With the YDL in the past and Met League just around the corner, the regional road relays provide an opportunity for the club’s junior middle distance runners to run a longer distance without the mud, wet and tears of mid-winter cross country.
We entered teams into all three levels of road relays this year – Middlesex, South of England and Nationals; at the time of this report, its two down and one to go.
First up was the Middlesex Relays at the Hillingdon cycle track in early September. We had an incredibly 27 runners, ranging from Ellena Deakin running in the non-relay U11 girls race up to the U17 girls team.
The U11s race went off first and Ellena completed the undulating 1.5k course in a very creditable 6 mins 32 sec.
The first full relay was then the U13s, with girls and boys teams going off together, each runner completing 2 laps of the course.
In the girls race, we entered two closely matched teams who came 5th (Monica Deakin, Imogen Wells and Jemima Bentley) and 6th (Ruby Newell, Tabatha Black and Evie Woolman) overall in times of 40,55 and 41,25 respectively. In both teams, our middle girls ran fastest, Imogen Wells completed her 3k in 12,54 and Tabatha Black (only a few weeks after joining the club) was our fastest U13 girl in 12,27 and the 6th fastest leg overall.
In the boys race we fielded 1 and 2/3rds of a team. Zachary Payne, Ludo Bellamy and Freddie Bate came home 7th, and Freddie Bate was equal 10th fastest leg in 11,21. Tom Finnigan and Ronan Brosnan didn’t have a team-mate to complete the 3rd leg but still put in plenty of effort on their own legs.
As the afternoon continued, the weather got colder and windier, making it a challenge to run fast and particularly to spectate! Fortunately coaches Trevor and Dave were on hand to make sure all the teams were properly warmed up and ready to run.
In the U15s event we had 2 and 2/3rd boys teams and one girls team. After some fast summer times on the track, Jonny Brook led out the boys race in a time of 10,36, the fastest SMRAC time of the day and 4th quickest overall in the U15 boys. With a strong second leg by Dom Rhodes and a fast anchor leg from Declan Connolly, the team finished 3rd overall in 32,54. Our other full team of Louis Cummings and Gabriel and Isaac Phelan also gave it everything, battling injury and sickness to a time of 35,29 and 7th place. Akash Sohal and Rio Lobo ran for the incomplete team and both ran strong legs.
Ella Fryer ran the first leg for the U15 Girls team and with a time of 11,40 was third fastest U15 girl overall. Beth Turton and Imogen Parker Elms took the following two legs and kept the team in contention, finishing in 4th place overall.
Although the spectators were getting colder and colder, the highlight of the day was still to come, from the U17 girls team of Isabel Livesey, Helena Samarasinghe and Carla Novakovic. Isabel got the team underway with a very fast 11,26 and handed over to Helena in third place. Helena closed the gap and Carla began her leg in 2nd place. At this stage, there was much speculation as to how much Carla had left in the tank after already playing a full football match that morning. However, she rounded the final bend already in the lead and stretched it out with her trademark sprint finish, to bring the team home in first place. A fantastic performance by all three girls who finished with the 3rd (Isabel), 4th (Helena) and 5th (Carla) fastest legs in the U17 girls event.
A few weeks later and it was on to the faded grandeur of the Crystal Palace athletics stadium as the venue for the South of England road relays that began and finished on the home straight, but also took in a long uphill climb in the first half, followed by a fast downhill finish. It also become clear that the course wasn’t 3k but only 2.7k so everyone needed to make sure they didn’t get their pacing wrong.
This was a much bigger event for the runners to experience with 50 teams or more in every age group. We had an U15 boys team (4x3k), an U15 girls team (3x3k) and the now famous U17 girls team (also 3x3k). With some of the runners from the Hillingdon event lost to their Sunday league football teams, we had a new line up for the boys. Aidan Aherne made a quick start in 9,07, followed by Akash Sohal, Josh Poncia and then Delan Connolly bringing the team home in a total time of 39,15, to take 21st out of 44 complete teams and 90 seconds ahead of local rivals, Ranelagh!
The U15 girls also had a changed line up, lead out by Grace Bowden Stone in 10,30, Imogen Deakin running second leg in 10,54 and Ella Fryer this time running the final leg in 10,20. The girls finished a creditable 22nd out of 61 complete teams.
The final SMRAC team to run on what was a beautiful warm, sunny afternoon was, once again, the U17 girls running in their now regular team order of Isabel, Helena and Carla. There were some very fast individual performances in other teams but once again the girls showed themselves to be a well-balanced line up, with only 7 seconds between Helena in 10,29, Isabel in 10,31 and Carla in 10,36. They were rewarded with a very good 12th place out of 37th complete teams.
All three teams can be very proud of their efforts, finishing well up the field against some tough competition from across the South of England, with St Mary’s being one of the smallest of the clubs represented at the events.
This weekend, another group of teams travel up to Birmingham for the national relays – good luck to them. Hopefully we will see many of those who have been involved in these road relays lining up at Claybury for the first Met League later this month, when the proper running gets underway!