Once again there was a great afternoon of racing at the ERRA National 12 and 6 Stage Road Relays in Sutton Park as Leeds City and Swansea came out on top in two great races.
Both races saw the battle for the medal positions come down to the final leg with some great action for the spectators to enjoy throughout the afternoon.
Men's 12 stage
Swansea ran out winners of the men’s 12 stage event having hit the front on the sixth leg. The fastest long leg from Dewi Griffiths (Kevin Evans) moved them from fourth to second on leg five and over the later legs they moved away from the pursuers to come home almost five minutes home by the finish line.
Until Swansea had hit the front it was another Welsh club, Cardiff, who had held the lead. Matt Clowes (James Thie) was first back on leg one ahead of Bedford & County who had Matt Bergin (Simon Goodwin) out for them. Leeds' Wondiye Indelbu was just a stride back on him. Jonathan Taylor (Gordon Surtees) of Morpeth was home fourth as the teams streamed across the line with the notable gaps yet to appear.
The lead was extended for Cardiff on Leg 2 courtesy of Tom Marshall (James Thie) running the second fastest short leg of the day with 15:01 as Christian Lovatt (Kevin Evans) moved Swansea up to second from ninth. Meanwhile Carl Hardman (Norman Poole) of Salford lifted them ten places to 3rd with fourth fastest short leg of the afternoon.
Mike Kallenburg (James Thie) brought Cardiff home ahead on leg 3. Bedford's Jack Douglas (Simon Goodwin) put the Eastern team back up to second from fourth ahead of Corstophine's Dermott Cummings (Moray Anderson) with the Scottish club having a showing to the fore through the early stages of the race on the way to an 18th place finish.
Leg four saw the fastest short leg of the day as Doug Musson (Luke Gunn) puts Notts AC up into second place with a swift 14:46, 15 seconds faster than Tom Marshall’s 2nd ranked time. But still in the lead were Cardiff as Ciaran Lewis (James Thie) brought them home and Swansea now lay third through Jonathan Tobin (Kevin Tobin).
As Tobin handed to Griffiths the expectation was of him making an impact on the leading places. While he did not take the lead his 25:10 put Swansea in a strong position behind Ieuan Thomas (James Thie) of Cardiff with Shaftesbury's Phil Crout (Phil O’Dell) moving them up a place to third. Also flying around fifth leg was Kent AC’s Alex Yee (Ken Pike), the under 20 was blasting to second fastest long leg of the day with 25:37 as he moved his club from 15th to seventh.
This meant it was Danal Desta who took the lead for Swansea ahead of Cardiff’s Steven Morris (James Thie). Chris McGurk of Notts AC now put them into third place as Kent lay fourth after John Gilbert’s leg.
Angus McLean held the lead for Swansea on Leg 7 as Richard Peters (Mike Down) lifted Bristol & West into second place from fifth as the South West outfit continued to move through the field with every passing leg. Joel Redman (James Thie) held third for Cardiff with Kent still fourth after Chris Greenwood’s long leg.
Now the gap started to grow behind Swansea. Jack Gooch (Keith Tobin) pulled further away from Bristol & West’s Josh Moody (Keith Brackstone). Kent were fighting hard for a medal with James Savage (Ken Pike) putting them into third ahead of Cardiff as Notts now lay fifth.
With legs seven to nine always critical Swansea now saw Kristian Jones putting in a 25:59 long leg for fourth fastest of the day and a run that meant the gap was looking ominously large for the chasers. Zak Tobias kept Bristol & West in second and extended their lead on Kent AC who had Jordan Weaver on the course ahead of Cardiff and Notts.
Daniel Rothwell was moving Swansea even further ahead on leg 10 as Will Christofi (David Bedwell) remained second for Bristol & West. But now the hunt for the medals was getting all the more interesting behind them as Notts AC were home from leg 10 in third after Kevin Farrow’s run took them back up two places, and Dan Jarvis moved Liverpool right into the fray as they came home fourth.
While Marc Hobbs (George Edwards) came in well clear for Swansea on Leg 11 Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon) now blasted Liverpool into second with third fastest long leg of the day (25:47). He passed Bristol & West’s Jarlath McKenna on the last straight and with Notts AC now fourth a great battle for the medal positions was on.
Liam Lloyd made no mistakes for Swansea on the last leg – even diving ahead of the lead motorbike before having time to high five team mates in the final stages. Behind him there were the other medals including the English 1-2-3 to be decided. Benedict Westhenry (Thomas Watson) came out on top of the duel with James McNally (Adrian Webb) of Liverpool as Notts come in 4th through Tim Hartley (Roy Stowell) to take the third English team position.
Women's 6 stage
In the Women’s 6 stage race it was Leeds City AC who led from the 2nd leg to take the Gold, with Heather Sellars anchoring the team home in a time of 2:12:44, ahead of Swansea Harriers in 2nd, and Winchester District AC in 3rd.
The opening leg saw Swansea Harrier Verity Ockendon (Tony Houchin) produce a storming opening 29:45 leg, that would prove to be the fastest long leg of the day, to put her team in an early lead. Susan Partridge had to produce a pacey 30:03 run of her own, the joint 2nd fastest of all legs, to keep Leeds City AC within potential striking distance of the leaders, whilst opening up a 50 second gap ahead of Winchester and District’s Lorna Russell (Nick Anderson) in 3rd.
Emma Clayton (Andrew Henderson) pushed hard for Leeds City AC on the 2nd leg, producing a 17:19 time to overtake Swansea Harrier Helen Marshall. This time was only beaten by Bristol & West AC’s Kate Maltby (Christopher Frapwell) and Morpeth Harrier Laura Weightman, both running the second leg as well. Maltby’s superb 16:38 lap lifted Bristol & West AC 12 places into 2nd place, while Weightman clocked 16:44 overtaking 14 competitors in the process.
Winchester & District AC continued to look a threat in 3rd place, and moved ever closer to the leaders at the halfway point, as India Lee’s (Nick Anderson) 17:21 third leg saw them comfortably move into 2nd place, whilst gaining on leaders Leeds City AC. Bristol & West AC athlete Olivia Sadler (Daniel Ireland) ensured her club were still in contention for medals in 3nd place. Also in the mix and remaining in the fourth place they had held throughout were Cambridge & Coleridge with Claire Somerton (Mark Vile) maintaining their challenge at this stage.
Claire Duck (Mike Baxter) increased Leeds City AC’s lead in her 4th leg, trailed by Winchester and District AC’s Julia Davis (Nick Anderson), who in turn was feeling pressure from Cambridge & Coleridge AC’s Victoria Knight (Mark Vile) who was constantly gaining ground and now in 3rd. This leg produced another notable display from Tracy Barlow (Thames Valley Harriers Nick Anderson) who produced a rapid 30:03, joint second quickest of the day, to take her club up an impressive six positions into fifth.
The penultimate leg saw Leeds City AC’s Georgia Malir (Andrew Henderson) produce a solid display to keep her club in a very comfortable lead ahead of an established pack of clubs battling it out behind her. Simone Dailey of Winchester & District AC ensured her club were the first in that pack at the final changeover, ahead of Cambridge & Coleridge AC’s Rebecca Frake (Mark Vile) in 3rd. Swansea Harriers still looked very much in contention however, after Andrea Whitcombe’s 17:51 leg really ate up valuable ground on her rivals.
Heather Sellars did not ease up for Leeds City AC in the final leg, despite her club’s large advantage she put the burners on and pushed further ahead of the field on her way to that Gold medal. The other places were still far from confirmed however, as Swansea Harrier Alaw Beynon-Thomas (Kevin Evans) overtook Winchester & District AC’s Vicky Gill to guide her team home in 2nd place with a time of 2:16:35, just 14 seconds separating the teams. There was a superb late battle for the English Championship Bronze, as Cambridge & Coleridge AC’s Susannah Reid had to keep pushing to the line as she was chased hard by Bristol & West AC’s Charlotte Taylor-Green (James Thie) whose speedy last leg time of 17:47 was not quite enough to grab a medal, again 12 seconds was the margin between places.