The 2016 relay season commenced on the 22nd October with the much anticipated Manchester Relays, at Wythenshawe Sports Ground. In one of the largest turnouts in years, a cohort of 30 of our finest athletes made the journey up north to take on some of the country’s best university teams, in a performance we hoped would be a clear sign of our club’s growth and prominence on the national race circuit.
The relays began with the men’s race and Jack Millar led off our A team in true presidential fashion. Jack made the most of the optimal conditions, as he smashed his own 3k track pb, in the process clocking the 14th fastest leg of the relays in 8.46. Among the fresher’s, making the A team, was Dylan Stanway, and backing up his impressive run from Markeaton Park kept us in contention with a time of 9.42. He handed over to another new boy Sam Stevens, who proved a night out need not be a reason for a lacklustre performance, as he stormed through the field, in what was the fastest performance by any fresher at the relays, in a time of 8.37. This brought us up to 4th, very closely following Leeds and Bristol’s Alumni team. It was Nathan Gibson who was tasked with the unenviable job of holding this position on a highly contested leg, but he did just that with his run of 9.15. The pressure was building as the finish neared and Aki Kitagawa gave Jack Allison a handsome position to work on after his leg of 9.04. As Jack entered the final field there was a matter of seconds to our nearest rivals and in an epic final few hundred metres, he managed to hold off a Birmingham runner to secure 5th team home. A mark to be proud of and a statement of our improvement from finishing 23rd the previous year.
Our men’s B team put on a good performance too. This was comprised of a large proportion of Dave’s Warriors and everyone’s favourite alumni, Alex Bradford- they brought the team home in 24th. There were some outstanding runs from Will Patterson (10.01) and Dan Cresswell (9.38), between them they showed that injuries are not always enough to hold back a quality runner- great want was shown from all members of our squad.
Moreover, there were positive performances all round and it was particularly pleasing to see the progress certain athletes had made. Matt Simpson led off the C’s on what has been a much delayed return from injury and he didn’t disappoint with his run of 10.49. Backed up well by his team, they finished a respectable 48th.
Starting five minutes after the men, the women stamped their mark on the race. We had 5 women’s teams demonstrating the magnitude of our strength in depth and with several new runners it was always going to spring some interesting results. In her university debut, Lori Marshall, set the pace delivering a sterling performance, running 11 seconds clear of the field in a time of 9.51, and despite the later start time, she was entering the final field moments after some of the men’s race were starting their second legs. Capitalising on this storming run, Amber Reed set to work on increasing our lead and after employing some devious, yet fair to say accidental tactics by means of a slight corner cut, handed over to Chloe Bird in the lead. A gutsy run of 11.00, sadly wasn’t enough to hold off two very strong runners but not many teams can give Birmingham a scare and I think it’s safe to say we did! A very well deserved medal finishing well ahead of 4th even after the time penalty incurred.
An additional, very solid performance, was from the B team, which brought them a well-deserved 16th place, as all three of Kiri Marsh, Megan Gildea and Katie Buckingham delivered on the day. However in a testament to the depth of our squad, it was the E team who stole the show. Alexandra Ridge switched it on in the second half of the race to run an impressive 12.06, only to pass on to Jo Helme who gave her own performance to remember, running 12.02. After just 3 minutes rest from her first leg, Amber built upon her teammate’s fantastic work with another fine run of 11.43, cementing what was certainly the team performance of the day in 23rd.
The entire girl’s contingent certainly take home the plaudits with all 5 teams finishing in the top 32 from a field of 61. Now, with Leeds relays on the horizon, I’m eager to see who else steps up to the plate. Let this be but a stepping stone on our conquest to university domination!