After qualifying and national rounds that saw over 5,000 individual legs completed, the England Athletics Virtual Road Relay Competition has culminated in a closely fought international final race between four clubs representing each of the Home Nations… with England’s Wirral AC crowned champions!
Last weekend, in the International Round of this mixed team virtual relay competition, Wirral AC, representing England, fought off excellent competition from North Belfast Harriers (representing Northern Ireland), Lliswerry Runners (representing Wales) and Edinburgh University Hare & Hounds (representing Scotland).
As in previous rounds, the final round of the competition saw the fastest four male and four female athletes from each club scoring – with each runner completing a five-mile leg on their chosen route and within competition rules. Wirral AC’s time of 3:38:36 was enough to claim victory in a tight and exciting virtual race after North Belfast Harriers had set a challenging target of 3:40:42. Lliswerry Runners also broke the four-hour barrier with 3:57:20. Despite some strong times Edinburgh University Hare & Hounds could not complete a team including four women in order to post a final result.
The Virtual Road Relay Competition International Round was a culmination of three months and three rounds of competition with over 3,700 individual performances logged from the England Athletics club teams alone and well over 5,200 across the Home Nations. The Qualifying Round in December saw 128 English clubs field a complete team with the top 50 progressing to the National Round, where Wirral AC edged out excellent teams including City of Norwich AC and Aldershot, Farnham & District AC to secure their place as England’s representative in the International Round.
Wirral AC club coach and team manager Ronan Kearney said: “In 2016, the club set up a new endurance programme based on ‘team coaching’ as opposed to ‘one coach: one group’. This team-based approach has created a far more positive dynamic within the club and been very attractive from coaches.
“Of the 16 coaches and assistants in the programme over 50% are women, and 60% of the athletes are female, and you can see that reflected in the results the team has achieved throughout the competition. When we started the programme we had two coaches and under 20 athletes. We now have 16 coaches and around 100 athletes. It’s been great to take part in a competition that gives the club a good focus and a chance for positive participation.”
England Athletics Road Running Manager, Tom Craggs, paid tribute to Wirral AC: “The whole club has embraced the England Athletics Virtual Road Relay Competition as a way of keeping members engaged through an incredibly challenging period. The way their athletes got behind the challenge is a testament to the enthusiasm and spirit at the club and between athletes and coaches.
“I would also like to say a huge thank you to Athletics Northern Ireland, Welsh Athletics and Scottish Athletics for working with us on this competition and helping to get so many clubs and athletes involved.”
Wirral AC fielded 26 athletes in the International Round with the eight scorers (four male / four female) showing what a fantastic, balanced team effort it was:
7: TJ Jones (25:21)
9: Ethan Brady Jones (25:56)
10: Daniel Hayes (26:09)
12: Josh Hale (26:15)
23: Juliet Hodder (27:57)
28: Sophie Tarver (28:28)
30: Ellen Mary Kearney (28:39)
38: Katie Bagley (29:51)
Thank you to every runner and club that took part in the England Athletics Virtual Road Relay Competition 2020/21 across all rounds and in all the four Home Nations.