MIDLANDS ROAD RELAYS
BIRCHFIELD AND BRISTOL & WEST BOTH WIN THE SENIOR EVENTS IN STYLE
Bristol & West’s men and Birchfield’s women triumph at Sutton Park
THERE was a sense of déjà-vu as Birchfield made it three in a row in the women’s race and Bristol & West retained their men’s title. The veteran men’s race again saw Leicester Coritanian come out on top while, in the age group races, Wreake & Soar Valley took two girls titles.
OVER the same 5.88km lap as last year, the two West Country clubs – Cheltenham and eventual winners Bristol – came out on top.
After a slow start and falling nearly a minute down at the mid-point, Bristol fought their way back to win by 32 seconds as Stephen Mitchell took the glory leg in 17:51.
Course specialist Graham Rush built on the lead given to him by Cheltenham club-mate Dave Roper, to extend their lead over Bristol mid-race, as he again posted the fastest time of the day. His 17:35 was just two ticks quicker than Bristol’s Dan Studley on the next lap, but said: “I was a bit down on last year and behind where I wanted to be, but I took it out and wanted to extend the lead.” He added that “it was a bit muddy under the trees”.
Phil Beastall kept Cheltenham ahead, on stage four, with a useful 17:53, saying: “that was a course record for me,” but his side could not maintain the challenge and gradually fell back into the clutches of their rivals. Ben
Price kept them ahead on the penultimate lap but said: “It was tough running on your own.”
Bristol’s job was completed by Jarath McKenna and Mitchell, who said of Cheltenham, after he had taken the lead mid-stage: “They middle-loaded but we made it as even as possible.”
Earlier, Peter Brookes had won a steady first stage for Tipton with an 18:00 clocking after battling with Heanor’s Joe Rainsford, but his young squad drifted off the pace to eventually place a distant fourth.
Mid-race efforts from Alex Tovey and Will Richardson had boosted Birchfield’s chances but their challenge faltered and they finished a minute down in third.
The veteran men’s six-stage event was incorporated and Leicester retained their title by nearly two minutes. They had led on the opening leg through Gordon Lee’s 19:31 before ceding the advantage and then finishing strongly to win from Tipton, with Wolverhampton third.
Tipton led going into the final leg, but Chris Jordan’s 19:43 and 19:19 from Mark Powell secured the Leicester victory.
Mark Couldwell set the fastest masters time of 19:17 on stage two as he had taken Charnwood into contention but they fell back to wind up outside the medals.
Birchfield’s win made it three in a row as the women again ran over the shorter 4.33km lap and led throughout after Rebecca Straw posted the fastest lap of the day, by front-running 14:43 on the opener.
The 22-year-old former Midland cross-country champion, who only returned to competition in July after nearly two years out due to cartilage surgery.
Of her run, she admitted to being surprised by her performance and to “watching
to see what the Bristol girl was doing” in the early stages.
The Bristol girl in question was Elinor Davis, who followed Shaw home in 14:50.
Mari Smith then extended Birchfield’s advantage on stage two, to nearly a minute, as the places behind changed with Cheltenham advancing to second, thanks to Gillian Palmer’s 15:00. Smith said: “I had a good summer doing 800s in 2:04 and had all of the men to race with.”
Bryony Gunn maintained the lead on the penultimate stage, despite a challenge from Cheltenham’s Hilary Mott but said: “It was tough chasing the men ahead.”
Birchfield were still well clear and Katie Allen was able to round things off for the ‘Stags’ and said: “The girls did the work but I worked hard all the way to get a quick time.”
Westbury’s Hannah Hobbs was second-fastest overall as she moved up from tenth to just outside the medals on the final stage, with 14:49. They were narrowly pipped by Bristol & West who took bronze.
AGE GROUP RACES
WREAKE & SOAR VALLEY won the under-13 race last year but here added the under-15 title as well. Some of their winning under-13s moved up this year and, although not figuring near the front of the under-17 race, where Charnwood won by more than a minute, they are on the march.
The under-13 and under-15 age groups, both boys and girls and the under-17 men, all saw the overall quickest laps coming from the opening stage winners.
For the under-17 men, Solihull & Small Heath’s Chris McLeod ‘won’ in 11:56, but it was Notts who narrowly took the title.
Charnwood might have won as they placed three teams in the top five. Their A team slipped up on the second stage, allowing their third squad to take silver after a fine 12:19 from Dan Maud on the anchor leg, as Oliver Rouse pulled the A squad to third with 12:12.
However he and they were denied bronze medals as a club can only take one set. This allowed fourth-placed Cannock, who had Josh Ward run 12:14 on stage one, to take bronze.
Ryan Shields had ensured that Birchfield’s under-15 boys got off to a good start with the quickest lap of 12:38 and, although pressed by Wreake and Taunton, held on to win narrowly.
Exeter won the under-13 boys race. They usually compete in the South of England championships but their team manager said it was down to “logistics”. Worcester’s Andrew Jeavons had ‘won’ the under-13 opening stage with a runaway 13:16, as the stage yielded seven of the top ten times. Exeter were sixth there, but Oliver Capps and Charlie Hingus saw them win by over a minute.
Wreake’s girls were taken to second by Rachel Nealon after Katie Parker’s under-15 opener, before Holly Gamble rounded things off with 14:12.
Earlier Westbury’s Dalis Jones had ‘won’ the first leg in 14:02, two seconds up on Wolves’
Ellie Sample for the two fastest under-15 times.
Wreake had earlier also come from behind to narrowly win the under-13 race from Birchfield, whose Amy Harland gave them a good start with the fastest 14:16.
Charnwood had Mia Atkinson to thank for their under-17 women’s victory as she took them from fifth to gold on the last leg, with the fastest time of 14:23.
Midland senior men’s 6-stage winners Bristol & West (l-r): Miles Chandler, Jack Millar, Daniel Studley, Jarath McKenna and Stephen Mitchell
Start of the senior men’s 6-stage relay
Phil Beastall: produced a run of 17:53
Stephen Mitchell: helped Bristol fight back to win
Rebecca Straw: made a strong start for Birchfield
Winners Birchfield: Rebecca Straw, Mari Smith, Bryony Gunn and Katie Allen
Wreake & Soar Valley under-13 girls’ team
Ryan Shields: ran a quickest lap of 12:38