10 Apr Preview // National 12 & 6 Stage Road Relays
Up until seven weeks ago, Notts AC were one of the biggest and most prestigious clubs in the country without a national title in the trophy cabinet.
Established in 1928, the Midlands outfit may have been one of the most consistent performers in national competition over the last ten years but they’ve been pipped to the post on too many occasions to mention.
All that changed at Parliament Hill, though, as the perennial bridesmaids finally struck gold on the mud at the English National Cross Country. And now the men in green and white are hungry for more bling.
Having bagged gold by a whopping five minutes at the Midland Counties relays two weeks ago, Notts are looking to continue the momentum with victory on the roads at Sutton Park this weekend in the ERRA National 12 Stage Road Relays.
Team manager, Mick Robinson, has been there, seen it and done it all over the years and remains very much the driving force behind the Notts AC scene.
Delighted to see his charges grab first-place in the capital, Mick’s attentions, along with the team, are now firmly fixed towards the mouth-watering prospect of more silverware to add to the mantlepiece at 4:30pm tomorrow afternoon.
“You’re never going to get a prediction out of me – but we’re looking forward to it with great relish. We have a good team and will definitely be competitive. But it’s difficult to say we’re odds on to do this, that or the other and so we’ll go out and do the best we can.”
In stark contrast, it isn’t too difficult to hazard a guess at which way the women’s race might swing – even with the addition of two long legs in what is a trial run for 2015 and the absence of a certain National Cross Country champion.
Two long stages of 8.96k will be followed by four legs of 5.14k but don’t bet against Aldershot, Farnham and District repeating last year’s triumph as they look to make it six-successive victories even without Lily Partridge, who has 10,000m action Stateside in her sights.
Last year’s runners-up, Swansea Harriers will look to challenge and chip away at any kinks in the armory whilst Birchfield Harriers, Midland champions Bristol & West and North of England winners, Leeds City, should be in the medal mix.
Attempting to properly preview the runners and riders for twelve stage success, on the other hand, is a pointless task that poses more questions than answers – but let’s bandy some names around for shits and giggles regardless.
Are Notts AC favourites in the men’s race this weekend? The fact it’s not quite so black and white adds to the intrigue.
Leeds City can lay claim to being undisputed kings of the relays over the past decade. And with the Yorkshire side securing their third-successive Northern title in Liverpool two weeks ago, they will be looking to mirror that feat with a third-consecutive title tomorrow afternoon.
Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers were dominant in victory at the South of England Championships in Milton Keynes but will they manage to get such a competitive twelve out again? Aldershot, Farnham and District have delivered medals when it matters but generally in team events of lesser numbers whilst Morpeth have the depth and experience of silver and bronze medals over the last five years to add credibility to their case.
With Newham and Essex Beagles likely to be missing a number of big-hitters, outside medal bets could include Central AC, Kent AC, Bedford & County and Sale Harriers.
Returning to Notts AC to finish and for Mick Robinson, his task of managing the team never tires. Whilst others struggle to regularly get their best sides together, consistency and perseverance have proven key in the team’s recent success.
“It’s never difficult getting the lads together. They’re a committed bunch and we’ve no prima donnas. Team managing is an easy job and I get a big kick out of seeing the lads having fun alongside the success.
The buzz in the club tent at races is brilliant. We have something special at the moment but realise it’s a cyclical thing so we’re going to enjoy it while it lasts.”
The action kicks off with the men’s race at 12:00pm swiftly followed by the women’s event at 12:20pm.
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Photo: Bryan Mills