Saturday 9 April 2022
After collecting silver and bronze medals at the Northern Championships 2 weeks ago and fuelled by the perceived injustice towards Hallamshire in a former group member’s race predictor algorithm… Hallamshire headed down to Sutton Park with 3 strong teams, great expectations and a point to prove!
Men’s 12 Stage Relay
Run over 51 miles and consisting of alternating legs of 5.4 and 3.2 miles, the 12-stage championship is the pinnacle of club athletics in this country. And for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, Hallamshire had 2 teams in the race after the fantastic performances at the Northern Championships 2 weeks ago.
Kicking off the show was Cameron Bell, on the opening leg so that he could spend the rest of the afternoon streaming the 12:45 kick-off between Sheffield United and Bournemouth. Despite being forbidden the night before from wearing his beloved Soar vest, Cam showed real grit with a very respectable time of 26:44 (49th fastest long leg of the day), handing over in 16th place to Matt Fuller. Although Matt is yet to run a hill in his 3 years at Oxford University, he dealt with the undulating terrain very well, completing Hallamshire’s opening short leg of the afternoon in 16:19. Once again John Birch demonstrated his class with another really strong long leg performance (27:28) – keeping us well in contention with 3 legs run.
Hallamshire’s middle distance maestro, Keiron Sexton, earned his post-race Yazoo with a superb 16:24 – and still without carbon shoes! The 3rd long leg of the day fell to Jed Bartlett, who continued to impress in a red vest, gaining 3 positions over the 5.4-mile loop to finish in 27:12. Making his A team debut, Tommy Power ran one of the outstanding performances of the day. Completing the 3.2-mile course in 15:56 – our fastest short leg of the day – Tommy gained 3 positions to take us through the halfway stage in 15th position.
Fresh from his debut for Yorkshire at the Intercounties early this year, Jamie Hall ran 27:17 to hold our position. At the Northern 12 stage Hugh Mackie agreed to run at the very last minute to make sure we had two complete teams to qualify for this race. 2 weeks later, and now running for the first team, Hugh delivered another noteworthy performance, gaining 2 places (16:11) leaving us in 13th position with two-thirds of the race run. It was at this point that THE Supreme Leader aka Connor Harrison Milnes took to the stage – and he did not disappoint – wrestling 2 positions from rival teams to take us to within grasp of the top 10 with 3 legs remaining.
After a superb run in Birkenhead Wyatt Hill reiterated his fine form with another phenomenal run (16:22) on the 10th leg. The Californian’s Eureka moment came in the finishing straight when he saw Leo Cossham, on the start line and ready to race! Despite using some interesting devices to assist his warmup, Leo had a brilliant run, completing the 5.4-mile course in 28:10, meaning we were in 13th place with just one leg to go. Unlike at Birkenhead, David Lewis (aka me!) ran a sensible opening mile and was able to work through on the second half of the course. Although able to take Morpeth after 2 miles, he was unable to quite bridge the gap to Notts, finishing an agonising 2 seconds behind them in 16:18. This brought us home in 4:21:59 – a full 5 and a half minutes before the computer was expecting us – and in 12th position (10th English team and 3rd Northern team behind Salford and Leeds) – our best finish since 2004 and 2005 when we also finished 12th.
Qualifying 2 teams for the National 12 stage is a major achievement, and Hallamshire were ready to show that our performance 2 weeks ago was no flash in the pan. In only his second appearance for Hallamshire, new recruit Henry Webb led the team off, coming back in a very impressive 29:40 on the first long leg to hand over to Craig Fishwick. Despite suffering a stitch in the last mile, Craig gained 2 places, fighting valiantly to finish the first short leg of the day 57th (17:46). Dylan Stevens has gone from strength to strength this winter – and this was no exception dealing with a long leg with great panache to finish in 30:22.
On welcome return from injury, Captain Matt Craig gained 5 places and took the fastest short leg of the team (17:26). After handing the baton of parenting duties over to Laura-Jane, Rob Smith took over for the 5th leg of the day (29:08) – making up 3 positions and finishing as the team’s fastest long leg runner. Richard Barker gained a further 7 places, taking Hallamshire into the top 50 for the first time, getting the team to halfway stage in 44th position with a time of 17:43. Sam Kenmore ran a strong 7th leg, finishing fast in 29:49 to keep us in 44th overall. After a great run 2 weeks ago, Josh Panthradil nabbed another two places (18:09).
Christian Battersby has had a strong winter with Hallamshire on the cross and delivered again on leg 9 running 30:31. One of Hallamshire’s strong youth runners, Jonah Patton has also had a great winter’s training and racing, showing his strength yet again to bring the team to the cusp of a top 40 finish (41st, 17:35). Making his road relay debut, Harvey Martin ran a blinder coming home in 29:16, making up 4 positions to take us into 37th, and even more importantly overtaking Salford’s ‘B’ team, meaning we were now sat as 3rd ‘B’ team in the race with just 1 leg left to go! Sam Tierney stepped up to race at very short notice and held his nerve to bring the team home with an 18:17 last leg. This meant the team finished 37th in 4:45:42, and also 3rd ‘B’ team behind only Leeds and Bristol. Coincidently the team also managed to pip the algorithm’s prediction by 10 seconds!
To have such strength, depth, and quality across 2 full men’s teams is a testament to how much the club has come on over the last 2 or 3 years and is something we should take much pride from.
Women’s 6 Stage Relay
With a Northern Silver in the bag from Birkenhead, our Women’s team arrived at Sutton Park with confidence running high. 2 long legs of around 5.4 miles each and 4 further short legs of 3.2 miles apiece, all run over the testing terrain of Sutton Park made for a top-quality race– thankfully being from Sheffield everyone was well prepared for the hills!
With Rob on childcare duties, Laura-Jane Smith produced another quality run on the opening leg to come back in 9th position (31:03) – recording the 10th fastest long leg time of the day! An integral part of the medal winning team at Birkenhead, Che Wigfield-Turner had another splendid run (19:15) – gaining a place to leave the team in 8th with 4 legs left to run. Cat Allen consolidated on some very impressive XC results this winter, running 20:10 to take the team through the halfway mark.
The team’s second long leg of the day fell to club legend Nicola Squires (32:50) – who was incidentally also a member of the team that came 4th here 12 years ago. Nicola ran a brilliant race, finishing fast over the last couple of miles to keep the team within the top 10. Harriet Wingfield was on the penultimate leg, running one of the performances of the day, making up 4 places enroute to the 17th fastest short leg overall in 18:58. Team Captain Charlotte Slack was the designated anchor leg runner, and she delivered another fantastic run (19:35) to secure a 6th place finish, bringing the team home in 2:21:23. This is the highest finish since 2010 where we came 4th.
A huge thanks to Captains Matt and Charlotte for entering and organising teams, Craig for all of his continued work for the club, and of course The Holy Lam of White for training and preparing us all for these races.
The crucial factor in determining performances at these races is getting our full teams out, so below are the dates for the 6/4 stage relays this autumn, and the 12/6 stage next year. We want to get as many teams out for these as we possibly can, so get them in your diaries now and do not let anything else take priority over them!
Northern 6/4 stage: Weekend of the 24/25 September 2022
National 6/4 stage: 8 October 2022
Northern 12/6 stage: Weekend of the 25/2 March 2023
National 12/6 stage: 15 April 2023
Full results can be found here