Mellow fruitfulness in Sutton Park
National Road Relay Championships, Sutton Park.
Sutton Park in Birmingham was at its finest last weekend, bathed in the autumn sunshine and thereby defying the weather forecast. There was some breeze but conditions were generally good for the senior 6- and 4-stage National Road Relay Championships and the corresponding 3-stage events for young athletes. Our senior men had narrowly missed qualifying from the southern event and we had insufficient athletes to warrant entering the senior women's race, so it was left to our younger warriors to fly the flag for Abingdon AC. Disappointingly, some late withdrawals left three of our teams incomplete, but even so, there was much to celebrate.
Under 13 boys and under 13 girls
Connor Morgan and Zachary Minto battled hard in the Under-13 lads, leaving us 37th of the 61 starters at the end of leg 2, which illustrates that there is nothing to be frightened of just because the race is a national championship. On to the girls and Izzy Martin opened the show in fantastic style, coming in with a 19 second lead on leg 1 in a time that proved to be the fastest of the race. Brilliant job Izzy. With back up from Sophie Fleet and Evey Powell, our girls finished 14th of the 61 teams that started - great stuff in this company.
Under 15 girls
On to the Under-15 girls and not to be outdone Olivia Martin also had a clear lead at the end of the first leg. Tilly Westbrook gave it everything to bring us in 3rd after leg 2, learning massively in the process, but regrettably, that was that.
Under 17 boys and under 17 girls
The dependable triumvirate of Kie Francis, Alfie Clay and Eddie Washbrook came in 49th of the 61 Under-17 lads teams that set off. The same number of teams started in the Under 17 women's race, and two solid runs from Beth Darwent and Mieke Bedlington left us 23rd after 2 legs, at which point it was close of play for AAC.
Baptism of fire
All of the young athletes cover the same demanding circuit of just under 4 km. Some of ours were having their first taste of competition at national level and it was truly a baptism of fire. However, much was learnt and enjoyed at the home of road relay running in the UK.
This is a terrific event to be part of, and as usual there were a few famous faces dotted around – the fastest leg in the senior men's race came from an athlete who only a week earlier had been competing in the world championships in Doha, and there was at least one former world record holder amongst the spectators.
Our debutants have become part of a tradition going back around half a century at Sutton Park - welcome to a large yet still exclusive club guys.