’ Fastest Lap and winner of the Mark Randall Shield was Will Singleton of Shrewsbury School, in an impressive 10:55, a clear 16 seconds ahead of every other runner – this makes Will the sixth fastest boy to ever race at the Relay, another fantastic achievement. Second place for the Boys Race and the J B Vent Cup went to Shrewsbury School (70:50), no doubt helped by Will’s brilliant lap, and the third place L J Wrench Cup to Abingdon School (71:31) – these times are indicative of the notable increase in pace that the top boys’ teams are bringing to the Relay over the last few years, and new records are being made all the time. The fourth placed team, Calday Grange Grammar School had the 7th fastest team time since the 1991 course change, and would have won most years since then with their time!
Speed in the Girls Race has also been soaring in recent years – after all-time course records were smashed by both the winners and runners-up last year (Bradford GS and Upton Hall), the 2023 Girls Race was won in fantastic form by St Aidan’s of Harrogate, who finished with an all-time top-three time of 54:16. The Andrews Shield for Fastest Girl went this year to Zoe Gilbody of Thomas Telford School, for her brilliant lap of 12:21. This is comfortably the second-fastest ever time recorded for a girl on this course, led only by former European XC champion Harriet Knowles-Jones, who recorded a 12:07 time in 2016. Shai King of Ratcliffe College continues to hold third place on the board, recording 12:38 this year, and indeed, Ratcliffe took the Phil Mahiques Cup for second place, in 54:17; Upton Hall won the Pat Head Bowl, coming third with a time of 54:45.
We were delighted to welcome back a former competitor as our guest speaker this year. GB Bronze medallist at the 1982 World Student XC Champs, and winning many championships on road, track and trail throughout the eighties, in 1980, Neil Appleby set a phenomenal course record for the King Henry VIII Relay of 10:50. The record is still standing 43 years later, although after some amazing efforts over the last couple of years, Neil agrees that it can only be a matter of time – watch this space for 2024!
Special mentions were made on the day of two XC legends, who sadly left us over the last year, and both of whom hold particular meaning for the Relay. Ted Norrish, founder of the KHVIII Relay Race and Coventry Marathon, was an inspiration to many local runners, encouraging and supporting athletic excellence in our city since the 1960s; Ted passed away last March. George Harrison, MBE, died recently aged 90. One of the world’s greatest youth coaches, George attended the Relay in 2015 as our VIP guests, and played a significant role in the careers of many international runners. Both are greatly missed by the athletic community.
As always, the KHVIII Relay Race was a fantastic event, and King Henry VIII School would like to thank all who came along as competitors, coaches, supporters and spectators, and for great support from the ground staff of the War Memorial Park. The 52nd KHVIII Relay Race will be held on 31st January 2024, and all in Coventry and beyond are warmly invited to attend and enjoy another great day of racing.