For those who don’t know, the regional 6-Stage Road Relays is one of the most enduring events in the British athletics calendar and a key benchmark for clubs with serious ambitions in endurance. B+H enjoyed a hugely successful relays “hey day” in the 1980s/early 90s when the club featured regularly in the fight for Southern Road Relay medals. Indeed, B+H’s Andy Bristow still holds the senior men’s course record with a superb 17.07 from 1989. Sadly, the Glory Days were not to last and the 10 year period from 2002 to 2011 saw B+H finishing anywhere from 19th to 37th and, on two occasions, not managing to field a full team.
But at last the tide is turning! The first shoots of recovery appeared in 2012 with an encouraging 16th place, and yesterday we had confirmation that a new era has taken root with a tremendous top 10 finish for the first time since the 1990s (9th), as well as a strong 42nd (out of 80 teams) for the “B” team. This is all the more encouraging when we note that top talent Will Gray was unavoidably absent in France and, even more so, when we consider the raft of talented U17 men coming through the B+H pipeline.
In terms of individual performances, Kev Rojas delivered an exceptional first leg of 18.16 to record the 10th fastest individual time of the day (1 second ahead of local star Jon Pepper) and handed over to Andy Donno in a fabulous 5th place. An old guy standing next to me near the finish sounded astonished when he asked his neighbour: “Is that a Brighton vest?”… so the revival has been noticed by at least one person outside the club!
Andy held his nerve brilliantly to deliver a course PB of 19.33 and handed over to a nervous Josh Mutch in 10th place. Josh showed the results of a just few weeks of consistent training with another course PB of 19.29 and handed over to captain Howard in 11th place. Howard’s 19.11 was another course PB and a strong run given he’d done a 70 mile off-road cycle ride on Saturday. On leg 5, Dimos (the Destroyer) took over in 10th place and lived up to his nickname as he commandeered two places for 8th in 19.20.
And finally, on a tough, solo last leg (20.23), Matt B drew on all his determination and experience to secure the team’s top ten finish – and qualification to the National Road Relays, something that probably means as much to Matt as it does to anyone else in the club. Well done, Matt!
This all added up to the excellent combined time of 1:56:12, just 3 minutes away from a medal, which should hopefully be within reach by 2015 (if not sooner!).
Some great runs too from the B+H “B” team. Top of the list was Ian Crowe-Wright who sliced almost a minute off his 2012 debut with an excellent 19.35, undoubtedly low 18’s to come from Ian in the next couple of years. On leg 2, Phil Caine ran a very encouraging 20.26 in his Aldershot debut as he continues his return from a stubborn injury over the summer, while Zared Xavier left everything on the course with 20.40 off just 2 run-training sessions per week. Ash Witcombe also impressed with an evenly paced 20.13, as he begins to build up his training volume over the coming weeks, while the Noakes twins performed well on legs 5 and 6 – Charlie in 21.14 and Harvey in 23.25.
Great performance from the teams and the A team now looks forward to the National Road Relays in Sutton Park, Birmingham in October.