The England U20 teams brought home silver and bronze following a successful afternoon of road-racing in Oderzo, Italy, where the men’s and women’s teams were led home by Julia Paternain (Cambridge & Coleridge AC, Coach: Mark Vile) and Nathan Dunn (Preston Harriers, Coach: Peter Crook) who both earned individual silver medals with two fine performances.
A team of five U20 women raced over 5k, whilst the U20 men’s team raced over 10k. Both races were run over multiple laps through the beautiful historic town of Oderzo in Northern Italy, where the atmosphere and the support from the crowds was superb. The races took place late afternoon in pleasant, but warm conditions for distance running.
The event which has been running for over 20 years added the U20 international competition to the programme last year and there was a genuinely competitive international competition in both U20 races with teams from Sweden, Greece, Macedonia, France, Denmark, Slovenia, Moldovia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and of course Italy, all taking part. The host nation was out in full force fielding strong teams in both races to take team gold twice over. However, the England teams put up a good challenge in both the 5k and 10k races meaning the Italians did not have it all their own way.
The women were first off, led out by Julia Paternain who had a clear race strategy to target the pre-race favourite, Italy’s Nadia Battoclettti. Scarlet Dale (Lancaster & Morecambe, Coach: Colin Gemson) and Charlotte Dannatt (Camberley AC, Coach: Alan Driver) also got out strongly at the start with Grace Copeland(Wimborne AC, Coach: Bob Smith) and Chloe Sharp (Dartford Harriers) initially keeping off the front pace, but gradually working their way through in the later laps.
The pace was fast from the start, but Paternain looked strong and with two of the 5 laps to go, started to stretch a lead of just four or five metres and looked to have the upper-hand over the Italian. However, with a lap to go and the home crowd support, Paternain’s lead gave the Italian hope and with a lap to go she pulled back and eased past Paternain in dominant style to finish in 16:35. Paternain finished a clear second place in 16:43, with Denmark’s Sophie Sofeldt finishing third in 17:08.
"I was pleased that I stuck to my race plan at the start and made the move when I did, but I just lacked the legs at the end. I knew that Nadia would be tough to be beat and it was great to have the opportunity to race her here in Italy." said Paternain.
The rest of the England team packed well with Dale, Dannatt, Copeland and Sharp separated by just 14 seconds. Oxford University undergraduate Charlotte Dannatt making her debut for England was second home of the English women in 9th place and personal best time of 17:25. Dale had been at the sharp end of the pack for a good chunk of the race finished in 10th in 17:27, but as the level headed 18 year old wryly said after the race, "If you are going to set a 3k PB in a 5k race, it’s always going to hurt in the last 2k!" Grace Copeland ran a well-judged race to finish 11th in 17:34, with Chloe Sharp completing the quintet with 12th place in 17:40.
The team competition was based on the accumulative times of the top three runners in each team - placing England in second place behind Italy.
Women's Team result
1st - Italy 51:01
2nd - England 51:35
3rd - Denmark 52:20
For many of the U20 men a 10k road experience was unfamiliar territory, or at least one which they had had relative little experience and so with the additional factors of the rising temperatures, a nine-lap course and water stations to contend with it was going to throw some new challenges at them. England’s lead athlete Nathan Dunn started with intent and managed the conditions with the maturity of an experienced senior international and earned himself an individual silver in doing so, running 31:55. Romania’s Adrian Garcea was the race winner and when he took to the front he did so in destructive fashion taking 40 seconds out of the chasing group led by Dunn. Dunn kept a cool head in the final stages as Italy’s Nesim Amsellek was closing to a 32:00 third place.
Jem O’Flaherty (London Heathside, Coach: Kabir Kemp) in his first 10k on the road clearly has more to come at this distance in the future. He started conservatively and perhaps wisely given the conditions and unknown territory, but with each lap seemed to grow in confidence working his way through the field steadily picking off those runners who had perhaps underestimated the warm conditions and was rewarded with a fine 9th places in 32:46 on his international debut.
The third English athlete home was Zak Mahamed (Southampton AC, Coach: Peter Haynes), who got off to a quick start, paid the price a little mid-race, but re-focussed and came back through in the final laps to finish strongly in 33:22 in 18th place. David Mullarkey (Manx AC, Coach: Andrew Fox) was close behind in 33:25 having faded a little after a strong initial start. For Mac O’Malley (Trafford AC) it was tough day at the office and the challenge of handling water stations which even the world’s best are known to have problems with found the experience a valuable learning opportunity and nonetheless finished a highly respectable 26th placing in 34:40.
Men's Team result
1st - Italy 1:36:32,
2nd - Romania 1:36:44
3rd – England 1:38:03
Team Leader, Charlotte Fisher said, "This is has been superb race experience for developing athletes in a beautiful part of the world on a unique course. The host nation put on a fantastic show and the hospitality and generosity of the local organising committee has been superb. The event values of providing high quality competition, alongside an opportunity to build international friendship epitomised the best of sport."
She continued, "All of the athletes did themselves, and their home club and coaches proud wearing the England vest and they were supported throughout the trip with the calm and expert presence of Team Coach Richard Owen (Tonbridge)."