Last weekend saw the Autumn National Road Relays take place at Sutton Park. Under sunny skies, the club had some great performances, with a particular shoutout for the Senior Men and U13 Boys both finishing eighth and the Senior Women finishing tenth. Congratulations to everyone who competed for the club.
Under 13's: Boys 8th, 26th and 50th, Girls 37th
Under 15's: Boys 40th, Girls 47th
Under 17's: Men 24th and 55th
Seniors: Men 8th and 23rd, Women 10th and 45th
Ali Hurford and Mike Down report on the Under 13 Boys and Seniors got on.
Massive team effort from all three U13 Boys teams
This short summary of how this remarkable squad competed, it hardly does justice to the commitment of all 9 boys.
A prompt start from Bristol at 7.30am ensured a smooth journey and we were already on the front foot when we arrived at Sutton Park by 9.30am and the weather was just glorious.
The day before I had the usual dilemma of teams and running orders, made even more complicated by a place in the A team not being straight forward due to such a competitive group of lads. So, I stuck with my hunch and thanks to several parents all 9 lads were numbered up in the correct team and raring to go.
Several of the boys had not competed here before so as usual we looked at the start, finish and take over areas before setting up camp under our usual tree.
Once the race started, I just had to hope that each lad remembered to look, listen, and think in the changeover zone as this is one relay race like no other. Thankfully everyone achieved this and there were no disasters.
As the race progressed, I realised my ambition of finishing in the top 10 was clearly on the cards, especially after a strong start from Henry, followed by a storming run from Joseph, so all Ewan needed to do was keep calm and use his superior 800m pace to work through the field finishing eighth team overall.
Full marks also goes to both the B and C teams which consisted of many PBs and remarkable times especially as many of the boys are first year u13s and they will have another opportunity next year.
Overall, it was a very rewarding day. After 16 years of coaching this was one of our finest achievements and each child was a credit to the club. I am looking forward to the forthcoming winter fixtures along with the additional challenge of the cold, wind, rain, and snow that the cross-country season tends to throw at us.
A team: Henry 14:38, Ollie 14:14, Ewan 13:48, 8th
B team: Elijah 15:00, Max 15:46, Fletcher 14:53 26th
C team: Josh 16:58, Ben 17:01, Patrick 17:19 50th
Top Ten Double Ranks Us Fourth Best Senior Club in England
Team managers are always happy when the targets they set are met, and all credit to both our senior men’s and women’s teams for making the top ten in the English autumn road relay championships – the men finishing eighth in their 6-stage race and the women tenth in the 4-stage event.
Perhaps of most significance is that when combined the overall result ranks us as the fourth best senior club in the country behind Aldershot, Leeds and Tonbridge, who did no more than confirm their current status as the three most consistently successful squads in the UK.
At the same time, it would be wrong not to concede that bridging the gap into the top three remains a formidable task, but the progress we are making is clear, with the men for example posting the club’s best overall time for the 6x6k distance that was previously set when the team finished fourth in 2006.
On what was surely a perfect day for the event, held under sunny skies and in only light winds, the men’s race in particular was a thriller from start to finish, with the holders Aldershot only retaining their title after a spectacular final leg saw GB’s latest star Jack Rowe finally collar Leeds’ anchorman Graham Rush within sight of the finish.
Following his fine opening leg at the Midland championship, Jack Millar was again entrusted to give the team the start they needed, and he was certainly not found wanting. After the initial scrimmage for positions on the fast downhill start, Jack soon fought his way through to the back of a substantial leading group up the testing climb to the top of the course, and from thereon never looked back. Locked onto the heels of the fierce pace being set at the front of the leading group, he was always among the top ten of the 81 teams that had started the race, and although losing a couple of positions on the run-in to the first changeover, he handed over to Dan Studley in eleventh place. We could hardly have asked for more, his time of 17:29 being the best part of half a minute faster than he had recorded two weeks earlier.
Dan, who was handed the last place in the team in the absence of the injured Ben Robinson, proved that he had made the progress he had anticipated in the two-week gap from the Midland race following a long injury enforced absence from the sport. Although dropping four places to fifteenth, he exactly matched Jack’s 24 second improvement on the opening stage, failing to dip under 18 mins by just one second with a time of 18:01.
Any lingering doubts we had about putting our latest recruit Tim Lefroy straight into action on the first team were extinguished without trace on the third stage. He had never raced in a road relay before, but tore into the challenge as if his life depended on it and never looked back. If the agonising expression on his face was anything to go by, our new Aussie mate certainly knows how to squeeze out every ounce of available energy, and what a revelation he proved to be, passing eight of the teams ahead of him to lift us to seventh at halfway with our fastest individual time of the day of 17:17. Fair dinkum lads, this guy is going to be some asset to the team in future.
Our other recent signing young Max Davis took over from Tim, but by his own admission he was not feeling as lively as he had at the Midlands. Despite not being able to sustain our forward march he still kept us in the top ten with another creditable sub-18-minute time of 17:59.
Unfortunately, Johnny Thewlis experienced something similar to Max on the penultimate stage. He had been forced to pull out of the previous weekend’s Cardiff Half with a suspected viral infection and thought he had shaken it off, but though clearly still one degree under, his time of 18:20 still held our position in the top ten.
This left it to our team leader Kurt Taylor to make sure on the last leg, and he certainly didn’t let us down. Looking more spritely than he had at the Midlands, he soon pulled back the Highgate and Hercules-Wimbledon runners ahead and powered on to finish eighth overall – one place higher than last year - in his fastest ever time for the lap of 17:27. This was a full quarter of a minute quicker than he had clocked at the Midlands, and as already indicated, ensured the team shaved eight seconds off our previous best with an overall time of 1:46:33.
Meanwhile up ahead the race had been dominated by the leading Southern clubs, and in fact only the two Area champions Leeds and Notts of all the Northern and Midland clubs finished ahead of us, which is something the team can be proud of.
It’s Keeping Up with The Jones’ for The B Team
It always seemed possible that our B team, surely the strongest we have ever fielded in the event, might better anything the A team did, and so it proved as they ended up fourth best of the second teams that had qualified to compete. In fact, they were only beaten by the second strings of the three medallists Aldershot, Leeds and Cambridge and Coleridge, who ironically finished in reverse order to the race for the medals.
It was an inspired effort by our cross skipper Owain Jones that lit the fuse for them on the opening stage. Having been assigned to the first leg so that he could finish in time to take on his team manager role for the women’s team, he clearly sensed the urgency of the occasion and flew round to finish within half a minute of Jack in 28th place, his exceptional time of 17:53 being actually faster than recorded by three of the A team!
Owain’s fine effort was just the impetus that Josh Moody needed on the second stage, and looking as determined and focussed as I have ever seen him in a race, he not only kept our position in the top 30 clubs, but matched his training partner Kurt’s 15-second improvement from the Midland race with an impressive time of 18:04.
As reliable and consistent as ever, Adam Stokes kept up the good work on the next leg by taking five scalps to put us inside that top 25 target in 24th position at halfway, his time of 18:28 being exactly one second quicker than he had clocked for the A team in the Midland championship.
While Andy Watt was unable to sustain the forward charge on the next stage, his time of 18:46, which was nearly ten seconds faster than he had recorded at the Midlands, kept us within sight of the target, and Ben Westhenry’s 18:48 on the penultimate leg left us only one place short in 26th position.
There was little doubt that Jack Bancroft, who would normally have been in the A team but for a recent hamstring strain, would make sure, and he duly obliged, gaining the three places required to finish fourth B team in 23rd position. He too ran five seconds quicker than two weeks ago, his time of 18:24 contributing to the best ever overall time our second team has ever achieved of 1:50:23. It’s perhaps of more than peripheral interest too had it been a 12-stage event we would have moved up to fifth overall, which provides food for thought for next spring’s event.
Women Too Hit the Target
After finishing only just inside the top ten in the Midland championship a fortnight ago, our ladies team turned that performance on its head by only finishing one place lower in the National! Not only did they get within half a minute of recently crowned Midland champions Charnwood in taking 10th place, but they were less than a minute off a position in the top six. What was particularly notable in their performance too was the remarkable consistency of their individual times, with all four separated by little more than 20 seconds.
Natalie Bretherton was once again given the job of keeping the team near the front of the race on the first of the 4km stages and duly delivered, bringing the team home just inside the top 20 in 18th position with our second fastest time of 15:11.
She handed over to our young National squad triathlete Megan Hornung, who was making her first appearance for the senior team. Apprehensive or not, she underlined her obvious talent by running only four seconds slower than Nat to move up two places to 16th at halfway.
Katrina Entwistle, who had missed the Midland event to set a new PB in the Bristol 10km, then more than made her mark on the race by gaining seven further places in clocking 15:23 on the penultimate stage. This meant that all that was left for Chelsea Baker on the final leg was to make sure we stayed in the top ten. Although she had to give way to Birchfield international Lilly Partridge, she more than did enough by posting the team’s fastest time of 15:01.
The B team however were always well inside the top 50 of the 75 teams after Hannah Pollak had finished 46th in 16:24 on the first stage. Young Amy Nicholls was only half a minute or so slower in 16:59 on the second leg and moved up four places to 43rd, and while Anna Ford slipped to 47th on the third stage in 17:51, Caz Buckeridge was able to regain the small amount of ground lost by clocking 17:28 to finish the team in 43rd place overall.
Well done to everyone, and finally it would be remiss of me not to congratulate Alison Hurford and her outstanding young boys’ team for matching the senior men’s 8th place in the accompanying U13 boys championship. We look forward to seeing them all in the men’s team in due course!
Mike Down (Men’s team manager)