Over a thousand teams took part in the Saucony English Cross Country Relays at Berry Hill Park, Mansfield on Saturday 2 November.
After a brief sunny spell in the morning, athletes toughed out wet and windy conditions for the rest of the day. The weather didn’t deter runners, with very healthy numbers; the largest field coming from the senior men with 190 teams taking part.
The day started with the junior women’s 3 x 2.5km lap competition – Wolverhampton and Bilston won the race in 27.10. Herne Hill came in just three seconds shy in their total time, thanks to legs 2 and 3 being sub 9 minutes from Brown and Millard. St Mary’s came third with consistent running throughout and a good battle on the first leg with the eventual winners. The U17 women followed, with Aldershot Farnham & District storming through on the last leg to win by 15 seconds, in 28.22.
The under 13s ran 3 x 2km laps. The girls’ race was full of changes in the top few placings; St Albans led after leg one but Wolverhampton & Bilston’s Isobelle Jones, took over on leg 2 and held on for the title with a time of 23.43, with Rotherham taking second place. South London Harriers took the U13 boys’ title in a time of 21.37, being in the top 3 throughout the race.
The weather took a turn around midday, as the junior men were up. London club, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers ran best in the conditions winning in 27.12, with Henry McLuckie leading throughout the last lap. The U17 men followed, and was won by Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow. It was somewhat of a comeback, after their first leg runner came in 23rd, improving to 10th on leg 2, with Will Barnicoat storming through on the last leg to get his club the win, in 28.50 – 10 seconds clear!
Vale Royal were the easy winners in the U15 girls’ race, with winning margin of 23 seconds, in a time of 22.58.
The closest and most exciting race of the day came next with the U15 boys battling it out. With 200m left in their race, there were 4 clubs in contention. With all clubs sprinting for the line, leg 2 leaders South London Harriers hung on to win in 21.04, 2 seconds up on 2nd placed Vale Royal with Cambridge & Coleridge 3rd, 1 second back and Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow 4th – a great crowd pleaser and fierce competition.
The senior races followed, and first up was the senior women. Where the U15 boys were close, the senior women’s race was a procession as Aldershot, Farnham & District led from gun to tape, to win by 59 seconds; a 10 second lead on leg 1 stretched further throughout the race and Lauren Hall brought the team home in 31.09. The defending champions, Leeds City finished a clear 2nd, while Cambridge & Coleridge came in 3rd.
The final race of the afternoon was the senior men, which was another tough and highly competitive one. The early leaders were Wreake & Soar Valley, with Sam Stabler but defending champions Leeds City gradually battled back to the fore with Graham Rush on leg 3. The scene was set for a battle on the last leg between Mark Scott of Cambridge & Coleridge and Emile Cairess of Leeds City. However, Mark Scott couldn’t match Emile Cairess’s form, with Leeds City taking the win in a time of 1 hour 5 minutes and 14 seconds – 31 seconds faster than Cambridge & Coleridge. Bedford & County took a late come through to grab 3rd.
Athletes and spectators went home to dry out after a great day’s racing, in which fantastic times were achieved and medals shared out around the country.
Report by Ian Byett
Photos by Mark Shearman