Three weeks to go: Pupils set their sights on top prize in Berkhamsted Fun Run Schools Challenge

Amy Perry, Emily Alderson, Charlotte Bailey and Maddie Perry helped to win the girls' title for Ashlyns last year
Amy Perry, Emily Alderson, Charlotte Bailey and Maddie Perry helped to win the girls' title for Ashlyns last year

The Rotary Club – organisers of the Berkhamsted Half Marathon and Five Mile Fun Run – are once again offering a substantial cash prize for the top boys’ and girls’ teams as part of the second annual Schools Challenge.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Kings Langley GPS Document Management, cheques for £250 will be awarded on March 1 to two schools: one for the school with the top-four boys in the rankings, and one for the school with the top-four girls.

Rotary Club logo

Rotary Club logo

Last year’s winners, Berkhamsted School (boys) and Ashlyns School (girls) will be back to defend their titles, but will face stiff competition from worthy rivals including Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley and JFK.

Ashlyns School in Berkhamsted is training hard to retain the girls’ trophy, and the boys are working hard to challenge their cross-town rivals from Berkhamsted School.

Ashlyns PE teacher and cross-country coach David Jones said: “Winning the girls’ title was a fantastic achievement for the our runners, but also for the school. It showed all the runners and the local community that we are a strong running school.

“While running isn’t always the most popular of activities to many students, winning this race demonstrated the talent we have and inspires other students to take part.”

The Berkhamsted girls' team with athletics coach Amelia Ireland

The Berkhamsted girls' team with athletics coach Amelia Ireland

To keep that winning edge, Jones said that training for the Fun Run “started back in November when all students from year 7 through 10 took part in two weeks of cross-country running within their PE lessons.

“Following on from then, there has been a twice-weekly cross country club run and we’ve covered all manners of training methods, including continuous, interval and fartlek training.

“There has also been hill work to prepare our students for the undulating course that the Berko Five miler presents.”

Last year’s cash prize was used to buy some more Ashlyns athletics vests for the 2014-15 season. Jones said that if the school were to win again, “we would like to invest for various provisions for cross country and athletics.”

It won’t be a walk in the park for the Ashlyns teams, though, as they’ll have very determined boys’ and girls’ teams from Berkhamsted School on the start line. Amelia Ireland and Tom Hockedy, the school’s heads of girls’ and boys’ athletics, respectively, confirmed that they will have two full teams out on the day, with the boys keen to retain their title and the girls banking on their strong performances throughout the year to propel them into top spot.

Ireland noted that the Berkhamsted girls’ cross-country team (pictured) has “really gone from strength to strength this year”, particularly the new intake of Year 7s.

Kitty Conroy and Demi Tuinema placed in the top-six of the recent Herts Schools Championships, while all the other girls finished within the top-20 of their age groups.

Ireland added that the girls’ team now has bi-weekly early morning training sessions to develop strength, stamina and speed, and “even the recent snow hasn’t stopped them!”

Both Ireland and her Ashlyns counterpart, Jones, said it is fantastic to have a Schools Challenge, as it really motives the students and gives them a focus for their training.

For Ireland, the event helps to raise the profile of young local runners, while at the same time raising funds for those who need it most.

Ashlyns’ Jones noted the healthy competition within the school, with the boys “keen to beat the girls this year” and bring the title home.

And the students themselves? Joel James, an Ashlyns Year 7 student, said he’s running to raise money for a family and “to beat my brother”, while Year 8 team-mate Oscar Dale said he would be trying to “beat all my friends.”

Meanwhile, three of the defending champion girls’ team from Ashlyns, Year 8 students Emily Alderson (third in the 2014 Fun Run) and sisters Maddie and Amy Perry, said they were really proud to be part of the winning girls’ team in the first ever Schools Challenge.

For Emily, the 2015 race will be a chance to “improve my time and compete against some great athletes”; Maddie said the course is very challenging, but also “rewarding - I certainly felt rewarded when we won the team prize”, while Amy likes the fact that the race takes place in her home town, and that “friends and family are there to cheer us on!”

The Ashlyns School Association is also encouraging the entire Ashlyns community to come out and run the race as a fund-raising drive for the school’s new sports hall – a multi-complex state-of-the-art facility – by securing sponsorship from friends and relatives ahead of the project’s completion next autumn.

> To sign up for the event, please visit www.berkorun.com