Lilly Coward anchors AFD to victory while Liam Dee leads Shaftesbury to gold at Saucony-sponsored championships in Mansfield
Aldershot, Farnham & District retained their senior women’s title at a blustery Berry Hill Park with two of the three who had won in 2019 – the last time the event was held before the pandemic.
Once again, safety issues decreed that the opening stage of each race was shorter than subsequent legs. Niamh Brown was given first leg duties for AFD and was within striking distance of first leg ‘winner’ Abbie Donnelly, who clocked 9:38 to bring Lincoln Wellington home clear of Newbury’s Izzy Fry with Hannah Irwin for Cambridge & Coleridge next.
Brown was only 12 seconds off the lead before handing over to another member of the 2019 winning team, Lauren Hall, who powered Aldershot to the front, as Rochelle Harrison slipped to second for Lincoln.
Then it was left to new team-mate Lilly Coward to complete the job and victory by 28 seconds over Charnwood, who had a steady start back in 17th. They then firstly moved up to seventh mid-race before Hannah Nuttall slipped past Lincoln to snatch the silver medals. She was third fastest on the longer 3km legs with 9:50.
The quickest there had been on leg two as Kate Holt, the 2019 Midland champion, posted 9:40 to move from 31st to fourth. On the same stage Jess Judd scythed through 43 spots for Blackburn, less than a second slower.
The men’s race nearly had a major mishap on the second leg which, despite its potential seriousness for the two leaders, seemed not to affect the final result.
It had all started fairly routinely as the men ran two 2.5km laps, en route to their 5km stints.
It was Shaftesbury Barnet who came from behind to snatch victory on the fourth and final stage, thanks to Liam Dee after Highgate and Aldershot looked set to fight it out for the win with just a stage to go.
Derby’s Hugo Milner led from the start on the shorter opener and, after one lap, was already going clear of Aldershot, Sheffield and Leeds before extending his lead on the second circuit to post a 15:07 split.
His club were then to slip back through the field as Highgate’s Jacob Allen and Aldershot’s Ricky Harvie shot rapidly to the front of the field towards the end of their first circuit.
Then, near disaster struck as they were ushered down the finishing funnel along with the back markers from the opening stage, instead of by-passing it.
The pair found themselves hemmed in by the barricades and, in a mad panic were forced to scramble over the fence, falling and rejoining the fray, remarkably still ahead of the rest.
They said they had been directed wrongly by the marshals, who ushered them the wrong side of the separating rope. They added that they knew they were going wrong but, fired up by adrenaline, were probably wise not to argue. That adrenaline enabled their subsequent gymnastics to occur without injury and they then sent their third leg runners off still ahead.
Alex Lepretre and Luke Prior maintained their frontal positions for Highgate and Aldershot on that penultimate lap before handing over to their club mates with gold to fight for between them.
It was not to be as Liam Dee ran a stormer to bring home Shaftesbury for gold with the fastest non- opening stage of the race. His 15:18 split was intrinsically better than Milner’s 15:07 as the first lap advantage was probably 20 seconds.
Shaftesbury’s senior win had come after their under-20 athletes had led throughout their three-lapper over a 3km course. They had Henry McLuckie score a comfortable ‘win’ on the opener with 8:23 a split that, even given the shorter first lap distance, was almost certainly the best on offer.
The age group races produced victories for seven more different clubs as the gold awards were shared around the country. However, one trio who crossed the line first were denied their spoils.
In the first race of the day, Loughborough Students crossed the line nearly a minute clear of Basildon in the under-20 women’s event and were anchored home by Invicta East Kent’s Alex Millard, whose 8:32 split for their 2.5km lap was the fastest of the race.
However, they were then reminded of the rule that university and college club outfits who have a mixture of first claimers from UKA affiliated clubs are not eligible for medals. Given that they had paid their entry fees like everybody else, it seemed somewhat unfair, but the entry rules are clear in this respect.
Elsewhere in the age group races, Liverpool Harriers again placed first and second in the under-13 girls’ event, both trios going away with medals, whilst Vale Royal continued to take under-17 women’s golds.
Liverpool narrowly won the under-13 boys’ race from Windsor, who again had Jake Meyburgh fastest of all legs, as he has been in every recent race.
Shaftesbury got another medal in the under-17 men’s event but had to concede to Cambridge & Coleridge, although it was fellow Eastern counties club St Edmund Pacers who had a runner with the fastest non-first stage split. That was Ben Peck whose 9:02 moved them up to third.
Shaikira King again ran a fast first leg for Wreake & Soar Valley’s under-15 girls before Zoe Gilbody rounded things off with a 7:02 that was probably a better intrinsic split than her team mate’s 6:52.
The final team gold went to Chiltern Harriers with the Pinder identical twins Archie and Euan on the two closing stages, although Vale Royal’s Robert Price was the best under-15 on show with a 6:25 final leg split that gained 15 places to sixth for his club.
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