Sunday 26th September 2010 saw six age group races as girls and boys under-13, under-15 and under-17 Midland Road Relay Championships were staged in Sutton Park. Although the day was dry it was overcast and the bitter wind got colder as the afternoon wore on – meaning that the younger age groups had the best of the conditions. The club had no under-13 girls to enter so first event of the afternoon for Bristol & West was the under-13 boys. The team certainly didn’t lack for enthusiasm as Ali Hurford’s youngsters got stuck in to what is a testing road circuit for senior athletes – so it must be very difficult for youngsters to judge their effort round the loop. Tom Grant finished 21st on leg one in 17:03 Ben Stephenson then gained 5 places lifting the team up to 16th position in 16:05. On the final leg George Green clocked 16:47 to bring the club home in 13th place.
In the under-15 girls Miranda Sadler ran a really strong first leg to come home second in 14:30 behind Coventry Godiva’s Sian Rainsley who clocked a superb 13:54 for fastest lap of the day. Miranda’s time was third fastest of the day. Annasley Park ran strongly on the second lap to keep Bristol & West in second place clocking 15:21 before Ellie Smith took over for the final leg. Despite clocking 17:14 Ellie was overhauled by four teams to bring the under-15 girls home in sixth place.
Next up were the under-15 boys. Oscar Holdsworth quickly got stuck into a very competitive first lap which Alex Carter of Team Bath led home in a quick 12:43 (second fastest time of the day). Oscar finished ninth in 14:03. On the second leg Pat Krause ran 15:27 to bring the team home in 18th place, before Lewis Nightingale ran the fastest Bristol under-15 time of 13:52 as he lifted the team to finish in thirteenth place. The club also fielded a ‘B’ team of Kal Sevenzo (16:16), Jack Last (16:54) and S O’Connell (17:50) who finished 26th.
And so the under-17 girls towed the start line. Expectations were high and they were not to be disappointed as the club trio demolished the field. First off Olivia Sadler – probably with one eye on bragging rights at home – chased Sophie Colwell of Charwood all the way to bring the team home in second place in 13:55 (fourth fastest time of the day). To call someone a class apart is often an overstatement but with no disrespect to her team mates Annabel Gummow’s second leg was just that as she tore round the course in the day’s fastest time 13:08 (a clear 35 seconds faster than anyone else). Not content to sit on the big lead she inherited, Naomi Speake ran the seventh fastest leg of the day (and joint fastest on the last leg) to bring the team home winners by 2 minutes and 8 seconds. Their combined time of 41:28 is exceptionally quick and we wait to hear if it is a championship record.
The last event of the day also produced the day’s closest finish. Dave Bedwell had that Team Manager’s nightmare finding that four into three won’t go and had a difficult call selecting his ‘A’ team. His first choice trio of Hobie Martin, Zak Tobias and Rhys Park produced three fine runs. First up Hobie Martin brought the team home in first place in 11:55 (the second fastest time of the day) behind him previous winners Stroud were ominously only 9 seconds back. On lap 2 Zak Tobias ran 12:17 to ease the club 17 seconds clear of Stroud with the day’s seventh fastest time. This left Rhys Park being hunted down by Tom Purnell. Rhys gave it everything and kept the Stroud man at bay most of the way round the course before he finally had to give way as Tom Purnell ran 11:45 for the day’s fastest time and a nine second victory for Stroud. The silver medal was no disgrace and each one of the team gave 100% in their effort to secure the gold. Behind them Luke Jacobs ran 12:26 for a fine seventh place on the first leg for the ‘B’ team two seconds behind Notts and 5 seconds behind Coventry in a very competitive first leg. George Hurford clocked 14:08 as the team slipped to ninth a position that Adam Speake maintained on the final leg with a 12:56 run. This performance earned them vouchers for finishing in the top 10 teams overall as first ‘B’ team. After illness had reduced the number of under-17s Zac Marsh ran the first leg in 14:30 to come home 28th but with no-one to hand over to.
All-in-all it was a good showing by the club’s youngsters which left me with two abiding thoughts: firstly, we must continue to develop and support the talent we have and, secondly, that we need to recruit more athletes in the younger age groups to ensure a vibrant future for our youth teams.