The National Road Relay Championship at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday saw a resurgence in standard as the men’s 12 stage relay featured Olympians and other international athletes turning out in their team colours and a strong women’s 6 stage race included the national cross country champion. This all made for an enthralling day of racing with a titanic three way battle between the men’s team medalists in what is the finest relay event on the club distance running calendar.
Herne Hill Harriers were well represented with the men’s team finishing an excellent 19th in one of their best ever performances on this stage in Sutton Park and a women’s team which very nearly fell through less than 24 hours before the event held on after a very strong first half to eventually place 11th.
The biggest success, however was individually as a stellar run from Georgie Grgec saw her come home first on a strong leg one, a long stage of 5.34 miles. Grgec beat British marathon international representative Lily Partridge by ten seconds to record the fastest women’s long leg of the day clocking 28:34.
Her national gold medal winning performance was also the fifth best female time around on this version of the course and reaffirms her recent breakthrough racing form. Her next race will now most likely be the Comeback 5000, a track meet of 5000m races hosted by Belgrave Harriers in Battersea Park at the end of this month against another high quality lineup.
With some other stars missing on the day, Harriers women nevertheless raised eyebrows in the first half of the race as Lily Newton and Charlotte Davies combined on the next two short stages of 3.16 miles to see the team holding second place at the halfway stage with their times of 18:54 and 18:58 respectively.
This position was realistically unsustainable, but Sarah Grover, a last minute switch from a short stage to a long one (sixth in 33:00) and late replacements Charlotte Kenyon (20:58) and Megan Gildea (19:47) on the final short stages fought superbly to bring the team home in a valiant 11th at the finish.
The men’s team had a top 20 target and in the strongest men’s field in many a year their overall time would have seen them higher than 19th in almost any other recent year. The team ran consistently throughout the 12 stages which alternated between long and short for a full afternoon of very competitive racing.
Lewis Laylee got off to a good start in 25th (26:54), then Mike Cummings clocked Herne Hill’s fastest short stage (15:55) to hand over to Andrew Clarke (27:43) in 24th, a position he held onto. Matt Cartwright (16:12) moved up to 22nd and Morgan Roberts (27:32) to 21st. 50-year-old Simon Coombes (16:47) ensured 21st at halfway followed by Daniel Shaw (28:13) in 22nd and Joe Elliott (16:39) 23rd.
Sam Bramwell (26:58) then ran a strong ninth leg to move into the top 20 for the first time coming home in 19th. M40 Jeff Cunningham (16:47) moved up to 18th on leg ten and Ollie Mills (27:59) maintained this on the penultimate stage. Ross Brown (17:06) shrugged off a week of sickness to finish an excellent job for the team in 19th place of 57 complete teams of 12 to round off a good cross country and road relays season for the club.
On Sunday morning at the Manchester Marathon, 41-year-old mother of two Gaby Reynolds finished fourth female overall and first W40 with a huge PB time of 2:41.21. This exceptional run places her second on the Herne Hill all time women’s marathon list and is comfortably a club W40 record.
Reynolds has juggled the demands of motherhood and a busy lifestyle to put in the hard training that made such a fine performance possible. Her time sees her currently placed second in the British W40 rankings for 2023.
Other Harriers to finish in Manchester were Craig Duncan 2:58.45, Andrew Dumbrell 3:00.29, Julian Bentham 3:17.19, Mark Preskett 3:17.23, Pedro Henrique Pinto 3:20.05, Ian Jack 3:24.10, Simon Evans 3:40.08, Billy Herklots 3:46.15 and Alison Beck 4:22.22.
Herne Hill athletes have been clocking high ranking track times in the USA. Great Britain international sprinter Kristal Awuah clocked 11.68 for 100m at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational in Florida a week after her time of 11.53 at the Pepsi Florida Relays saw her at the top of the early season UK women’s rankings.
At the Larry Ellis Invitational meet at Princeton, New Jersey Phoebe Anderson ran a rare 800m and ran 2:10.06 for a very under distance outing that demonstrates good shorter distance speed.
Also in America at the Mount Sac Relays in Walnut, California Arlo Ludewick returned from injury to open his season with a quick 1500m in 3:44.02, a time he has so far only bettered on two previous occasions last year.
Earlier in the week one of Herne Hill’s most consistently high level performers and best team points scorers in track and field league matches last year, Isaac Ogunlade made a strong opening to his outdoor season with a sub 50 seconds 400m at Lee Valley with a good 49.91 which bodes well for his upcoming summer.
Some more strong performances for Harriers younger middle distance women have come from U23 Alexandra Brown who made time to squeeze in a PB 1500m race into her revision schedule for her final degree exams at Oxford University as she ran a very good 4:23.36 on a wet and windy evening at a Watford open meeting, while new U17 member Eliza Nicholson clocked an equally good 10:00.63 for a 3000m PB at the Tonbridge open meeting on Easter Monday, also in unfavourable weather.
Finally, two younger sprinters recorded good early season 100m times at the same Be Fit Today Track Academy Outdoor Series meet at Lee Valley as Ogunlade as U23 athletes Andris Thorpe stopped the clock at 11.24 and Judah Wallace ran 11.44 as the track and field season gets under way.