April 19, 2014
It’s the year of Elswick Harrier’s 125th anniversary, and for their annual Good Friday Relay races they really pulled out all the stops; with a brilliantly organised set of races, free ale or cake for those racing and even a bit of summer weather making a guest appearance.
The first races off were the Under 13 boys and girls at 10:30, with two lads and four lasses running. Ladies first: Lea Brown was 10th across the line for the Birtley girls in 10:35. Hot on her heels were not one, not two but three more Birtley athletes; Sophie Bell, Grace Curtis and Macey Bradshaw in 18th, 19th and 20th respectively, a great sign for the future of the club.
In the boys race, Dillon Openshaw battled his way to a strong 16th, holding off four runners that finished within three seconds of him. Like father like son eh, Dillon’s dad holds the record for the smallest winning margin at the National Cross Country Championships! Only 17 seconds later, Michael Graham finished in an excellent 10:21 for 25th place, an encouraging improvement on harrier league xc placings from this season, especially with the upcoming track season in mind.
Next up, Birtley’s Under 15’s were in action. Kieran Taylor placed 15th in an unusually small and therefore extremely competitive boys race, with only 1 minute separating 2nd and 11th. He also finished comfortably clear of his female club-mates, who raced their way to a well deserved team gold after some disputes with the results were settled. Lola Tindle came home in 8th, with Rhianne Bell and Nora Kelly completing the team in 11th and 12th.
The penultimate race of the day was the Senior and Veteran women’s relay. Three teams of three women ran in the Birtley colours, though more than half of them aren’t technically adults yet (I think it’s probably best I don’t say which are which)! Team C had double Danielle’s (Elliot and Coulson) running, with Danielle Elliot battling the B team the whole way on the opening leg. Maria Smailes anchored them to an outstanding 18th place out of 48 complete teams.
Birtley’s B team got off to a strong start with Sophie Forster finishing the first leg in 7th, and proceeded to move comfortably through the placings; Paige Gilhespy brought them round in 6th and Lorna Graham crossing the line in an impressive 5th place, five places higher than the next fastest ‘B’ team!
In the ‘A’ team, Robyn Waugh led them out on her last day as a 16 year old, finishing in a strong 3rd place against her seniors. She handed over to Sophie Burnett, another 16 year old, who hunted down North Shields and Gosforth runners to ease Birtley into first place. She even managed this despite, as she complained, being worryingly told she had ‘miles and miles’ to catch them by yours truly mid-race. Oops. Lydia Turner began with a 19 second headstart on the next team, though you wouldn’t know it from the way she ran. Lydia produced an extraordinary run as she has consistently this past season, bringing the Birtley women home with a huge lead for our second team gold of the day. She also missed the course record by a second or two, beating the next fastest runner, Aly Dixon, who recently placed 18th in the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships, by 30 seconds. (Admittedly Aly is capable of a lot more, she tweeted after the race that her pace was quicker during her half-marathon than today!) In fact, Lydia was the 4th fastest Birtley runner overall on the day, an impressive achievement for another of the club’s young women.
The final race of the day was the senior and veteran men’s relay, held over the same two-mile course as the women’s race but with four to a team instead of three. This bigger team size proved a challenge, but thanks to last minute volunteers in the form of Dave Kelly and brand new signing Ethan Okai three complete teams were out on the day; two senior and one vet.
The Veterans had a great team performance, with Dave Kelly on first leg, Dave Coulson on last leg and Mark and Sean Bell on the middle legs. They finished as the 28th Vet team in a huge vet field, with over 140 over 40’s racing in total.
In the senior race, Birtley’s B team were getting stuck in. Neil Allan had a great run on first leg to pass over to Ethan in 16th place. Ethan’s first race was impressive, especially considering the amount of training he’s done. He even managed to pace it sensibly, something it takes some years to master…if they ever do that is! His only comments were that he was ‘knackered’ and that ‘it hurt’, so rest assured that the sport is working its charms already; I’m sure he’ll be back soon for more. He passed onto Shawn Laws who put in a solid leg to hand over to his brother-in-law Lee in 20th place. Continuing his ongoing return to form, Lee put in another strong two miles for the team, taking them across the line in 18th out of 49 senior teams.
Last but not least, another all-young’uns team began with Tom Goulding on first leg. He came through in 7th, and though initially disappointed with his position, some may be surprised to hear that he was actually happy with his run after finding out his time of 10:51. There’s always a first time for everything eh? On second leg was Kieran Reay, another new signing this year, who put in a lot and caught another position, taking us to 6th. Next came Conna Carruthers, who had a solid run, smashing last years time, handing over to Adrian Bailes in a very strong position. With targets to chase Adrian worked through the field, crossing the line in 5th places and clocking an impressive 10:49 which is all the more impressive considering he felt he could have given more. An improvement for the male A team from 9th last year to 5th today suggests that next time round he might hopefully be running for a medal for the lads. We can dream!
Overall the races were a huge success, and it’s extremely promising to see the depth of talent from the club through all of the age groups. With a few more runners in the younger events we could easily have had a lot more than the two brilliant team gold’s won today. All in all, I feel safe in saying that for Birtley AC in particular, this has been a very Good Friday.
Full results can be seen here.
Posted in Race report 4 years ago