The Men's winter team closed out the season with the Southern 12 Stage Road Relays in Kent at the weekend, finishing 9th in a very strong field. This annual event attracts some of the best squads the country has to offer, and this edition turned out to be no different. The winners were Tonbridge who led for most of the race, after Bedford put up a reasonable challenge until half way, whilst Highgate and Serpentine stepped up to take the minor medals.
We kicked off with James Stockings, who was back from university and racing for the club for the first time since his silver medal at the Essex CC Championships. Tucking in behind the lead group, James looked comfortable for the first lap of the race. The field soon became strung out and James dug in to work his way through for 16th spot and our fastest long leg of the day in 20.32. James handed over to Andy Mariani on leg two, the track specialist being eager to begin picking off those ahead of him. Running a well-paced leg, Andy complemented James' effort by producing our fastest short leg of the day and the 8th fastest short leg (13.32) of the event, lifting us up to 9th spot. As Mariani came sprinting towards the finish line, he handed over to team manager Darren Southcott, who started quite aggressively, perhaps trying to carry Andy's momentum forward! With Nick Torry of Serpentine hot on his trail, Darren ran a strong first lap before settling down and running 21.06. He gained and lost two places at different points throughout his effort and so maintained 9th sport overall.
Next up was Simon Beedell on Leg 4. Using his experience, Simon paced himself well to gain two places and move through for 7th spot. Simon ended up running a 14.08 leg and looked very strong throughout the 4km course. Following Simon's strong leg, Bertie Powell took over the baton for leg five. Bedford and County had drifted back and Bertie was able to follow their leg five runner around for most of the course. As we have come to expect from Bertie, he dug in well but unfortunately lost a bit of ground on his Bedford hare around the second half of his third lap. Bertie ended up with a 21.19 leg as we slipped back into 9th place. Tim Dalton was on leg 6, having driven down from Loughborough for the event. After making his cross country debut for us early this year, Tim was looking forward to building on that performance with his first outing for the club on the roads. As soon as he started, it was clear to see that he preferred this surface as he came bounding down the hill. Tim ran a very good leg to produce our second quickest short leg of the day (13.42) and move the team upto 8th.
Tim handed over to our second Beedell brother of the day, our beacon of consistence, Tom Beedell. With Beford just one second ahead of us, Tom managed to sit on the heels of John Eves, a regular top 5 Met League placer. Tom hung onto him for the first two laps before losing a bit of ground, admitting after that he was 'good enough runner to try to go with, but not too good that it would ruin his performance'. And what a good performance it was, as Tom finished just 6 seconds down on James as he produced a 20.38, our second quickest long of the day, and held onto 8th spot. The experienced Tomaz Plibersek took over the mantle for leg 8. He had used his experience to notice how the majority of runners had started rather aggressively down the first hill, and made a conservative effort to pace his effort evenly. He did this with great effect moving the club up two places to 6th, ahead of Shaftesbury and Belgrave and what would turn out to be our highest team spot for the day. Tomaz was very pleased with his solid 14.06 effort for the short leg. Marathon man Daniel Steel was our 9th stage man, using this as a sharpener for London in a month's time. Having raced over distances of 20 miles and half marathon in previous weekends, Dan enjoyed racing over the shorter distance this time around. He put in another sound performance, matching Darren's time of 21.06 for the long leg. Unfortunately we dropped to 7th spot, but this was the result of a very fast 19.34 clocking from Aldershot's Jack Rowe.
We had little to fear, though, as we had 'Pistol' Pete Caton up next on leg 10. Pete was thrilled to receive a late call up to the squad and justified his selection with a very solid 14.56 clocking. The 800m specialist started well and worked hard to maintain his form as he brought us home in 9th spot, a position we would retain for the last two legs. The club welcomed Daniel Bruynooghe's return on leg 11. Dan had hoped to race earlier in the season but other commitments did not allow it, so he turned up early and eager to power around the Kent Cycle Circuit. Dan had been training well and kept team manager Darren well informed with his progress and was given a long leg as a result. He produced a solid 21.30 for our final long leg of the day and was very satisfied with his efforts. Dan tagged in our last runner of the day, Joe Everitt. Joe had struggled with a couple of niggles of late, but could not turn down the opportunity to run for the club and the A team at an event he loves! Joe took care of the task in hand and comfortably held off Southampton AC. He finished with 15.02 for his efforts and had good support from his family around the course!
At the start of the day, we were looking for a top 10 finish and anything else was a bonus. To finish 9th was a fantastic effort and a good way to round off the winter season. Thank you to all those who ran and came to support, and a special thank you to Ed Messer who helped with managerial duties throughout the day.