An amazingly accurate weather forecast suggested that if the Midland Counties held their nerve the Midland Road -Relays at Sutton Park on Saturday 17th March 2018 could go ahead and teams could get home just before the snow set in – with the forecast that Bristol would see snow settle overnight Saturday night/Sunday morning.
With the Men looking for a hat-trick of wins and the ladies looking to improve on their runners-up position from 2017 there was a lot to play for.
With a couple of ladies making their club debut and even more making their event debut Team Manager Keith Brackstone Decided it would be best to maintain a low key pre-race position – although he was confident of the abilities of this new group.
Charlotte TAYLOR-GREEN has moved on a lot in the last couple of years and it showed in the confident way that she and Tamara Armoush from Birchfield surged away from the rest of the field. Charlotte surged at the end to open up a three second lead as she clocked 30:34 for the opening long stage (the second fastest of the day). Elaina GARD clocked 19:54 for the second leg as Birchfield swept into a lead they were never going to give up; in the end it was virtually a time-trial for Elaina who did well to exercise good pace judgment in what were becoming increasingly difficult conditions.
On the second long leg Natalie GRIFFITHS clocked 32:07 as a snow shower hit; although Nat’s time was fifth fastest of the day she was overtaken by Beth Hawling of Cheltenham Harriers who clocked 30:43 for the fourth fastest time of the day (and was fourth in last week’s Inter-Counties cross-country). In some respects Team Manager Keith Brackstone was relieved as this gave our last three ladies an athlete to focus on.
On leg four Ellen Harrison (19:37) closed the gap from 29 to 13 seconds with a well judged leg; the gap had been extended to 34 seconds in the hilly first mile but Ellen then pulled back 21 seconds from that point onwards. Catie O’DONOGHUE was operating very much under-distance as she prepares for the London Marathon but soon closed the gap on the Cheltenham Harriers athlete and had extended the gap to 36 seconds as she clocked 19:35 on her first run over the course and distance.
That left Hannah Pollak to run what had been called the glory leg – not quite with Birchfield emphatic winners in 2018 as they had been in 2017 – nevertheless her 19:10 clocking saw her finish 2 minutes 27 seconds clear of Cheltenham Harriers who in turn were an isolated third. Again Hannah showed great pace judgement in what was truly a time-trial by then.
If the ‘A’ team were showing grit and determination that was matched by the ‘B’ team. This time the tactic was to build a result as the team worked its way through the field and the tactic certainly paid off.
Florence EMOND fitted in the race with her busy medical studies shooting back to Bristol straight after the race but not before she had clocked 35:58 on Leg One for fifteenth place. That left the team just over one minute off seventh position and gave the later legs clubs to aim at. On Leg Two Olivia SADLER (who had been a strong contender for the ‘A’ team) did the job that was expected of her on that leg as 19:17 saw her finish seventh as she passed eight team on the Leg. Sarah EVERITT had said she was happy to run short or long and did the club proud as she clocked 35:17 in truly awful conditions coming home in eighth place. Issy TALBOT PRICE, in her club debut, ran 20:13 to lift the team back into seventh place, although the teams in front seemed to be well clear. On Leg Five Clare JOLLIFFE produced a strong run to clock 19:55 and pass three teams as our strength in depth continued whilst other contenders challenges ran out of steam. Mum handed over to daughter and Emma JOLLIFFE consolidated Mum’s good work as she clocked 21:25 to finish 3 minutes 35 seconds clear of Notts AC’s ‘A’ team and over 5 minutes clear of Birchfield’s ‘B’ team.
A special mention must go to Nicola OLDROYD who once again showed what a great supporter of the club she is. When the ‘C’ team fell apart Nicola agreed to travel and run the first leg for the ‘C’ team knowing there was no-one to hand over to but wanting to be on-hand in case there was a late drop-out from the ‘A’ or ‘B’ teams. Nicola was rewarded with twenty-fourth place out of fifty-five on leg one in 37:57.
There was a real buzz on the Team Coach back to Bristol and there is certainly a feeling of ‘Bring It On!’ as far as the National Road-Relays at Sutton Park on Saturday 14th April are concerned.
Full results are below:
The Men’s Team Managers (‘A’ Team – Mike Down) and ‘B’ Team (Chris Elson) will be providing their own race report of the Men’s race but suffice to say here the Men defended their title and the ‘B’ team finished tenth.
Full results are below: