Herne Hill Harriers placed a very good 7th in both the men’s and women’s races at the South of England road relays at the Open University in Milton Keynes.
After a few years of absence from these championships our women’s team of 6 produced a fine team effort, kicked off with a strong opening stage from Cathy Ansell who handed over in 6th, but close to the leaders. Cathy ran the team’s fastest leg in a time of 19mins and 39secs, making her the 15th fastest overall and was followed superbly by Ros Kieran who swept us through to 2nd place on the next leg. With the leading team at that point having no further runners Karen Ellison found herself in the lead and ran well to get us to the halfway stage in 2nd. With a front loaded team we were always likely to hang on from there, but young Armelle Folkes ran courageously against a competitive field to ensure the club remained in the top 5 after 4 stages and subsequent efforts from Sue Swaine and Suzie Richards brought our team home in a very creditable 7th place which we can expect to be a platform for bigger things for our women’s team in the coming months and years.
Our men have placed in the top 6 or 7 in the past couple of years and had hopes of at least emulating this in the 2011 edition of the 12 stage race. Another great team showing qualified us for the National 12 stage road relays in Birmingham on 9th April with a fine 7th position at the end of a long afternoon which saw us in 5th at the end of the first stage and 14th after 5 legs before working our way forward again. Chris Busaileh got us off to a very good start as is becoming his custom at this event, placing 5th, bang in the middle of a very tight finish in which only 2 seconds separated 3rd from 8th. Chris Peach shrugged off illness during the week to hand us over in 8th place before Jonny Henderson had a tough time against strong opposition on 3rd leg to come in 14th. Under 20 runner Jordan Stokes did very well to bring us to 11th, but Keith Newton was another in not the best of health on the day and after 5 legs we were 14th again. This placed Mike Cummings perfectly to chase down some rival teams on leg 6 and he produced a brilliant run, one that I would regard as probably his best to date outside the track and field arena which he likes best as he recorded one of the fastest HHH times on the short stage in our years at this venue and brought us back up to 10th at the halway stage.
Alan Barnes maintained this position on the next stage, as did road relay debutant James Mason with a top solo run on 8th leg and although the gaps between many teams were now huge we were making definite inroads. Ben Paviour was able to pick up a place on leg 9, before Simon Coombes maintained our afternoon of superb short stages to close the gaps ahead, but when Jeff Cunningham completed our 11th stage we were still in 9th place. Sarwar Khan was, however, one of the better final stage runners in the race and had two teams in his sights up ahead, With a fine run he overhauled both Shaftesbury Barnet and Kent AC to bring us up to 7th, our highest position in a field of 31 finishers since leg 1 as our consistency was as remarkable as ever. This team solidity was underlined by the fact that HHH were the only team to have all 6 of our short leg runners covering their race distance of around 5.5km in under 18 minutes.
We also had an incomplete men’s B team in which Tim Ridley was the hero, setting the team off on first leg with no alternative runner present to ensure the others were to get a run and then after Basil Wallace, Deron Fagan, Sam Knight and Vic Maughn had all had credible runs, Tim ran again on leg 6 to give Vic somebody to hand over to at the end of the 5th stage. Unfortunately with many of our runners elsewhere or unavailable half way was as far as our second team were to get, but like our women’s team and men’s A team they enjoyed their afternoon in the sunshine. A number of HHH second claim runners were in the vests of their first clubs, most notably the 4th placed Thames Hare & Hounds team which contained no less than 5 of our BAL track team runners from recent seasons. Local rivals Belgrave were in 3rd place going into the final stage, but were then overtaken by second claim Matt Shone of Woodford Green and Nick Altmann of Thames and although Sarwar was also closing the gap rapidly our team ran out of road on this occasion.
Full results are at this link: