Harriers Win Silver!

Harrier teams came away with one second, two top twenty places and a top 50 place from this past weekend’s South of England Road Relays held over two days at Aldershot. The junior Harriers that competed also came away with several copies of the top Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan’s autograph after watching her compete!

There were several highlights from the weekend as the Harriers fielded teams in a number of junior and senior age categories. The Championships are open to all 400 plus clubs from Cornwall to Essex and there are up to a 100 teams on the start lines of some of the races. The Saturday proceedings were kicked off with a best ever performance by the Club’s veteran men who finished 11th in the V40 category.

For the veteran team of 4 athletes each relay leg of 6km entailed two laps of the road circuit around the old parade ground at the Rushmoor Arena. First leg for the veteran team was contested by team manager Dickie Wythe who ran 20.47, who then handed on to Wookey’s Angus Henderson to run a shade quicker with 20.43 for the Harriers to lie in7th place overall at the mid-way point. Steve Masters then ran 21.03, and Dave Stanfield a solid 23.45 as he returns to fitness.

Next up on the Saturday were the Harrier’s Senior men’s team consisting of 4 England internationals and 2 top Club runners in the six-man team. Would they better last year’s 5th placing in these championships? Baltonsborough’s Andrew Hennessy was first up on the 6km legs and brought the team home in 3rd place in a time of 18.10. Carl Morris then held this position on the next leg with excellent running of 18.36 to hand over to Andrew Baker to bring the Harriers up to 2nd place with an 18.41 clocking, despite being under pressure from other top runners.

On the 4th leg junior GB international Frank Tickner ran a storming leg of 17.58, fifth fastest individual time of the day, to open up a big gap on our rivals for the silver medal. Jon James ran the 5th leg with 19.06, undoubtedly the best time by a veteran athlete of the day. Then Ben Tickner with a 18.03 clocking finished off proceedings to bring home the best ever performance by a Harrier team at this level of competition. They finished almost a minute ahead of host club Aldershot, who gained the bronze, and were only beaten by arguably the top Club in the country Belgrave Harriers.

On the Sunday, the Harrier team management were back again with juniors and senior women to compete. First up was the U’13 girls team of Sarah Martin, Leah Bowhay and Francesca Allen who ran their socks off to compete in their first ever competition at this level. They finished in 49th place overall and despite being exhausted by the 2.3 km circuit were wanting to run again within 30 minutes of completing!

The U’15 Boys team of Ben Venus, Charlie MacLean, Chris Wady and Alex Wiltshire then managed an excellent 19th place in their race of 3km legs. Ben ran the first leg and managed to keep going despite a stitch to finish in 11.13 and 33rd place. Charlie hauled the team up to 20th with his 10.33, which was then maintained by Chris with a solid 11.13, and improved upon by Alex with his 10.28 to finish just one second behind the 18th team in 43.28. This was a fantastic performance by a quartet that augurs well ahead of the forthcoming cross-country season.

The final race of the day then saw a number of top class athletes including Sonia O’Sullivan contest the women’s races although there was no showing this time from a former regular competitor here on numerous occasions, Paula Radcliffe. Due to late withdrawals the Harrier’s had an incomplete team but it was good to see the Club’s former England international Ann Taswell once again competing at this level when she ran the first leg.