By Jonny Muir
Herne Hill Harriers' domination of junior cross country in Surrey continued on Saturday, with runners notching a string of fine individual and team victories.
However, while the club's male and female representatives battled over muddy courses at Ham and Mitcham Common respectively, it was the exploits of a 13-year-old girl racing in Northern Ireland that stole the limelight.
Katy-Ann McDonald won the U13 girl's race at the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series in Antrim, beating the Irish champion by 29 seconds in a blistering run.
McDonald, who became Surrey cross country champion in her age group a week earlier, has now won two of the challenge races and was runner-up in a third.
In the absence of McDonald, Saskia Millard won the U13 race by a huge 30-second margin in the third round of the Surrey Ladies Cross Country League at Mitcham Common.
Shortly after, sisters Alice and Daisy Setyabule raced to fourth and fifth positions in the U15 race, with Olivia Lamont finishing eighth.
Meanwhile, at Ham, not wanting to be outdone by their female counterparts, Oscar Millard, Billy Black and Mehawi Yemene won the U13, U15 and U17 male league races respectively.
Harriers also won the team prizes in all age categories, with other notable performers including Paul Burgess (second U15), Ed Olsen (fourth U15), Tom Singhgolden (fifth U15) and Moa Wedajo (fourth U13).
The senior men's and women's squads took centre stage thereafter, with both teams looking to start 2013 on a strong note.
Fresh from their golden success at the Surrey Cross Country Championships a week earlier, Harriers scored consistently, with Stacey Ward (sixth), Karen Ellison (13th), Suzanne Swaine (19th), Jessica Winfield (28th) and Ceri Diss (30th) making up the scoring five.
Despite valiant individual performances, the team placed fourth overall, an agonising four points behind second-placed Belgrave.
Going into Saturday's fixture in third place behind Thames Hare & Hounds and Kent AC, Harriers' men's squad knew a clinical team performance was vital if they were to defend the Surrey league cross-country championship they won last year.
International fell runner Chris Smith (sixth) led the charge, with Mike Cummings (15th), Richard Henderson (18th) and Ben Paviour (20th) in a race that was won by Belgrave's Paskar Owor.
Running conditions became increasingly tough as competitors had to wade through the rising flood waters of the River Thames, which had breached its banks.
Despite the efforts of Tim Elsey (24th), Chris Busaileh (25th), James Fooks-Bale (32nd) and Simon Coombes (36th), Thames' 10 counters had all finished before David Robinson, Harriers ninth man, claimed 45th.
Racing for the final spot in Harriers' scoring 10, Basil Wallace (54th) outsprinted Jonny Muir (55th).
Further back, Keith Newton's return to racing following a long injury lay-off continued, as he finished 61st in a high-class field.
Harriers finished third overall in the match behind Thames and Kent AC, with both teams stretching their advantage over the Tooting-based club following three of the four-race series.
The final league fixture takes place at Coulsdon on February 9 and although Harriers can feasibly catch Kent, their hopes of reclaiming their crown appear increasingly unlikely.
Away from cross country, Hannah Edwards placed fifth in the SEAA women's indoor championships over 800m, clocking two minutes, 19 seconds, which is faster than she managed indoors last year.
On the road, a strong Harriers contingent dominated the Dulwich parkrun. Robin Jones won the race, clocking 17:16, with Mohammed Ismail third in 17:43.