The sun shone on Sutton Park and Leeds City AC for the ERRA 12 & 6 Stage Road Relays and Young Athletes’ 5k Championships on Saturday, as the Yorkshire club claimed both the men’s and women’s relay titles on the heathland trails outside of Birmingham. It is the first double-win in the event’s history.
The day also saw the running of ERRA’s U15 & U17 5km Championships, where Aldershot Farnham & District collected both team titles at the lower age group.
Senior Men’s 12 stage
Leeds secured their historic double victory by dominating the final five legs of the men’s race after hitting the front in stage eight.
Across the early salvos, Thames Valley were the initial leaders thanks to Petros Surafel (coach: Mick Woods), who covered the 5.38-mile opening stage in 25:54, eighth fastest of the day. Bracknell’s Zak Seddon was marginally slower in 25:55, with Guildford and Godalming’s John Sanderson further back in third.
Liverpool Harriers led at the next exchange, as Daniel Jarvis (coach: Mick Woods) recorded the second-fastest short leg of the day (covering the 3.16 miles in 14:54) to hit the front. David Devine (coach: Anthony Clarke) held that position for Liverpool through the next stage, but that would be it for their turn at the head of the pack.
Next up to do their stint at the front was Cardiff AAC. Ciaran Lewis (coach: James Thie) took them to the lead in the fourth stage, recording 15:00 – the fourth fastest short leg of the day. He handed over to Dan Nash, who showed great pace to open up a sizeable lead for the Welsh club.
Cardiff continued to lead through stages six and seven, ably represented by Larry Ryan and Matthew Edwards (coach: James Thie) respectively, but that would be short-lived. By this point of the race Leeds were beginning to move: in stage seven, Philip Sesemann (coach: Andrew Henderson) recorded 26:02 to move his team from sixth to third. He handed off to Ossama Meslek (coach: Philip Townsend), whose 15:03 time was the fifth best of the short stage runners and swift enough to get Leeds to the lead.
From there they didn’t look back. Linton Taylor recorded 26:30 in the ninth stage, setting up Emile Cairess (coach: Philip Townsend) for the fastest short stage run of the day (14:43). Graham Rush then recorded the seventh-fastest long stage time of the day (25:52), before handing over to Joe Townsend to come home for the win in a total time of 4:12:21.
Behind them, the silver and bronze medal positions remained unchanged through the final four stages. Michael Wismore held off Max Heyden (coach: Mick Woods) over the anchor leg to ensure Bristol & West secured second with a combined time of 4:14:33 ahead of Aldershot Farnham & District, who recorded 4:14:39.
Individually, occasional triathlete Alex Yee (Kent; Kenneth Pike) was the quickest overall of the long stage runners, recording 25:00 in the seventh. Dewi Griffiths (Swansea; Kevin Evans) recorded the second best long stage time of the field with 25:06 in the ninth.
Senior Women’s 6 stage
Leeds City AC won a third consecutive title in the women’s six stage race, moving to the lead in leg four and never relinquishing top spot.
Anna Moller (Coach: Kersti Jacobsen), the top European finisher at last weekend World Cross Country Championships, showed her strong form. She was home first in the 5.38-mile opening stage to give Aldershot Farnham & District an early lead, while her 28:01 clocking was the fastest long stage time of the day. The second best long stage time of the day also came on the opener, as English 5000m champion Jessica Judd (coach: Mick Judd) came home in 28:07 for Blackburn Harriers & AC. Similarly, Hayley Carruthers came through in third for Birchfield Harriers in the third fastest long stage clocking of 28:35.
Birchfield then moved to the lead in the second, shorter stage (3.16 miles) as Georgie Hartington split 18:09. The big move came behind her by Leeds City AC’s Bronwen Owen (Coach: Andrew Henderson), who ran 17:22 – the second best short stage time of the day – to elevate Leeds AC from sixth place to second.
The lead changed once more in the third stage. Also short, Commonwealth Games finalist Katie Snowden (Coach: Geoff Wightman) recorded the fastest split of the day (17:02) to haul Herne Hill Harriers up to first overall. Leeds’ Emma Clayton ran an 18:05 leg to keep her team second.
They then hit the front in stage four thanks to Lucy Crookes (coach: Philip Townsend), who covered the second of the longer loops in 30:09. Louise Small (coach: Mick Woods) also ran well (28:58, the fourth best long loop of the day) to move Aldershot, Farnham & District – the last team to beat Leeds at these championships – into second place overall.
But any hopes of a challenge to Leeds’ dominance did not materialize. Georgia Malir (coach: Andrew Henderson) extended their lead in the fifth stage with a 17:46 loop (sixth best of the day). Herne Hill moved back into second thanks to Olivia Stillman’s 18:00 performance.
Jennifer Walsh (coach: Philip Townsend) then anchored for Leeds with aplomb. She recorded the third fastest short leg of the day (17:32) to seal her club’s hat trick in a combined time of 2:10:40, the fastest of their three victories. There was a silver medal for Herne Hill, for whom Georgie Grgec closed with 17:54, with a time of 2:11:31. Bryony Gunn (coach: Peter Stewart) matched Grgec’s time to ensure Birchfield Harriers, who had been out of the podium positions since the end of the third stage, finished with a bronze medal and combined time of 2:12:06.
Age Group 5k Championships
The day’s racing began with the battle for U15 and U17 ERRA 5k titles. Scott Nutter (Coach: Darren Middleton) was the first champion of the day, the Barnsley athlete moving ahead of Warrington’s Joseph Buckley (Coach: Philip Hicken) in the second half of the course to win the men’s U17 race by two-seconds in 15:43. Luke Van Oudtshoorn (Coach: Mick Woods; Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District) was a further three-seconds behind for bronze. The team title was won by Woodford Green & Essex Ladies.
The U17 women’s race was won in impressive fashion by Jodie Martin (Bob Schofield); the Kingston upon Hull athlete was swift up the final hill for a time of 19:04. In second, 46-seconds back, was Elizabeth Clarkson (Coach: Julia Bailey), with her Newcastle Staffs teammate Nadine Tomkinson crossing in third. That effort secured the team title for Newcastle Staffs.
There was an Aldershot Farnham & District one-two in the boys’ U15 race, Ryan Martin comfortably winning ahead of Charlie Wagstaff; 15:49 to 16:18 for the Mick Woods-coached pair. Rushcliffe AC’s James Wardle was third in 16:24. In the girls’ race, Lizzy Edge (Coach: Bob Schofield; Club: Kingston upon Hull) took gold in 18:09, just a few seconds ahead of silver medal-winning Pippa Roessler (Coach: Pippa Roessler; Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District). Wirral AC’s Ellen-Mary Kearney (Sarah Kearney) came home in 18:39 for the bronze medal. The team title in both was secured by Aldershot, Farnham & District.