17 Mar The Eightlane Week 10/3/13 – Athletics News Update

We’ve a relatively short Eightlane round-up this time, with the cross country and indoor track seasons having drawn to a close and the spring road relays almost upon us. It was a somewhat fallow week for big events and news at senior level, but that hasn’t stopped debates raging on the Eightlane forum…

World Cross Teams announced

The week got off to a very positive start with the announcement of the British teams for the World Cross Country Championships. Expectations were fairly low, given the recent hard line stance taken and the 1500m European Indoor selection issues fresh in the memory, but, after a hard fought battle at Cofton Park, British Athletics demonstrated a big commitment to the event and to endurance running by naming virtually full teams (only the senior men, where athletes had declined selection, have an incomplete line up). This is obviously great news, as, regardless of the results out in Poland next weekend, it’s absolutely vital that events like the World Trials have a genuine carrot on offer for the country’s best if standards are to be raised, and carrots don’t come any bigger than a national team vest at a global championships.

English Schools XC

The domestic cross country season pretty much drew to a close with the English Schools championships, held at Catton Hall in Derbyshire and, as is often the case, it was the Senior Boys’ race that drew the attention of the Eightlane forumistas. Matthew Shirling of Merseyside and Liverpool Harriers, one of the most discussed athletes on the forum, took the honours, showing a fine return to form on the country ahead of the upcoming track season.

Clearly there is always a huge focus on the exploits of U17s and U20s, not least from their peers, who enjoy predicting the outcome of races often months ahead of time, but, as RTBBH and Tim Grose have been discussing, the extent to which junior exploits are likely to lead on to senior success is certainly up for debate. Probably the best way to look at it is that athletes will always peak at different ages and different times and, while it might be preferable for that to be at senior level, if, as in the case of Steve Binns, it’s at a younger age then so be it. Surely the most important issue is for athletes to enjoy their training and if that leads on to national titles and raised expectations it’s hardly a bad thing.

Regional Road Relays

Eightlane has always been the number one destination for those wanting to “debate” the prospects of the various candidates for the regional and national road relays and this year is no different. While the national 12 and 6 stage event is, of course, iconic (with anyone who’s anyone in British endurance running over the past 40 years having ran the Sutton Park course), it’s often the case that next weekend’s regional qualifiers are the more keenly contested. Indeed, some clubs (WGEL?) appear to covet the regional title more than the national, or at least see them as events at which they can target a win.

As ever, there have been some suggestions that runners don’t like travelling for team events, especially when the legs are contested over non-standard distances, and that the concept or format may need a rethink. While this may be the case with some clubs, especially those with a small pool from which to select their 12, if it’s a widespread view it would be a real pity. While running is, 90% of the time, an individual sport, the pleasure to be gained from joining together with teammates to compete against others is hard to replicate. For those runners fiercely committed to their clubs, there’s nothing that brings out their talents more than pulling on their club vest as part of a relay team. Just ask the likes of Dave Norman and Matt Barnes at Altrincham how “relevant” the team relays are, and you’ll see.

Keep a close eye on the forum for all the latest news on the runners and riders and watch out for terrymcc as he seeks to nobble all the other squads in the south and gain that all important psychological edge.

Eric Hughes

Finally, this week saw the passing of one of the longest serving club officials in the country. Eric Hughes had been involved with Sale Harriers since the 1960s when he formed the women’s section, an act that led to his team becoming the most successful club in the history of the UKWL and representing the UK in European competition on countless occasions. Eric also served as a divisional secretary in the league and also held numerous other committee positions over decades of commitment to the sport.

Athletics was, alongside Manchester City, Eric’s big passion in life and he was totally dedicated to ensuring that the athletes that he coached and then team managed got the very best out of themselves, which often led on to success for the club that he loved so much.

Volunteers of Eric’s generation gave their time and efforts selflessly and it is really important that their efforts are acknowledged, as without them we wouldn’t have the sport that we all enjoy today. Having known Eric for 18 years since I first turned up at Sale’s Wythenshawe Park track as a clueless 14 year-old and having worked closely with him on the club committee for the past 10 years, from a personal perspective I can say that he will be sorely and sadly missed.