SOUTHERN ROAD RELAYS
ELEVENTH WOMEN’S TITLE FOR ALDERSHOT AS HIGHGATE REGAIN MEN’S CROWN WITH BLACKHEATH ON TOP IN THE YOUNGER RACES
Highgate Harriers win the men’s six-stage and Aldershot the women’s four-stage at Crystal Palace
THE SOUTH of England relays returned to Crystal Palace after a 30-year absence. Many would prefer a return to Rushmoor Arena where the race was held from 1988 to 2015 and Aldershot’s superb organisation but the South of England seem determined to organise it themselves to maximise revenues and the home of their offices looks like it could be used in the future.
Despite glorious sunny weather, it was not an entirely successful return but certainly was better received by teams and competitors than the ill-judged and remote Bedford Autodrome of 2016.
There were problems with the course, lack of marshalling, pre-entries and presentations, lack of information and commentary – that is, almost everything but the course, though in need of tweaking for distance, at least has potential.
The start and finish on the famous track was liked by all, the track in-field has never looked busier or more colourful, and the course on the motor racing circuit is a good test although it was way too short at just three miles for the men and around 2.3 miles for the women.
The programme missed a number of teams such as those from Tonbridge, which meant they were absent from the rather limited results on the day, which had no names on it, and the absence of detailed results meant no fastest laps were awarded. As AW went to press, the results were still far from sorted with an inexperienced relay result provider at this level struggling with the size of the event.
Chip timing should have made results quicker but instead may have complicated the issue.
With around 600 teams entered at an average entry fee of around £50 (£60 for the senior men), it did mean a revenue of over £30,000 which many thought should have been better spent on the infrastructure of the event.
In future, the event may be better to return to a two-day affair to avoid races having to start and finish within five minutes of each other.
HIGHGATE won a competitive senior men’s race. They did so with a very consistent team performance with their sextet running between 14:50 and 15:18.
The advertised distance was 6km per leg but the two laps of the old motor racing circuit ended up being less than 5km.
Blackheath and Bromley came home first in the opening leg through Phil Sesemann’s 14:26 as he unleashed his 3:41 1500m speed over the closing stages and utilised the track finish.
Mahamed Mahamed of Southampton followed with a 14:35.
Brahma Pochee brought Highgate in around 200 metres back with a 15:18 but they moved closer to the front with a 15:05 from Robel Bahelbi as Blackheath held the lead through Will Fuller’s 15:10. The fastest on the leg was Jonny Hay, who moved Aldershot into contention with a 14:43 and a particularly strong finishing kick on the track.
Almost as quick was Serpentine’s Nick Torry, he ran 14:44, and it would have been far away the quickest M40 time had he not been in the senior race.
The third leg saw South of England 12-stage champions Tonbridge to the fore as George Duggan’s 14:42 moved them past Highgate, for whom Shaun Dixon’s 15:04 continued their rise to the front.
It also continued on the fourth leg as Pete Chambers’ 14:53 overhauled Tonbridge’s Corey De’Ath’s 15:02, putting them four seconds clear.
The fifth leg saw the north London club improve their fastest lap time yet again – this time it was Audun Nordtveit’s 14:50 and this was sufficient to open a clear lead over Tonbridge (75:49) and
The lead was enough for Chris Rainsford to hold control with a 15:02 to allow Highgate to regain the title they had previously won in 2015.
The gap closed behind as three of the fastest legs of the day followed but Chris Olley of Tonbridge’s 14:37 and 14:42 from Aldershot’s double national junior champion Ellis Cross’s ensured the other medals.
Back in fourth, BUCS cross-country champion Alex Teuten brought Southampton up to fourth with a 14:37 to share the third fastest leg with National fourth-placer Olley.
Aldershot continued their dominance, but on the first leg 17-year-old Amelia Quirk led the way. Using the mixture of speed that saw her come fourth in the European under-20 1500m and strength that won the National junior title, the Bracknell AC runner shot round in 11:57.
It was not that clear-cut a first leg ‘win’, though, as chasing her home was Kingston’s Phoebe Law in
11:59 and Aldershot’s Katie Bingle in 12:04. These stood up as the fastest runs of the day.
At halfway, just three seconds covered the leading trio with Cambridge and Coleridge ahead thanks to
Katy Hedgethorne’s 12:39, with West Suffolk level with Aldershot.
Leg three saw Aldershot go clear thanks to Philippa Bowden’s 12:32. Southern six-stage champions Thames Valley moved into contention thanks to world championships marathoner Tracy Barlow’s 12:27, though the quickest on the leg was Belgrave’s Sophie Harris, who ran 12:05.
On the final leg, Aldershot had South of England cross-country champion Emily Hosker Thornhill and a 12:05 to match Harris’s time gave them
the win, their 11th in the last 12 years.
Over 100 seconds back, Cambridge and Coleridge and West Suffolk took the other medals.
The men’s race was less than 5km, but the women did a race not much over two miles. The question remains as to why they couldn’t have run the same distance as the men.
The strangest part of the course design was that runners in this event had to go twice around a small 800m loop in the middle of the lap, which was impossible to police. That may work in a normal race situation or on the opening leg but not in the later legs when athletes are intermingling with runners a lap ahead or a lap behind but possibly running the same pace.
Two of the top 10 teams listed in the results last Monday night clearly ran a loop short and there may have been more further down.
There were also problems with the under-17 men’s race which used the same loop.
A busy day of races unfolded at Crystal Palace under sunny skies
Highgate Harriers (left to right): Brahma Pochee, Robel Bahelbi, Shaun Dixon, Peter Chambers, Auden Nordtveit and Chris Rainsford won the six-stage title
The senior women’s race gets off and running
silver for Tonbridge
Amelia Quirk: quickest stage of the day
Peter Chambers: put Highgate into the lead
Winners AFD: Katie Bingle, Jo Harvey, Phillipa Bowden and Emily Hosker Thornhill
Sophie Harris: quickest on leg three for