While Aldershot, Farnham & District AC took their sixth successive ERRA six stage title, and seventh ever, Morpeth won one of the few titles that has eluded them for the first time in the clubs history in claiming the men’s event.
There was always going to be history made at Sutton Coldfield as the women combined short and long legs for the first time with two long legs preceding the four short legs. And both races saw a variation on the normal route to make all the legs slightly longer than in recent years.
It was always hard to see beyond Aldershot, Farnham and District for the women’s competition which they have dominated in recent years.
They set out their stall from the off with Emelia Gorecka (Coach: Mick Woods) opening up a lead of almost a minute over the first leg ahead of Royal Sutton Coldfield’s Laura Whittle (Coach: George Gandy) and Rebecca Murray (Coach: Alex Stanton) of Bedford & County. It was the first two on that leg who recorded the fastest long legs of the day (29:53 and 30:49). With AFD’s second leg runner Georgie Bruinvels (Coach: Mick Woods) also in the top 10 fastest with 31:54 it was no surprise they remained almost a minute clear after leg 2.
It was Sian Edwards (Coach: George Edwards) of Swansea who moved her team into the silver medal position after Elinor Kirk (Coach: Tony Houchin) had put them in fourth after the first stage – the two recording 31:23 and 31:21 respectively. Bedford and County retained third place after two legs thanks to Rachel Humphreys (Coach: Bud Baldaro). Also progressing through the field was Susan Partridge who brought Leeds City into closer order with a 31:02 leg.
Moving on to the short legs there was no change to the medals on stage 3 as Ruth Haynes (Coach: Geoff Watkin) kept AFD clear, albeit with the gap closing to just under 30 seconds as Swansea’s Alaw Beynon-Thomas closed in and Bedford & County were kept third by Natasha Peters. Bristol & West’s Helen Peters (Coach: Keith Brackstone) meanwhile picked off another place for her club to move into fourth. Out on the course Laura Weightman was moving Morpeth eight places up the order with her 16:44 clocking proving to be the fastest of the day and her fastest leg medal not the only Morpeth would be claiming.
This Bristol & West progression continued as Jessie Sanzo (Coach: Keith Brackstone) moved them into the medal positions on Leg 4 and AFD found themselves under pressure as Swansea’s Katie Roberts moved to within less than 50m of Bryony Proctor (Coach: Mick Woods).
Fifth leg saw Amy Griffiths (Coach: Mick Woods) open up the gap once more ahead of Swansea’s Andrea Whitcombe as Kate Hulls (Coach: Chris Frapwell) kept Bristol & West very much in the medal hunt.
Louise Small (Coach: Mick Woods) extended the lead further for AFD on the final leg to secure that sixth successive win. But behind her Claire Hallisey was putting Bristol & West into silver medal position to not only reverse the medal positions from the previous changeover, but also from the previous year as Helen Marshall came in third to give Swansea the bronzes.
1 – Aldershot Farnham & District ‘A’ – 2:13:49
2 – Bristol And West AC ‘A’ – 2:16:44
3 – Swansea Harriers – 2:17:01
4 – Leeds City Athletic Club ‘A’ – 2:20:25
5 – Thames Valley Harriers ‘A’ – 2:21:12
6 – Birchfield Harriers ‘A’ – 2:21:17
7 – Bedford & County AC – 2:22:33
8 – Belgrave Harriers – 2:22:40
9 – Fife Athletic Club – 2:24:15
10 – Rotherham Harriers And AC ‘A’ – 2:24:30
While Morpeth Harriers have a great tradition of distance running the National 12 stage title had always been the one that had got away, until today. The team seized the opportunity to make club history with a delighted Jim Alder, part of the club since 1956, at the centre of the celebrations after Richard Morrell crossed the line first on anchor leg.
On the first leg it was National Cross Country Champions Charlie Hulson of Sale (Coach: Paul Roden) who led the teams home ahead of Bristol & West’s Dan Studley (Coach: Thomas Watson) and the Notts AC’s Jonathan Thewlis (Coach: Thomas Watson) with the Midlands outfit always in the medal hunt. At this point Morpeth lay 10th with Lewis Timmins (Coach: Lindsay Dunn).
On the second stage it was Blackheath & Bromley who hit the front with with Phil Seseman (Coach: Ken Pike) coming in ahead of Notts’ Tim Hartley (Coach: Roy Stowell) as Bristol & West’s Stephen Francis (Coach: Keith Brackstone) put them third. Morpeth moved through into fifth place, just behind Sale courtesy of Ryan Stephenson.
Andy Wiles (Coach: David Lowes) took Morpeth into the lead for the first time on leg 3 as Darren Deed of Bedford & County moved his club up to third, 21 seconds back, while Notts AC retained bronze medal position with Ben Douglas.
That gap at the front narrowed slightly on Leg 4 as Matt Leach (Coach: Phil O’Dell) pulled Bedford even closer to the front, just 14 seconds back on Kevin Calvert (Coach: Lindsay Dunn), with Martin Whitehouse keeping Notts third.
The competition remained tight on the fifth leg. Carl Avery held the lead for Morpeth, 21 seconds ahead of Stuart Spencer who had now moved Notts AC up into silver medal position. Paul Pollock (Coach: Andy Hobdell) ran second quickest long leg of the day with 26:49 to put Kent AC into third as Central AC and Leeds both continued to pick off places, up to fifth and seventh respectively.
At the very front on Leg 6 Nathan Shrubb (Coach: Lindsay Dunn) extended the lead for Morpeth to 51 seconds with Matt Blunden (Coach: Mark Baddeley) consolidating Notts AC’s second place as Central AC showed in the medal positions for the first time after Aidan Thompson’s(Coach: Derek Easton) leg. At this point Kent were lying fourth and Belgrave fifth with Leeds’ Jonathan Wills (Coach: Phil Townsend) picking off another place to take them to sixth.
Nick Swinburn (Coach: Lindsay Dunn) edged out more time for Morpeth on Leg 7. Ben Livesey kept Notts AC second but Belgrave Harriers moved into third in the end stages of the leg courtesy of Dan Mulhare overhauling Central’s Cameron Milne. Michael Callegari (Coach: Craig Winrow) was running quickest of all long legs taking Shaftesbury up to sixth place with 26:41.
Belgrave retained third place ahead of Central with Steve Sharp and Scott Green (Coach: Derek Easton) respectively on leg 8 as there was no change to the leaders. Chris Smith (Coach: Lee Morgan) had come home first for Morpeth and Chris Warburton (Coach: Rob Denmark) was through in second for Notts with the gap now standing at 1:14. One change was that Leeds moved into fifth with Thomas Edwards (Coach: Phil Townsend).
After the ninth leg that gap at the front was staying very constant – now 1:12 as Peter Newton came home and handed on to Adrian Whitwam for Morpeth. Alasdair Watson passed on to Douglas Musson (Coach: Trevor Muxlow) for Notts AC as Ross Houston put Central back in the medals and Shaftesbury now lay fourth ahead of Leeds’ Simon Deakin after being pulled through by Richard Horton (Coach: Peter Bailey).
Musson closed Notts to within 33 seconds of Morpeth on that tenth leg as Conan McCaughey held third for Central but Leeds continued to apply the pressure – up into fourth thanks to Dominic Easter.
The ever present Ian Hudspith opened out a decisive lead for Morpeth on Leg 11 as he came home more than 2 minutes clear of Notts AC’s Aaron Scott (Coach: Mark Baddeley). Alasdair Hay (Coach: Derek Easton) kept Central in the medals on that penultimate stage but Leeds’ Carl Smith (Coach: Phil Townsend) came in 45 seconds back meaning Leeds’ medal challenge was very much alive.
The joy on Richard Morrell’s face as he came down the home straight to take the win for Morpeth was clear to see and Samuel Mitchell made certain Notts AC were not going to be denied silver with the fastest short leg of the day. Behind him Michael Salter (Coach: Phil Townsend) completed Leeds’ move through the field in search of a medal to win them bronze ahead of Central’s Lewis Millar (Coach: Derek Easter).
Also moving through were fifth placed Tonbridge as Luca Russo (Coach: Mark Hookway) moved them into their highest position of the afternoon ahead 6th placed Kent AC.
1 – Morpeth Harriers & AC – 4:21:52
2 – Notts AC ‘A’ – 4:23:06
3 – Leeds City AC – 4:25:34
4 – Central AC – 4:25:52
5 – Tonbridge AC – 4:27:49
6 – Kent AC ‘A’ – 4:27:56
7 – Highgate Harriers – 4:28:20
8 – Bristol And West AC ‘A’ – 4:28:55
9 – Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers – 4:29:48
10 – Belgrave Harriers – 4:29:57
Full results available at www.race-results.co.uk/results/2015
England Athletics and the English Road Running Association have worked with Vinco who will be producing a video highlights package that will be available free to view in the coming days at https://www.vincosport.com/fixtures/6557-erra-national-mens-12-stage-relays