Aldershot, Farnham & District won both senior road relay titles at the national championships on Saturday, repeating a feat achieved in 2011. No other club has managed this double in nearly twenty years at Sutton Coldfield. AFD’s women provided the three fastest runners. Steph Twell was the fastest when putting them ahead on the second leg, having taken over from Louise Small in seventh. Emelia Gorecka was five seconds slower when nearly trebling a lead of 31 seconds and Lily Partridge three seconds slower when anchoring AFD to an advantage of more than two minutes. Birchfield Harriers, the last champions before AFD’s winning streak commenced in 2007, were runners-up for the third consecutive year. Third across the line, less than one minute behind the midlanders, was the AFD B team of Grace Baker, Laura Gent, Bryony Proctor and Georgie Bruinvels.
AFD’s men took the lead during the second half of their six-stage contest. Josh Grace had finished the opener in third with a time that turned out to be the sixth fastest of the race. Toby Smith was overtaken by three international athletes but finished fourth, a position held by Elliot Palmer on the third leg. It was Jonny Hay who put the team in front, handing a lead of two seconds to Ian Bailey. This the AFD man increased to eleven as Andrew Butchart brought Central AC into second with what proved to be the best time of the day. While the Scottish side slipped out of the medal positions on the last leg, Joe Morwood went away from the field to help AFD record a victory of 37 seconds.
The club did not gain any more gold medals during the following day’s young athletes relays at the same venue. The under-17 men came closest with a set of silver medals in the last competition of the weekend.
Nathan Gibson was third on the opener before Jack Boswell promoted them to second, reaching the final changeover at the same time as Leicester Coritanian’s Sam Stevens who clocked the event’s third quickest time. Equal fourth quickest was Jake Cvetkovic but AFD’s anchorman lost out to Ben Dijkstra who was quickest overall and ensured Leicester the gold with 21 seconds to spare.
AFD’s u17 women had to settle for bronze in the previous race. Katie Shiel-Rankin opened their account in eleventh and Daisy D’Santos sent Niamh Brown away in fifth. The club’s last-leg runner was chasing Lucy Jones of Charnwood (fastest at the Midland relays on the same course) who had gone out in the lead twenty-two seconds earlier, Morven Goodrum of Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow (second fastest to Brown in the South of England champs at Rushmoor Arena), Grace
Goddard of Bracknell (silver medallist in the National u15s’ cross country, one ahead of Brown) and Kate Waugh of Birtley (second fastest at the North of England relay). The AFD star passed Goddard and Waugh and was threatening the other two when she fell on the turn into the home straight where she was obliged to watch Jones force a one-second margin of victory for the Midland champions.
Both u15s teams finished eighth. The girls had led at the end of the first two legs. Eugenie Cockle came home 13 seconds ahead of the field on the opener, her time good enough for third best overall at the conclusion of the competition. Tilly Horton managed to stay seven seconds clear of Josie Czura, who promoted City of Portsmouth thirty-one places with the competition’s best time, but Stacey Burrows was unable to reproduce the form that had anchored the same team to victory at Rushmoor Arena, owing to an illness which has affected other club members recently. Robbie Coupland improved the boys’ fortunes five places on their anchor after legs by Ollie Percival and Will Brockman.