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Midland Road Relays Roundup

Congratulations to everyone who raced for Team B&W at the Midland Road Relays. Our team results included:

  • Under 13 Boys: 5th, 8th and 26th

  • Under 13 Girls: 9th and 23rd

  • Under 15 Girls: 15th

  • Under 17 Men: 13th

  • Senior Men: 3rd and 14th

  • Senior Women: 8th

Our thanks also to all the team managers, officials and parents who helped field our teams and put on the event.

Mike Down reports on the Senior teams' performances at Sutton Park.

Close But Not Quite Close Enough!

Our men’s team succeeded in maintaining their remarkable medal-winning record in the Midland 6-Stage Road Relay Championship held over the traditional 6km lap in Sutton Park, but in one of the closest four-way finishes in recent years they had to be content with the bronze medals in third place.

In an enthralling race, when the only constant was the brave, but ultimately vain, bid by fledgling Cheltenham based club Western Tempo to lead all the way once they had hit the front early on the second stage, positions among the leading contenders in the record field of 116 teams that started fluctuated throughout.

Our cross-country specialist Jack Millar (17:52) was entrusted with the opening leg and duly delivered the sort of start we had asked him for, quickly establishing himself at the front of the leading group up the long uphill drag to the top of the course. There he stayed throughout, trading pace with Mansfield’s star triathlete Luke Duffy (17:48) and only lost four seconds to his rival on the burn-up to the finish where he was also just caught by Birchfield’s Tom Beasley (17:51).

Josh Moody (18:19) was the first of our two recent Sunday honeymooners in action, admitted that in consequence he was not as race fit as he had been for last year’s event, yet he still produced his usual controlled effort and lost only one place to Western Tempo’s star runner Dom James (17:23), who took the Gloucestershire club into a substantial lead that they were to hold for the majority of the race.

Any doubts on how our new young recruit Max Davis (17:46) would handle the occasion were soon dispelled, for though he was left running on his own for much of the way after quickly taking us up to second place, he actually closed the gap on international duathlete Phil Wylie (17:58) with the equal tenth fastest time of the day. It was an outstanding performance by the Bath student who is clearly going to be a tremendous asset to the team.

Next up Johnny Thewlis (18:06), looking in the best shape we have seen him in since he joined the club, more than consolidated our second place, and all of a sudden, victory hopes were raised, with much apparently depending on whether Adam Stokes (18:29) could hold off the growing challenge behind from Notts’ flying supervet Alistair Watson (17:27). Current form suggested that Adam would need all of the minute lead he started with, and so it proved, for despite his usual dogged effort Watson collared him almost in sight of the finish, while up ahead rapidly rising Birmingham club BRAT had also got past us and taken over the lead from Western Tempo.

The net result was to set up a grandstand finish on the anchor leg, with only just over 20 seconds covering the top four teams after an hour and a half of racing. Unfortunately for our other recent honeymooner and team captain, Kurt Taylor (17:42), he realised early on he was never going to catch Notts ace Freddie Hessian (17:14), who tore round to set the day’s fastest time and snatch the gold medals from the Birmingham club. For his part, Kurt said he did not feel at his best, but he still not only set the seventh fastest time overall and moved us into the bronze medal position ahead of Western Tempo, and also got to within ten seconds of silver medallists BRAT by the finish.

B Team Third Best Too and Safely Qualify For The National

Any concerns that our B string might struggle to make the top 25 positions needed to qualify for next month’s National were certainly mitigated by the request of two of our normal A squad runners Dan Studley and Jack Bancroft, who are both on the comeback trail from recent injury niggles, to be put in the second team.

Another former A team member Will Christofi (19:53) took the opening leg, and though by his own admission still short of true race fitness, worked his way through the ruck of the field to finish well inside the top 50 in 42nd position at the first changeover.

Pete Bains (19:22) continued the forward march by improving almost ten places to 33rd on the second stage, while Dan Studley (18:25) made similar progress to put the team into the top 25 at halfway in 22nd position.

Andy Watt (18:53) then made sure of our qualifying by gaining another four places to see us in the top 20 for the first time in 18th position, and though Andy Drake (20:20) struggled on the hilly circuit that he has never had any love for, he still managed to avoid being passed by any other team on the penultimate leg.

As a result, Jack Bancroft (18:29), by now aware that there was no danger in us not qualifying the second team, was able to nurse his ongoing hamstring problem on the anchor leg, yet still moved up another four places for us to finish third B team behind BRAT and Western Tempo in a very creditable 14th position that was later reduced to 13th due to the subsequent disqualification of Rugby and Northampton.

Depleted Ladies Team Do Well to Make the Top Ten

With two of our leading runners Chelsea Creek and Natalie Bretherton unavailable, and among others Amy Partridge, Katrina Entwistle and Naomi Aylwin all engaged in the Bristol 10k, where they all posted career best times, our ladies team faced an uphill battle to meet a top ten target.

However, inspired by new signing Chelsea Baker (15:05), who, like Max Davis for the men’s team, produced a brilliant performance on the opening leg of the women’s 4-stage championship to clock the eighth fastest time overall and set the team off in fourth place of the 80 teams that started, it was a target that always looked achievable.

Admittedly, Caz Buckeridge (17:10), who was racing at this level for the first time, faced a daunting proposition when taking over, but she showed commendable spirit in not being overwhelmed by the situation and only lost five places to keep us in the top ten at halfway.

Co-team manager Elaina Gard (16:41) more than held her own to move the team up to eighth, which on the anchor leg the ever-reliable Catie O’Donoghue (16:56) doggedly held till the finish.

All things considered this was a good an effort as could have been expected, and like the men before them too, the most important challenge comes in two weeks’ time when both teams should be stronger, and we will find out where we stand nationally.

Mike Down (Men’s team manager)

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