A day of great racing saw the National Cross Country relay titles decided at Mansfield with competitive races and some impressive performances across the age groups.
Aldershot, Farnham and District had a successful day once again and continued their winning ways with victory in the final race of the day.
With the first legs of each event slightly shorter than the others due to the need to start clear of the change-over area it is hard to compare leg times too closely. However, it was clear that Andrew Heyes (Coach: Steve Vernon) had put in a great run for Hallamshire on first leg with a 14:47 opener to lead from an impressive 14:49 from Phil Seseman (Andrew Henderson) of Blackheath & Bromley, with Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees, 14:52) of Morpeth and Jack Goodwin (Simon Goodwin) of Bedford & County also to the fore. Tellingly Josh Grace (Mick Woods) was also sub 15 and, therefore, Aldershot were already very much in the mix with strong runners to come.
Doug Musson (Luke Gunn) moved Notts up from 10th to leading after the second leg with Morpeth’s Carl Avery now second and Alex Pilcher putting Derby third. At this point AFD lay fourth through Harvey Dixon with a number of clubs not far off the pace of the medal positions. Further back Jonathan Davies was lifting Reading 38 places to 12th with a 14:48. The third leg was going to see a real shake up with some key performances put in.
Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau) put the hammer down and before long was disappearing off the front on his way to a sub-15 that would put AFD in the driving seat. Tonbridge had so far been strong enough to stay close to the medal hunt after openers James West (George Gandy) and Dominic Brown (Mark Hookway) had kept them 15th but not far back in terms of distance. Now Alex Howard (Mark Hookway) saw them move to silver medal positions. Darren Deed was also on the move to put Bedford third as the battle for medals heated up.
It was hard to see anyone coming past Jonathan Hay (Mick Woods) given the gap he had been given setting off on the last leg and it was a very controlled looking 15:19 with a charge down the homestraight to secure gold for the Hampshire club. Chris Olley (Mark Hookway) made certain of silver for Tonbridge as his 15:16 closed slightly on the leaders and moved his club further clear in second. The battle for bronze was far from over and it was Richard Peters (Mike Down) who claimed that spot for Bristol with a 15:31 ahead of another club who had moved through via a series of consistent performances, Cambridge and Coleridge.
Aldershot, Farnham and District put in a dominant display in the women’s race which began when a very strong first leg was headed home by Steph Twell (Mick Woods). Those who followed her in included Charlene Thomas of Wakefield (Aaron Thomas), Pippa Woolven of University of Birmingham (Luke Gunn), Katie Holt of City of Stoke (Alan Morris) and Morpeth’s Olympian Laura Weightman. Sixth placed was Gemma Hillier-Moses (Alex Haines) of Charnwood with Claire Duck of Leeds just one behind.
The second leg saw AFD cement their position as Louise Small (Mick Woods) went under 10min to open the gap further and the first up of the Potter sisters, Juliet, kept Charnwood second. Naomi Collier (Adam Madge) maintained third for the University of Birmingham and Georgia Malir had Leeds now lurking just outside of the medal positions.
Emily Hosker-Thornhill (Joe Franklin) anchored the AFD team to gold with a strong looking 9:47 last leg and Jane Potter ensured that Charnwood claimed silver, as Lucy Crookes (Matt Esche) moved Leeds into third position. Just out of the medals Sarah McDonald (Bud Baldaro) was clocking a swift 9:44 to move her club fourth from ninth and Jess Judd (Mick Judd) was storming round in 9:42 to lift Chelmsford 20 places to 13th – the fastest of those not on the slightly shorter first leg.
Tonbridge showed the strength of their junior section with their gold medals in the Junior Men’s race also being backed up by their B team taking ninth.
Tom Holden (Mark Hookway) was back fifth on the first leg that was led home by Sam Stevens of Leicester Corintanians. Pat Dever (Andy Bibby) was second finisher on the opener to state Preston Harriers’ intentions as Liam Burthem (Mick Woods) brought Liverpool in third ahead of Emile Cairess (Phil Townsend) of Leeds.
Second leg saw a shake-up at the front end but while the placings moved a lot the gaps were such that there was all to play for on the final leg. Alasdair Kinloch (Mark Hookway) put Tonbridge through to third and Matt Wigelsworth (Andy Bibby) placed Preston second behind Loughborough’s Archie Walton (Charlotte Fisher) who moved his university’s team into the lead. AFD were now up to fourth after the run of George Gathercole (Mick Woods).
George Duggan proved to be the one to watch on final leg. While National Cross Country Champion Ellis Cross (Mick Woods) came through to put AFD into second with 8:43 Duggan was more than equal to the challenge and edged a further three seconds ahead to secure gold six seconds clear. Preston held the bronze medal position through Tiarnan Crorken as Archie Rayner (Richard Massey) moved home club Mansfield up from 12th to fourth but was unable to bridge the gap to the medals.
The University of Birmingham were the first winners of the day in the Junior Women’s event. Harriet Knowles-Jones (Paul Roden) gave Warrington an early lead with a dominant performance on the first leg which saw her home 30 seconds clear of nearest rival Kate Waugh (Thomas Millmore) of Birtley, with Sarah Chapman next across the line just behind her.
It was Victoria Weir (Simon Anderson) who put Birmingham into the lead with an impressive second leg, which was second fastest of the day, as Lydia Turner (Thomas Millmore) kept Birtley in second. The ever competitive AFD team moved into the medal positions with Daisy D’Santos (Mick Woods) as Warrington now lay fourth after Jasmin Dobson’s second leg.
Mari Smith (William Winter) ran anchor leg for the University of Birmingham and further extended their advantage to give them a clear margin of a minute on the line. Sophie Burnett (Thomas Millmore) completed the team for Birtley seeing them home in silver medal positions as Niamh Brown (Mick Woods) ensured AFD took bronze. Also running swift final legs were Abbie Donnelly (Rob Lewis) who took Lincoln Wellington to fourth with an 8:53, the same time as Niamh Bridson-Hubbard (Andy Frankish) who moved Blackheath and Bromley eight places to 8th.
Under 17 men
Shaftesbury produced a strong team performance to take the title. Having seen Hamza Kadir (Ali Kadir) finish a stride behind Middlesbrough (Mandale) AC’s Josh Cowperthwaite (Martin Peevor) on the first leg the London club were going to be hard to beat. The first leg had seen the lead runners coming in thick and fast. But on the second leg Jeremy Dempsey (George Harrison) started to introduce a gap at the front as he took Shaftesbury slightly away from the chasers. These were led by Joseph Pollard (Vince Wilson/ Alison Wyeth) of Charnwood who was clocking the same time as Dempsey, having taken over in ninth.
Sam Rodda (Rob McKim) put Reading AC up into third from sixth as at this point Shaftesbury’s B team were an impressive fourth to show their depth.
Elliot Dee extended Shaftesbury’s advantage on last leg to come home 27 seconds clear as Thomas Gostelow (Vince Wilson/ Alison Wyeth) made certain of second and silver for Charnwood.
Tonbridge were moved through from sixth after two legs into the bronze medal position thanks to a 9:08 from James Puxty as Reading claimed fourth place.
Under 17 women
It was Phoebe Barker (Richard Owen) who led for Tonbridge after pulling away from the field on the first leg. Twenty seconds back the stream of pursuers started coming through and the battle for positions on the second leg began in earnest.
Clara Tyler came back home in fourth position for Tonbridge after that second leg with Basingstoke and Mid Hants, Herne Hill Harriers and Aldershot, Farnham and District all showing in the hunt for the medals. Maddie Deadman had moved Basingstoke into the lead after Rebecca Bullock (Ian Byett) had brought them home second at the end of the first stage. Ella Newton (James McDonald) now moved Herne Hill into the silver medal position, up from fifth, and Eugenie Cockle (Mick Woods) lay third for AFD who had been eighth after the first leg.
Lucy Pygott (Mick Woods) then produced a swift 8:31 to move AFD into the lead and then to a 13 second winning margin as Alex Brown took second place for Herne Hill. Rebecca Poole (Ian Byett) held on to third place for Basingstoke to secure the last of the medals ahead of Sale Harriers.
Under 15 boys
Harris Mier (John Knowles) of Cornwall and Ethan Hussey (Andrew Henderson) of Leeds enjoyed a great battle on the first leg as they came home 10 seconds clear of the chasing pack. Next over the line was David Dow (Mark Vile) who was putting the National Road relay champions, Cambridge and Coleridge, off to another strong start.
Jacob McAlhone maintained the lead for Cornwall as the second leg Cambridge runner, Nicolas Harhalakis (Mark Vile) moved them into second place. David Stone (Jeremy Sothcott) now put Shaftesbury into the medal positions. But ominously behind him Charles Kershaw (Trevor Raggett) had put AFD up to fourth and Toby Emm was now lying fifth for Tonbridge.
Luke Van Oudtshoorn (Mick Woods) took over for AFD and ran the quickest of anyone not on the slightly shorter first leg with a 6:22. OJ Parmenter (Mark Vile) matched his Tonbridge rival, James Kingston, for pace to the second with both recording 6:38 to see their teams to second and third respectively as Tonbridge moved into the medal positions.
Under 15 Girls
It was an impressive display of strength in depth by both Blackheath and Bromley and, not too far back, City of Norwich in the Under 15 Girls race.
Ava White (Philip Kissi) of Thames Valley Harriers got her team off to a fast start with a 7:00 opening leg. At this point the Blackheath B team lay fourth with Tola Pearse (Phillip Kissi) handing over to Amy Miller (Andy Frankish) as their A team was in sixth with Morgan Squibb (Andy Frankish) passing to Lia Radus.
By the end of the second leg Thames Valley were holding their lead as Charlotte Buckley (Roy Clarridge) now lay in pole position ahead of Walton AC’s Charlotte Vaughan (Andrew Kennard) who had taken over from Rachel Pharoah (Andrew Kennard). But Blackheath’s A team were up into third with Lia Radus as Amy Miller (Andy Frankish) lay seventh for the B team.
The last leg saw Yasmin Marghini (Phillip Kissi) charge around the course in just 6:53, fastest of the day, to give the Blackheath B team gold as their A team were anchored by Sophie Hoare (Phillip Kissi) into the silver medals. Emma Horsey (Andrew Kennard) made sure that Walton medalled with her last leg.
Incredibly the two Norwich teams not only finished fourth and fifth but were also given the same time, having both moved through the field as the race progressed with all six of the athletes - Meredith Winship, Ellie Taylor, Nelly Porter, Katie Goldsmith, Emma Hunter, and Femke Rosenburg - coached by David Pring.
Under 13 Boys
Fraser Sproul of Kendal was first back on leg one of the Under 13 boys event with Chris Perkins of Birtley lying second and both Aldershot, Farnham and District teams also in the top four courtesy of Ryan Martin (Mick Woods) and Edward Henderson (Trevor Raggett).
It was the AFD A Team who moved into the lead on second leg as Harry Hyde (Mick Woods) put in a 6:57 leg. Jaden Kennedy (James McDonald) ran fastest of the day on second leg with a 6:46 for Herne Hill Harriers that put them second ahead of AFD’s B Team who had Alfie Spear (Trevor Raggett) on second leg.
Sam Bodoano (Trevor Raggett) extended AFD’s advantage over Herne Hill on the final leg as Jacob Harrison (James McDonald) made sure his club took silver and Rudi Morrell secured the bronze medals for AFD’s B team.
Under 13 Girls
Flo Brill of Nene Valley was quickest on the first leg of the Under 13s race ahead of Maisy Luke as the stage saw Blackheath in fourth with Anwen Thomas (Phillip Kissi) and Eva Holland (James McDonald) back sixth for Herne Hill.
After two legs it was clear that both Blackheath and Herne Hill would be in the fight for the medals. Blackheath now led with Ellie Dolby (Jay Galley) and Herne Hill’s Layle Wilkinson (James McDonald) was third at this point with Ipswich Harrier Tilly Aldis (Stephen Hicks) separating the two. Emma Shipley (Steven Marshall) had moved Hallamshire Harriers up from 20th to fourth and also into contention for a medal.
Naomi Toft (Phillip Kissi) anchored Blackheath to the gold medals as Maisie Collis (James McDonald) gained a place for Herne Hill to bring them silver. Ruby Simpson (Steven Marshall) was the anchor leg for Hallamshire who put her teams into the medals.