The English Road Running Association (ERRA) National Road Relays took place in Sutton Park, Birmingham on Sunday 6 October 2019. The women took on a 4 Stage relay, the men a 6 stage, and the young athletes a 3 stage.
It may have been raining all around the country, but Sutton Park at 8am was an oasis of ideal running conditions - dry, cool, with just a slight breeze. The young athletes competing were aged U13, U15 and U17. Taking on 3 stages in their relays, each athlete completed one lap of the testing 3.8K Sutton Park course.
Under 13 Boys
Aldershot Farnham & District started the first leg superbly, first finisher, and even on the 2nd leg they were still only 2nd but much to the surprise of spectators and the announcer they could not complete a team.
Chiltern Harriers started at not quite the same pace, but what a finish 9th after leg 1, 4th at the end of leg 2 this was a real race to the line on the 3rd leg. Chiltern started 54 seconds behind leaders South London, but Alden Collier produced the fastest time of the day, 12.29, and the closest finish with a superb run to the line. Both teams were given the same time but referee, Lynne Marr, positioned on the finish line agreed with the other judges, and awarded the win to Chiltern Harriers.
South London were 2nd, Cambridge & Coleridge 3rd, and the talented and much improving Trawden 4th.
There were 47 complete teams finished.
Under 13 Girls
Following their success in the Southern area championships, Chiltern Harriers were the team to beat, and although the girls did not know it, they had to keep up with the boys' result.
It was a Chiltern double as the girls demonstrated their superiority with a 96 second victory, no narrow victory for them. Hardly surprising when all 3 athletes were in the top 10 fastest times.
Wreake & Soar Valley were 2nd and Wolverhampton & Bilston 3rd
Fastest time of the day was Isabelle Martin (Abingdon) 13.46.
There were 48 complete teams finished.
Under 15 Boys.
So if Chiltern Harriers could win both U13 races, could Northern Champions Vale Royal, who won both races in the Northern Championships, do exactly the same? A strong challenge was expected from North Shields Poly, who were 2nd at the Northern, and an up-and-coming Salford team.
Vale Royal boys did not start well, 17th at the end of leg 1, but fast times from Jake Wilson, 12.35, and Patrick Griffiths, 12.38, ensured they won by 18 seconds ahead of South London, with North Shields Poly 3rd, their 1st leg athlete, Joshua Bevin, running the fastest time of the day, 12.29.
Winsor Slough Eton & Hounslow were 4th with Salford down to 9th on the last leg.
There were 62 complete teams finished.
Under 15 Girls
The 2nd half of this outstanding Vale Royal U15 performance was never going to fail, despite the Northern Champions only finishing 8th on the first leg behind Abingdon’s Olivia Martin. Grace Roberts propelled them into the lead on leg 2 with a time of 13.54, with Holly Weedall running 13.50 to ensure Vale Royal had that gold medal. Elsie Robinson ran the fastest time of the day, 13.43 to pull Saffron up 3 places to 2nd, Chilton Harriers were 3rd.
An interesting battle for 4th and 5th place between the two Winsor Slough Eton & Hounslow teams ended up with their B team ahead of their A team by just 4 seconds.
There were 55 complete teams finished.
Under 17 Men
The first leg is usually the fastest, and this race was no exception; 9 out of the top 10 fastest times were on this 1st leg. OJ Parmenter (Cambridge & Coleridge), was the fastest in 11.47, with an outstanding race from Brandon Quinton in 3rd place.
Cambridge remained at the front for the next leg before being passed by Winsor Slough Eton & Hounslow’s Will Barnicoat, who held on to win by some 20 seconds from Cambridge & Coleridge, with Aldershot Farnham & District holding onto to that last podium position from Tonbridge. Salford 2nd in the Northern were 5th.
There were 55 complete teams finished.
Under 17 Women
Salford, the Northern Champions, quickly showed they were able to step up to the higher challenge of the National.
2nd behind Wreake Soar Valley after leg 1 they smoothly moved into the lead during the 2nd leg, and then gradually pulled away to win by 31 seconds from Aldershot Farnham & District with Wreake & Soar Valley 3rd.
Fastest time goes to Kirsten Stillwell (Wycombe Phoenix Harriers) in the time of 13.36. The amazing fact behind her time is that she overtook 21 out of the 37 finishing teams.
Be it the drive up from Hampshire, or an uplifting team talk from Mike Neighbour, when Aldershot Farnham & District arrive at Sutton Park they only have a podium finish on their minds. Winners last year and since 2014, only in 2015 did they fail to manage a podium finish. An outstanding record. Sunday 6 October was no exception, although it was just a bronze medal this time, as all the English teams were out performed by an inspired Cardiff team.
Invited as guests, Cardiff out-raced everybody else to win by just under 2 minutes. They were only headed once, by Lincoln Wellington’s Abbie Donnelly, 2nd fastest time of 14.01 on the first leg, before Charlotte Arter hit the front with the fastest time, 14.00, and that is where Cardiff stayed.
Aldershot Farnham & District were consistent, 3rd at the end of every leg, leaving 2nd place there to be taken. Charnwood were there briefly on leg 2 but faded to 5th, whilst Tonbridge, the only other Southern club to be on the podium in the last 5 years, moved into 2nd spot on leg 3 and remained third.
As Cardiff were invited guest they could not collect any medals, but did go onto the podium as worthy winners, with Charlotte Arter collecting the fastest lap time medal.
This left Tonbridge as National 4 stage champions and collect those newly designed gold medals, Aldershot Farnham & District silver, and Highgate Harriers the bronze medals.
The Northern challenge failed, as Rotherham were 6th Lincoln Wellington 7th and Leeds City 10th just in front of... you might have guessed, Aldershot Farnham & District B team.
Leeds City AC simply came to win, to complete an outstanding 12 months for the team. 18th in 2017, 2nd last year, this Leeds team now just moves smoothly along. It is a team effort, all but the 1st leg on Sunday were timed within 44 seconds of each other. All their fastest legs were in the back half of the race - this is a team that just knows how to win relays! In addition they have a very potent weapon, a last leg runner who’s specialised subject is winning relays. Yet again, Graham Rush did not start off in first place on the last leg, but he finished first, and that is all that matters... 29th after the first leg Leeds just moved through the gears moving up, 14th, 4th, 3rd, 3rd again then Graham Rush brought them in as winners on the last leg. A superb team effort.
Cardiff AC, as per the women, were invited guests, and for a while they looked likely winners, matching the achievements of the women’s team. However, after taking the lead on leg 5 they lost 4 places on the crucial last leg to finish 4th.
Aldershot Farnham & District men were never out of the top 3 to finish 2nd. Cambridge & Coleridge pulled up several place in the later stages helped by Marc Scott’s fastest leg of the day, 16.46, on leg 5 and were rewarded with the bronze medal position.
Leeds City were presented with the 'Southport Corporation Cup' which had reappeared after a couple of years absence, and the huge and most impressive 'Wilkinson Sword'.
Presentations on the day were made by Mike Neighbour and Rita Brownlie.
This post event report has been written and supplied by ERRA.