The lead in to the National Senior Road Relays again left team managers Mike Down (Men) and Keith Brackstone (Ladies) exhausted by the end of Friday night. The usual illnesses and injuries kept both of them on their toes in an effort to get the strongest available teams to the start line. Mike was able to relax from mid-evening on Friday; Keith was still working on getting a full second team even whilst driving the minibus to Sutton Park!
The cancellation of all three regional relays in late March due to snow meant that as well as National Medals there were also regional medals on offer. Keith’s strategy in the Women’s A race was to have the team work through. First leg runner Annabel Granger has never let the team down and her 17:43 clocking gave the team plenty to chase as she finished in 21st place. Anna Burton has only been running seriously since November 2012 but ran a really solid second leg to lift the team into 15th place as she recorded 17:55. Despite having the London Marathon as her focus Jenny Jagger was always 100% committed to the road relays and with her 17:06 clocking lifted the team into the top ten as she finished ninth at the end of leg three. Kate Goodhead is Mrs Reliable around Sutton Park and so it proved again as she shrugged off some indifferent form of late to take the team into eighth place at the end of leg 4, clocking 17:13. Debbie Niccol had made a strong plea for a place in the ‘A’ team line-up and her form up in London with a 17:23 Parkrun in early March backed that up. She made the most of her selection gaining five places as she lifted the team into a medal position recording 16:59 as the fastest club run of the day – well done Debbie. Rebekah Randell has had foot and knee problems but has remained committed to representing the club in this competition throughout. She couldn’t make an impact on the two Aldershot runners in front of her but took 21 seconds out of her Birchfield rival to bring the ladies home in a clear third spot. With Aldershot A first and Aldershot B second this run not only secured National bronze medals but also saw the Ladies take Midland Gold – well done to all six of you – a great achievement.
The promotions to the ‘A’ Team obviously weakened the ‘B’ Team but again there was 100% commitment. Grace France finished 29th in 18.28 on leg 1, a position held by Charlotte Green on leg 2 as Charlotte ran 18:45. Georgie Salmon looked to be in her best form for a very long time as she too recorded 18:45, gaining five places in the process. Late call-up Sarah Everitt defied the years to hold on to 24th place as she recorded 19:45. Clare Stevinson – another late call-up – ran a solid 19:10 and that’s where it would have ended had Charlotte Green not run a second time – this time recording 19:34. Clearly against the rules team manager Keith Brackstone advised the Race Referee and the team were duly disqualified but at least had the minor satisfaction of finishing an unofficial 23rd.
The Men were hoping for a top 10 finish before the non-availability of Shaun Antell and Dan Studley and the withdrawal of Tom Merson made a big impact on the strength of the team. Nevertheless a mixture of experience and youth was pulled together as Mike pursued this target despite the set backs. Mike’s tactic was different – get up there and then mix the strong and the not so strong legs to give, hopefully, everyone a run in a competitive situation. First up Charlie Maclean was making his long leg debut. He finished sixteenth recoding 27:00. Next out of the blocks (almost quite literally) was Steve Mitchell. Steve had declined a long leg as he had a short leg in his sights as a marker on his comeback from injury. He set off determined to make the most of finally being on a short leg with people to chase and chase he did catching all but one of the field. Not only was his 14:13 a personal best around the course but it stood up to assault from all-comers to emerge at the end of leg 12 as the fastest short stage of the day. Well done Steve – a great return to racing and surely a confidence boost for the coming track season.
Leg 3 saw Phil Parry running this course yet again (Phil must have run loads more relay legs at Sutton Park than any two other athletes in the club combined). Phil clocked 28:54 to bring the team home in 13th place. New boy Daniel Edmund was next out and ran 16:09 as the team slipped to 17th – still a good National Road Relay debut and a good road effort from an 800 metre track specialist. Back to the long legs and leg 5 saw Owain Jones run 27:22 as he lifted the club 5 places to 12th. Youngster Kieran Young pulled back another place as he ran 15:46 – a very solid run. Robbie Bugden showed he is gaining fitness as he recorded 27:25 to take the club back up to ninth. On to the eighth leg and another youngster, Will Christofi, ran a fast 15:16 but by then the gaps were growing and it was only good enough to lift the team one place to eighth. Still a place in the top ten was now very much on the cards. Phil Wylie’s 27:29 on leg 9 brought a couple of clubs into sight but Phil stayed in ninth but set up Adam Speake. Dad Wayne was rightly proud as Speake junior lifted the club to sixth as he clocked 15:41 on leg 10. Just two to go and Oli Mott looked good on his long leg and so it proved as he ran 27:59 to stay sixth. Angus MacLean’s international days are a thing of the past and like Oli the busy life of a hospital Doctor restricts his training. It thus needed all of his experience and memory of what it takes to grind out a result as he ran 16:08. He couldn’t hold off Central AC from Scotland who pipped him for sixth but had just enough up the final hill to stay clear of Midland rivals Tipton. Thus the team’s seventh place in the National Championships was good enough for silver medal in the Midland Championships: Midland rivals Notts AC took the Regional title with their fourth place in the race.
The weather deteriorated as the afternoon wore on and certainly later times were affected by the conditions. A great day at Sutton Park and certainly something we can build on for next year. However, if we are ever to repeat some of the great wins from the past we need club members to put the 2014 date in their diary as soon as it is known and keep it free for another assault on the National Road Relay titles. As for the class of 2013 – well done to each and every one of you, every one ran with total commitment and did the club proud.
Team photos can be seen at: http://www.bristolandwestac.org/display/ShowGallery?moduleId=8482511&galleryId=1048272&SSScrollPosition=720