English National Road Relay Championships

Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield, Saturday 7th October

Ted Chamberlain National RRs 2017

Ted Chamberlain National RRs 2017

Last Saturday Holmfirth Harriers athletes and supporters travelled to Sutton Park in the West Midlands to compete in the English National Road Relay Championships.  The men had narrowly qualified in the Northern regional event three weeks previously, but the women do not have to qualify and were able to send a couple of teams.

The men’s team contesting the 6-Stage event was probably the youngest team the club has ever entered with an average age under 21 years and five of the athletes being teenagers.

Aaron Kettlewell took the responsibility of running the first leg against athletes representing 85 teams. The race started at a blistering pace over a course of just under 6kms, with twenty of the athletes running sub-18 minutes. Aaron held his form well and completed the course in 18.41 (46th) an improvement on the time he ran last year. Graham Rush had taken Cheltenham into the lead with a super run of 17.16.

Mark Buckingham National RRs 2017

Mark Buckingham National RRs 2017

Mark Buckingham, Holmfirth’s Elite Triathlete and former GB athlete took the opportunity to join his younger teammates and ran a good leg recording the fourth fastest time on leg 2 and passing 23 teams in the process to record a time of 17.43 and moving the team into 23rd place. Jonathan Hopkins of Swansea Harriers ran the fastest time on stage 2 (17.30) to move his team into the lead with Cheltenham relegated to 3rd place.

Chris Law travelled from University in London running the third stage and recorded a time of 19.26 losing just 3 places where 10 athletes ran sub 18 minutes. Swansea maintained the lead on leg 3, followed by Bristol & West and Lincoln Wellington.

Niall O’Connell endured a delayed train journey from his University in Edinburgh on Friday before travelling from Birmingham on race day. He did lose 10 places on the 4th stage, running a time of 20.01 (36th) but again nine athletes ran sub-18 minutes, with the leading three teams maintaining their positions.

The youngest member of the team, Ted Chamberlain had never previously contested a National event but ran well, losing just five places to complete stage 5 in 20.02 (41st).  Swansea maintained their lead with Lincoln Wellington moving into 2nd and Tonbridge 3rd.

The final stage saw Dewi Griffiths of Swansea Harriers running the fastest stage of the day recording a superb 16.40 to clinch gold medals with a total time of 1.45.16. Tonbridge moved into second place to take silver medals with a time of 1.46.30 and Lincoln Wellington managed to hang on to bronze in 1.46.34, just 4 seconds ahead of Aldershot Farnham & District. Holmfirth’s Alex Robinson ran well on the final stage recording a time of 20.12 to bring the Holmfirth team home in 45th place 1.56.05, an improvement of 12 places on the previous year. This was an excellent team performance by the young men and a great experience at the highest level.

The women’s 4-stage event was underway ten minutes after the men’s had started, making the whole event great for spectators. A huge field of 111 teams made for a crowded start and first kilometre. Olivia Sykes made a very impressive start for Holmfirth’s ‘A’ team, running 15:21 in 21st place.  Amelia Quirk of Bracknell AC was first over the line in 14:16, which was the 5th fastest time of the day, but they did not have a complete team.

Helen Berry, the veteran of the ‘A’ team, demonstrated that she is back to fitness 6-months after breaking her ankle, dropping just two places on leg 2 in 15:56.

Lucy Byram National RRs 2017

Lucy Byram National RRs 2017

Sisters Lucy and Erica Byram, back from Leeds University for the weekend, ran strongly on legs 3 and 4 respectively, in 16:44 and 16:58, bringing the team home in a very respectable 28th place in 1:04:59.  As with the men, this was an improvement on the team performance last year, by 7 places.

Ruby Sykes finished in the top half of the top class field on the first leg for the ‘B’ team; 54th in 16:23. Margaret completed the family affair, taking over from daughter Ruby on leg 2 and ran very well to pick up seven places in 16:59.  Helena Croft, who had suffered illness all week beforehand, was determined not to drop out and her loyalty to the team paid off as she ran only a little below par in 18:15 and dropping only 5 places; a great effort. Alannah Booth, more familiar with the sprinting events on the track, was a late and very welcome fourth member of the ‘B’ team, ensuring they had a final team result.  Alannah put in a sterling performance, picking off two athletes, in what is by then a spread-out field.  Her time of 18:57 gave the ‘B’ team an overall time of 1:10:34 and 50th position.

The women’s event was won, as it has been for years, by the dominant Aldershot, Farnham & District in 58:26, where all their athletes ran comfortably under 15 minutes.  GB athlete Jessica Judd of Chelmsford clocked the fastest time of the day in an impressive 13:55; 15 seconds clear of the second fastest athlete.

The Harriers, both Senior and Junior, will now turn their attention to the Cross Country season, which kicks off with the first race in the West Yorkshire League at Thornes Park in Wakefield on Saturday 14th.

Photos (courtesy of Norman Berry): https://www.flickr.com/photos/hhac/albums/72157686954942141

Pre-2012 news, results & reports are on the old sites: 2009 to 2011, Pre-2009

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