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ECCA Saucony Relay Championship report

Newham & Essex Beagles
Senior Mens Race Winners, Newham & Essex Beagles

Athletes sharpening-up for the forthcoming European Trials – not to mention the European Championships themselves – relished the lawn-like going on Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park where the English Cross Country Association Saucony Relay Championships took place on Saturday 4 November.

 

Although the official results did not mention incomplete teams, both Hayley Yelling and Sian Edwards – pre-selected for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team to compete at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in December – enjoyed sprightly runs in unusual circumstances.

 

Indeed, Yelling ran two stages of the Senior Women’s 3x3km for Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC, clocking the fastest time of the race, 9:46, on the first stage and 10:12 on the third, crossing the line first but knowing she would be disqualified. In between, Sophie Morris clocked 10:14.

 

Yelling had good reasons for doing her double duty, explaining that Ireland’s Rosemary Ryan, who was to have completed the team, had gone down with a calf injury. “We were gutted because we felt we had a good chance of winning,” said the 2004 European Champion. “Sophie wanted a run, so we decided we might as well complete the race.”

 

After leading home the first stage, she switched numbers and electronic tags in time to take on her second lap, of which she said: “I didn’t feel too bad. I knew we would be disqualified but it was a good training run.”

 

Behind her, Charnwood AC took the gold medals in 30 minutes 19.05 seconds (to be precise on a day when chips enabled electronic timing to be recorded for the first time at these increasingly popular Championships) thanks to stages by Tara Krzywicki (9:55), Sarah Maude (10:18) and Hannah Whitmore (10:07). Chester le Street AC were second in 30:49 with Alyson Dixon (10:16), Diane Henaghan (10:22) and Morag McDonnell (10:12). Bedford and County took the bronze medals in 30:58 through Rachel Gibbs (10:44), Sharon Morris (10:27) and Liz Yelling (9:48).

 

Liz, with plasters covering the evidence of her recent operation to repair a dislocated shoulder, was delighted to be so close, time-wise, to her sister-in-law. Indeed, she was the only athlete to beat 10 minutes in the second or third stages.

 

She said: “I had two weeks off and have only been back, jogging, for five days. I was dreading today because I knew it would be painful with all the lactate. But this is always a nice event to come to. I’ve seen the youngsters running round, enjoyed the atmosphere you get from being with your club, and had a good run-out myself.”

 

She is now looking forward to the European Trials, which are incorporated into the UK Cross Challenge at Liverpool on 25 November. And she says: “I want to try and make the European team.”

 

Her aspiration is shared by several of the prime performers in the Senior Men’s 4x5km, which was won by National 12 and 6 Stage Road Relay Champions Newham and Essex Beagles in 60:43 from Aldershot Farnham and District (60:48) with Tipton Harriers third (60:55).

 

Steve Vernon was quickest, launching Stockport into a first stage lead in 14:42. Mark Warmby timed the last stage superbly to steer NEB from fourth to first in clocking 14:45, a second quicker than a valiantly chasing Andy Vernon (AFD), who aims to earn a senior Norwich Union GB debut only 12 months after winning the European Junior silver medal.

 

Mike Skinner also clocked 14:46 with a marauding mid-race run as he begins to taper down for Liverpool. His effort on the second stage raised Blackheath and Bromley from 19th to 2nd though they subsided to 16th by the finish.

 

But the most outstanding individual performance of the day came from Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham and District), who is aiming for her second successive Euro Cross having helped Norwich Union GB to the Team Gold medals last December. She whizzed round the Under 20 Women’s 2.5km in 7:59 (7:58.35 to be electronically accurate), obliterating the course record of 8:14 set by Nicola Sykes (Bedford) last year. She lifted AFD from 8th into a winning lead … and was 21 seconds quicker than Sian Edwards (Kettering Town Harriers), whose run-away victory at last week’s UK Cross Challenge in Birmingham earned her pre-selection for the Euro Cross.

 

Edwards led home the first stage and looked to have plenty in reserve. Abby Westley (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield) was third quickest of all, clocking 8:19 in the second stage.

 

AFD won the title in 25:18, 17 seconds ahead of the University of Birmingham with Royal Sutton Coldfield third in 26:13.

 

Other medallists…

 

Junior Men’s 3x3km: 1 Bristol and West 27:13; 2 Oadby and Wigston Legionnaires 27:24; 3 Liverpool Harriers 27:29.

 

Under 17 Men’s 3x3km: 1 Gateshead Harriers 28:08; 2 Leeds City 28:10; 3 Westbury Harriers 28:28.

 

Under 17 Women’s 3x2.5km: 1 Aldershot Farnham and District 26:27; 2 Rotherham Harriers 26:47; 3 City of Norwich 27:19.

 

Under 15 Boys’ 3x2km: 1 Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton 18:58; 2 City of Norwich 19:24; 3 Aldershot Farnham and District 19:33.

 

Under 15 Girls’ 3x2km: 1 Leigh Harriers 21:47; 2 Aldershot Farnham and District 21:51; 3 Vale Royal 22:00.

 

Under 13 Boys’ 3x2km: 1 Holmfirth Harriers 21:06; 2 Aldershot Farnham and District 21:32; 3 Amber Valley 21:38.

 

Under 13 Girls’ 3x2km: 1 Aldershot Farnham and District 22:08; 2 East Cheshire Harriers and Tameside 22:30; 3 Bedford and County 23:22.

 

Full results can be downloaded below.