TONBRIDGE CREATE CLUB HISTORY WITH FIRST WIN
TONBRIDGE AC took their first-ever senior men’s title in Mansfield. The Kent club now holds the National Cross team title, six-stage road relay crown and cross-country relays title and not surprisingly is keen to add the 12-stage road relay championship to its burgeoning trophy cabinet.
The club has been impressing in recent years as its teams have come up through the age groups. In Mansfield their oldest runner was only 23 years old, too, which bodes well for future success.
With the 4x5km men’s event the last of the 10-race programme to take place, the sun was dropping over Berry
Hill Park and the air becoming chillier as the runners set off.
A cracking race ensued, though, with Tonbridge holding off reigning champions Aldershot, Farnham & District by a few metres to create club history.
George Duggan put Tonbridge into contention in a first stage led by Preston Harrier Pat Dever from Gateshead’s Lewis Moses and City of Stoke’s Alex Brecker. “There were really good runners on the first leg so I knew I really had to get our boys up there,” said Duggan, who was almost level with Aldershot’s Josh Grace at the changeover.
On stage two Gus Cockle took over for Aldershot and Charlie Joslin-Allen for Tonbridge as both runners moved their teams slightly up the pecking order before Joslin-Allen handed over to Ryan Driscoll, the oldest in the team, who put Tonbridge into the lead from AFD’s Ellis Cross.
Then it came down to a duel on the final stage between Chris Olley of Tonbridge and Jonny Hay of Aldershot, with the Tonbridge man prevailing in a sprint finish.
In third, meanwhile, Shaftesbury Barnet were anchored by Phil Crout and ran strongly to head
Lincoln Wellington, Bristol & West, Liverpool Harriers and Stockport Harriers in the battle for a podium position.
Continuing on their upward curve, Tonbridge won the bronze in 2015 and silver in 2016 before gold this year. “It’s a young team and we have a good few years ahead of us,” said Joslin-Allen. “I was lucky enough to win the under-20 race with George in 2014 and so it was nice to be part of a winning men’s team here.
“It’s been a long time coming and it was nice for Mark (Hookway, the team manager and coach) as he’s put together a really good club in Tonbridge.”
A delighted Hookway said: “Charlie, George, and Ryan have won medals here as under-15s. Also there are a lot who are missing from the team who are part of the success. We had to rejig the team a bit on the eve of the race and Charlie only came into the team quite late.”
He added: “Currently we hold the national cross country title, this (relays) title and the sixstage, although we’ve not won the national 12-stage yet.”
The sizeable men’s field charge into battle
Tonbridge (l to r): George Duggan, Charlie Joslin-Allen, Ryan Driscoll, Chris Olley
Jonny Hay: silver for Aldershot, Farnham & District
Matt Bowser: helped Lincoln Wellington into fourth
Chris Olley: secured gold for Tonbridge on the glory leg
Phillip Crout: third place for Shaftesbury