National Road Relays – Sutton Park – Saturday 5th April 2014

Ladies first is common courtesy but as the medal winners this write up will begin with the ladies by right rather than as a courtesy. It is obviously the athletes running the legs who decide the results on the day and it is questionable how much influence team managers can bring to bear with running order. Nevertheless the strategy was to get the Ladies Team in the mix and hopefully keep a medal-winning position in sight throughout. Having run the fastest leg in the Midlands Jessie Sanzo was entrusted with the task of leading the team out.  She did so admirably coming home in eleventh place in 14.55 (8 seconds quicker than the Midland Road Relays) but was only 5 seconds off seventh and this gave second leg runner Grace France people to chase. Grace recorded 16.04 as she advanced the team to eighth place. Team Manager Keith Brackstone was slightly concerned though as gaps did seem to be opening.

On leg 3 Jenny Jagger returned to racing after injury and confirmed the form she showed on Tuesday night’s try out as she clocked 15.07 to pull back two places and bring the team home in six place. The club welcomed Annabel Gummow back from a long time away with injury and although Annabel lost a place to Ashley Gibson of Morpeth she caught the Stockport runner to hold on to sixth place as she ran 15.39. With two legs to go the medals still seemed a fair way off. Enter Helen Sharpe. Despite training for the London Marathon Helen has also kept her hand in over the shorter reps and this showed as she advanced the team two places to come home fourth. Her time of 15.16 was the third fastest on her leg and was exactly 30 seconds faster than her clocking at the Midlands. She took to heart advice on the course to close every second she could on anyone in front. Kate Goodhead is a team manager’s delight at these events – she is always there and invariably runs well. Kate was 13 seconds off a medal but soon made up the ground to move into a medal position within the first mile of her leg. Kate was delighted to add another National relay medal to her collection and also to exact revenge over Birchfield for the defeat at the Midland Road Relay Championships.  Kate’s 15.02 clocking was 13 seconds faster than her run at the Midlands and was a great result for a team that works well together and is very supportive of each other.

It was good to field a full ‘B’ team and they also acquitted themselves well. Helen Newberry showed that the Midland Run reflects her new level of fitness as she went under 16 minutes with a 15.58 clocking to finish thirtieth on the first leg. Newcomer Tessa Loftus came into the team during the week leading up to the race and showed that she is a good addition to the club clocking 17.19 to come home in thirty-second place. Ellen Harrison picked up three places on the third leg as she came home in twenty-ninth place clocking 17.07. Sarah Everitt stepped into the B team on Friday night when the decision was taken not to risk Anna Burton’s injured back in the ‘A’ team. Sarah never lets the club down but it was a tough afternoon as Sarah ran most of the leg in a void – although the one competitor she saw she did catch as she clocked 16.56 to pass Carolyn Millican of Border Harriers. Lisa Newing recorded 17.41 as she retained twenty-eighth place before Julia Belyavin ran a great last leg to catch six athletes and lift the team to twenty-second place as a result of a 16.46 lap time.

For the record Aldershot, Farnham and District (1:27.0) won with Swansea second (1:29.28) and Bristol third in 1:32.03. By coincidence the same three teams finished in the same finishing order in the B race with our B team twenty-second overall (third B team) in 1:41.47.

The Senior Men started 20 minutes before the ladies with Steve Mitchell getting the Senior Men’s A team under way. Mike Down was hoping for a good start but Steve Mitchell has been struggling to balance his PGCE and training and end-of-term tiredness showed as he finished sixteenth in 25.35. Steve Francis again showed what a great natural talent he is as he clocked 13.29 to gain a place to fifteenth. On the third leg Oli Mott recorded 26.41 as he lost a place only for Ben Westhenry to pull two places back on the fourth leg with a 13.33 clocking. Dan Studley has been in great form and showed it again as he recorded 24.47 (for ninth fastest long leg of the day) as the team moved up to eleventh. Will Christofi looked very composed as he ran a 13.14 short leg to take the club to half-way in ninth place. The club continued to edge forward as first Owain Jones with a 25.32 long leg and Ben Robinson with a 13.42 short leg advanced a place a leg as the club ended leg eight in seventh place. Tom Merson recorded 25.37 to finish eighth at the end of his leg and it was at this point that the loss of Charlie Maclean, Phil Wylie and Andy Chambers began to bite. On leg ten Phil Parry ran 14.22 to come home in tenth place – a great run for someone who has probably ran as many National relay legs as the rest of the team put together. On leg 11 (the last long leg) Jarlath McKenna seemed unphased by his promotion to the ‘A’ team and ran a well-judged long leg to clock 27.26 and finish eleventh. On the last leg Iain Stuart ran well to hide his recent lack of fitness but couldn’t hold off the finishing burst of the Kent A.C. athlete and so Team Manager Mike Down had to be content with twelfth place and Iain with a 14.26 clocking.

As with the ladies the Senior Men fielded a full B team with many athletes making a rapid step up from recreational runner to club runner in a national competition. Chris Elson must be congratulated for keeping pace with the drop outs from ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams and arriving at the start with 12 runners. Newcomer Rob Stewart got proceedings underway on the first leg for the ‘B’ team as he ran 28.12 to finish fifty-fifth. Miles Chandler clocked 14.34 to lift the team two places. The third (Maciej Bialogonski) and fourth legs clocked 29.23 and 16.18 respectively to finish leg 4 in fifty-seventh position before Matt Krelle with a 28.16 clocking took the team up five places to fifty-second. Jack Millar gained another place as he ran his short leg in 14.40 (the two sixth formers clocked the two fastest short legs for the team). Doug Jewell admitted to working really hard as his 30.05 saw him passed by two. Phil Lucker clocked 15.21 to pull 3 places back as the team climbed to fiftieth. On leg nine Ross Grainger lost a place despite clocking 29.51 and despite looking very fluent and clocking 15.26 Jerry Hogan simply maintained the status quo. Into the last long leg and late addition Colin Traer clocked 31.57 to hand over to Daryl Beggs in fiftieth place. A 16.52 last leg saw Daryl finish in forty-eighth place in a total time of 4:30.55.

A big thank you to the team managers for pulling all 4 teams together and for the athletes for getting behind the club and getting 36 athletes to the start line – an achievement matched by very few clubs. It was great to see some really good team spirit and we all hope to build on these performances with a stronger showing in 2015.