Sunday 27 March 2022
By our special correspondent
The ‘24 Samurai’ made their way across the Pennines to compete in the Northern 12-stage.Road Relay championships in Birkenhead this Sunday. Courtesy of Highways England, the journey to Merseyside was far from straight forward, with what seemed like every westward road being shut for the day. Nevertheless, the SEG turned up in force with three complete teams, two men’s and a women’s – an outstanding display of how far the club has come over the last year.
After David’s insightful comments about wide sweeping corners and taking the racing line, the team competed over a mixture of long legs (~8k) and short legs (~4K). With the sun shining (which I gather is a rarity in Liverpool) and a gentle breeze, the stage was set for a great day of racing.
Men’s A Team
The men’s A team got off to an optimistic start, with myself settling into a leading pack for the first 3k. Unfortunately, this was followed by 5k deep in the pain cave and eventual finish in 7th (23:35). James McCrae was up next, fresh off his success at Intercounties, James closed considerable ground on the other teams to finish in 4th place (11:28). Jamie Hall completed the team’s second long leg, and held the team’s position well to finish 5th (23:49). After his recent conversion from the dark side, Matt Fuller ran well to hold off stiff competition to keep the team in contention (11:45). Stepping up from a short leg to help the team, Connor Milnes ran the penultimate long leg. Unlike his dismal performance in this year’s Fantasy Football, Connor had a great run to maintain the pressure on the front of the race to finish 6th (24:37). A fresh face and a late addition to the team, Alex Mason had an excellent run to move the team up to 5th at the halfway stage (11:36).
The final and arguably toughest long leg of the day saw John Birch compete against 3 British champions in Sesemann, Stewart and McCormick. John, a master of consistency, produceda great run to keep the team within touching distance of Blackburn, Morpeth and the medals (24:29). One of our finest overseas imports was up next in Keiron Sexton. The only member of the team not wearing ‘super-shoes’ proved his worth and finished strongly (12:04) to pass the baton onto David Lewis. David’s long-awaited and highly anticipated debut for a Hallamshire ‘A’ team proved successful, leaving it all on the course to maintain 5th for the team (11:58). Cut this man and he bleeds Hallamshire. After some *very* last minute strides, Leo Cossham demonstrated some impressive plyometric skills to hurdle barriers and make further progress towards the medals (12:11).
Liverpool has seen some great comebacks over the years, but the final two Hallamshire legs of this race could be seen to arguably rival Istanbul. Jed Barlett ran an outstanding short leg (11:34), overtaking Blackburn and setting the stage for a crescendo of a last leg. Hallamshire’s very own ‘Aguerooooooo’ moment came in the form of another Euan Brown masterclass. Sergio Brown ran a magnificent last leg to pull the team into the bronze medal spot and record the 4th fastest short leg of the day (11:17).
Men’s B Team:
Tom Buckley got the Mens ‘B’ team off to an impressive start, pacing his effort to perfection, Tom brought the team back in 21st and 2nd B team (24:49). Next up, one of the team’s native scousers, Craig Fishwick, inspired by a weekend in his hometown, ran a great leg to move the team up to 20th place (12:46). Next up and fresh off his recent half marathon, Rob Smith maintained the team’s position and finished strongly in 20th (25:29). Dylan Stevens, a product of Hallamshire’s excellent youth system, had a very impressive run, overtaking 4 rival teams to bring the team home in 16th (12:26). The B team’s penultimate long leg saw a recent addition to the club, Tommy Power, start his Hallamshire career strongly (25:40). Josh Panthradil had a great run to reinforce the team’s chances of qualification for the nationals in April (13:05). The halfway and final long leg saw Wyatt Hill build on his promising return to racing, gaining 4 places and pushing the team up into 16th (24:59).
Away from his favoured muddy hills and fields, Jonah Patton had an impressive first run as a senior on the roads, helping the team to maintain 16th (13:15). Another fantastic example of Hallamshire’s youthful abundance, Seb Muscroft had a great first run as a senior (13:35). Christian Battersby, in his first 12-stage, ran an excellently executed race on the B team’s 10th leg to cement the teams hopes of national qualification (13:01). Hugh Mackie, who deserves a special mention for stepping up at very short notice *insert round of applause here* ran a very impressive short leg and finished strongly in 16th (12:00). On the anchor leg, a battered and bruised Ben Sharrock, fresh off his success at the Coledale Horseshoe only the day before, brought the team home in 15th (12:31).
Women’s A Team
The women’s contingent of the SEG made their way to Liverpool with the hopes of building on their success in the Autumn road relays. At September’s Northern Road relays in Redcar, the women brought home the bronze and this weekend they went one better, bringing home some further silverware (pun intended!).
Much like in Redcar, Laura Jane Smith got the team off to a great start on the first long leg of the day. Laura battled well and finished strongly in 5th (27:36) on the first leg, putting the team in a great position to compete for the remainder of the race. On her return to racing, Elaine Livera was up next. Elaine had an impressive run and set herself up for a great season, overtaking two other teams and in the process pushing the team up into the bronze medal spot (13:26). At the halfway stage, the team took the lead with an excellent run from Che Wigfield-Turner (13:56). In her first race since New Year’s Day, Che overtook a further two teams and consolidated Hallamshire’s position at the top end of the field.
On the last long leg for the team was Nicky Squires. Sixteen years after her first medal winning performance at these championships in 2006, Nicky produced an important run to hold off stiff competition from rival teams and bring the team back in 2nd (28:47). Charlotte Slack then consolidated the team’s hopes of a medal. Using her first senior Yorkshire vest as inspiration and building on her great cross country season, Charlotte brought the team home in 2nd place (13:54). On the team’s anchor leg was Lauren Heyes. On her first race back after injury, Lauren had an outstanding run to confirm the silver medal spot for the team and run the joint fastest short leg of the day (12:38). Over the nearly two hours of racing, the women were just 36 seconds off the gold medal, and with the team going from strength to strength, no doubt they will be back next year aiming to go one better.
For the first time in living memory, Hallamshire now has two men’s teams qualified for the National 12-stage in April. The women will also be travelling down, aiming to produce another impressive run and build on their previous successes on the roads. A massive thank you to the man with the master plan, Grand Master Keith Whitelam, for getting the teams fit and ready to race with some of the North of England’s best.
Race report by Cam Bell