Saucony ECCA National Cross Country Relays
There were some great races once again as the cross country relays were held at their now traditional home of Berry Hill Park, Mansfield. Large fields were involved and a range of clubs made their impression on the event as the athletes contested the titles and medals at the front end and many rivalries through the fields.
Leeds City claimed the men’s title after hitting the front on the second of the 5K legs and edging clear from all pursuers as the race unfolded. The first leg saw Jamie Williamson (George Gandy) of Loughborough University heading the stream of runners in ahead of Ossama Meslek (Philip Townsend) and Linton Taylor of (Stuart Colledge) Leeds’ B team – all the more ominous for Leeds’ rivals given Williamson was a lone runner for the Midlands club.
So it proved as the Leeds athletes blasted out consistent swift times to repel all challengers. Graham Rush first established a lead for the Yorkshire club. They headed Aldershot, Farnham & District home after two legs as Jonny Hay (Mick Woods) clocked a sub 15 leg to keep the battle raging. Corry De’Ath (Mick Woods) moved Tonbridge into the medal positions at the halfway mark.
As Emile Cairess (Phil Townsend) piled on the running at the front for Leeds, Ellis Cross (Mick Woods) maintained the chase for Aldershot, Farnham and District but another 14sec was being put into the gap at the front. George Duggan (Mark Hookway) had Tonbridge still in the medal positions at this stage but Kadar Abdullahi (Idris Hamud) was moving Birchfield up into fourth position and within striking distance after Omar Ahmed had progressed them to eighth on the previous leg.
At the front Phil Seseman (Andrew Henderson) was relentless for the champions in waiting. As he extended the lead at the front to make the winning margin 31sec Richard Allen ensured Aldershot, Farnham and District took silver. On anchor for Birchfield was sub 1:45 800m man Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg) and showing his endurance and making the most of the firm terrain he took his team to the bronze medals 10sec ahead of Tonbridge with a 15:18 leg.
For Aldershot Farnham and District, this year’s relays were a relatively quiet affair with the seemingly perennial champions only hitting the heights in the previous race, the U15 boys championships.
Clearly, given the huge lead GB international Emily Hosker-Thornhill (Coach: Mick Woods) had after the first leg you might think that was about to change. However, on this occasion it would be Tonbridge and not AFD who were more than ready to take control of things and Lucy Reid (Richard Owen) boldly turned a 50 metre deficit into a huge lead. Game over. Probably. Of course, this was a relay and more often than not there is a twist in the tale, especially when powerhouse AFD is in the frame.
But not when Ashley Gibson (Bill Foster) is on the anchor for Tonbridge, the age group dominating Kentish club chasing its first relay title in the senior women. Gibson eased further away with a 10:01 split, while Laura Gent (Luke Gunn) was comfortable in second, clocking 10:11. Behind her Rotherham moved from 11th on the opening leg to secure bronze, Lori Handbury’s (Coach: John Davis) 10:05 a handy clocking on an increasingly blustery cool day.
What a scrap this race turned out to be. As late as a couple of hundred metres into the final lap, it looked to be a two-way battle between race-long leaders Birchfield and Liverpool Harriers. But as the field emerged from the wooded section it was Tonbridge looking the most likely thanks to a great run from James Puxty (Coach: Mark Hookway), the National U17 cross country champ from last season.
But Morpeth’s Rory Leonard, an 8:18 3km runner, and a rapidly closing Thomas Keen (Cambridge and Coleridge, Mark Vile) were quite simply flying. (8:42 for his lap). Leonard (8:33), however, would not be caught. He ripped past Puxty and ran out a 10 second winner, amazing given the club had been back in 11th and then 8th after the first two legs. Keen’s performance meanwhile dragged his club up from 25th after the first leg. It was breathtaking stuff and the kind of race that suggests the rest of the winter will be incredibly competitive in this age group.
As ever in the world of relays, the result is rarely clear cut and as they say, it’s not over until it’s over. And in this instance, even that phrase wasn’t quite enough to explain things. Loughborough Students kept themselves in the mix early on and then thanks to a final leg from Cari Hughes (Andrew Walling), stormed to a comfortable win, although not the title as with universities ineligible for team honours, that went to second place who were the first club team home on this occasion. Allow us to explain! Early on a magnificent leg from Khahisa Mlanga (Mick Judd) of Herts Phoenix saw the southern club enjoy a commanding lead of leg one. Bracknell, thanks to Amelia Quirk (Mick Woods), took over after leg two, but in the final run in, Herne Hill Harriers took gold led in by Alex Brown as they came in behind the ineligible Loughborough.
This was a fiercely contested race once again as the opening leg saw Matthew Mackay (Graham Wright) bringing Rossendale Harriers home in pole position after one leg chased home by Ethan Hussey (Andrew Henderson) of Leeds.
The second leg saw Invicta East Kent hit the front through Charlie Brisley (James McNeill) and while Leeds retained second spot with Tommy Dawson in close order and Aldershot, Farnham & District in third through Will Barnicoat (Trevor Raggett).
But it was then a very controlled looking Matthew Stonier (Peter Mullervy) made certain of the gold medals for the Kent club as Luke Van Oudtshoorn (Mick Woods) took another place to put Aldershot, Farnham & District into the silver medal position and Kristian Imroth propelled Shaftesbury Barnet into the last of the medal positions at the stage that matters.
Herne Hill Harriers had two teams on the victory trail at once as their U17 team were out on the course as their U20s took their championships. The U17s led at each changeover with a team of Yasmin Marghini (Wayne Vinton), Phoebe Anderson (Alan Hewson) and Charlotte Alexander (Wayne Vinton) leading at every change over. The first leg saw plenty of clubs close enough to be in contention but with the teams coming in for the second change-over Herne Hill led from Jessica Spilsbury (Richard Goddard) of Sale with Blackheath also to the fore with Sophie Hoare (Phillip Kissi). But as Herne Hill were stretching away on last leg it was Ava White (Phillip Kissi) of Sale who moved her team into the silver medal positions and Stephanie Moss (Trevor Painter) held on to bronze for Sale.
It was a stunning display from Aldershot, Farnham & District as they took the one-two as well as fifth place in this race. In fact, it was their B team of Charlie Wagstaff, Alfie Spear and Sam Bodoano (both Trevor Raggett) who were in the lead with a leg to go having taken over the pole position from Rushcliffe who had led on the first leg with James Wardle (Graham Moffatt). But although their A team was in 23rd position after the first leg they were raised to third Ryan Martin (Mick Woods) before Woody Jerome (Mick Woods) ran a swift 6:20 final stage to take them to gold.
Tate Emery-Peters ensured Rushcliffe completed the medal positions, but Aldershot were completing their impressive showing with that fifth placed finish for their C team.
Gun to tape is a rare thing at this event, but Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow did exactly that. In second City of Norwich were also untroubled in second, just a couple of seconds behind, while behind the runaway leaders Basildon produced a fine run to get themselves up into third.
The winners were led out by Charlotte Dewar (Shireen Higgins), who clocked a great 7:01. City of Norwich joined the party after a great 7:14 by Grace Jermy (Coach David Pring), but she couldn’t quite close the gap to first, which was exactly the story for the final leg as Tia-Lily Crane (Coach: Simon Eisenmann) ran a swift 7:11 but just couldn’t quite get back on terms with Jasmine Young (Shireen Higgins) who ran 7:18.
In the mix the whole distance, Cambridge and Coleridge emerged victorious in what was a close three way battle all race long, adding the cross country title to the road gold they won last month. Third after the first leg, the ever-strengthening club moved to second behind the early leaders Bracknell after the second leg and then continued that move to first thanks to a solid final circuit from Luca McGrath’s 6:43 (Mark Vile). Relays are all about consistency, perfectly demonstrated by an opening lap of 6:38 from Isaac Morris (Mark Vile) and a middle circuit of 7:09 from Lewis Buchallet. Impressive in second were Herne Hill Harriers who as the timetable went picked up their third medal in as many races. Two golds and now a silver clearly indicates the incredible national standard depth the south London club is currently enjoying.
It was tremendous battle for gold in the U13 Girls race as Tonbridge and St Albans battled it out the whole way through.
The early stages saw first Phoebe Gill and then Hannah Read bringing St Albans through just ahead of the pursuing athletes from Tonbridge - Lily Slack and Sophie Slack.
But the margins at the sharp end were ever tight and with a title there for the taking it was Olivia Breed who edged past Florence Crowley to carry Tonbridge to the title with St Albans’ battling performance earning them silver medals and Zoe Gilbody bringing Wolverhampton & Bilston to bronze.
All results are available via www.englishcrosscountry.co.uk/category/relays/results-relays