Beautiful autumn weather greeted us in the Quarry as the runners lined up for this year’s Shrewsbury Relays. A total of four girls’ teams and six boys’ teams were contesting this year’s event, from Shrewsbury, Sedbergh and Adams’ Grammar.
In a change to previous years, this time there were three separate routes across the six-leg (for the boys) and four-leg (for the girls) relay race. The shortest leg (legs 1 and 4) comprised a simple out-and-back route from the suspension bridge to Kingsland Bridge and back, a total of 1.2km, and dead flat. The longest leg (legs 2 and 5 in the boys’ race, just leg 2 in the girls’) was 2.5km and took in several hills, the toughest of which went from Pengwern Boat Club up the steep bank to Oldham’s Gap. The medium-distance route (legs 3 and 6 for the boys, just 3 for the girls) was just under 2km, cutting out a couple of the larger hills of the long leg.
In the girls’ race, Abi Attenborough (MSH UVI) in the RSSH ‘A’ team set out strongly but struggled to keep the pace set by Libby Hedges (G 3) for RSSH’s ‘C’ team, who finished the first leg in 4:01, just over 20 seconds ahead of her nearest rival – an astonishing effort from this promising Third Former. Sedbergh’s team started slowly, finding themselves in 4th position after the first leg, and had their work cut out to stay competitive, but they did, thanks to a very strong second leg.
In the RSSH ‘A’ team, Tory Mobley (EDH UVI) had a cracking run in the long leg, setting the fastest time of the day over that distance in 10:33. It’s clear that Tory is coming back into considerable form at the moment. This effort placed the ‘A’ team back in the lead, after the ‘B’ dropped back as a result of an injury to Rosie Davies (EDH 3), who nevertheless struggled through bravely to finish her leg. Sophia Dixon (MSH 3) ran extremely strongly for the ‘C’ team over this leg, meanwhile, in a time of 10:36 – only three seconds slower than the pace set by Tory Mobley.
At this point in the race, RSSH ‘A’ had established a commanding lead, with a superb run from Sally Joyce (G LVI) over the medium-distance course, in 7:31 – the fastest girls’ effort over that distance of the day. Sedbergh were over 90 seconds back at this point, and the only question mark of the race order was whether they would hold off the RSSH ‘C’ team, who were nine seconds behind with one leg to go.
That final leg was dominated by Olivia Papaioannou (EDH LVI) for RSSH ‘A’, who ran a fantastic leg of 3:58 (faster than several of the boys managed over the same distance) to take the gold medal for Shrewsbury School. Sedbergh had a very strong final leg and took silver. Third place went to the ‘C’ team, 30 seconds behind, while the RSSH ‘B’ team took 4th less than a minute behind that.
In the boys’ race, an early lead was established by RSSH’s ‘A’ team under Charlie Rogers (Rb LVI), who set a blistering pace with his short leg in 3:22, which ended up being the fastest short lap of the day. Sedbergh were in close contention though, about 12 seconds behind, and in the second leg, Charlie Tait-Harris (S V) struggled to maintain his lead. At the end of this long leg, Sedbergh had closed the gap to just two seconds (partly through Charlie getting a bit confused by the route). Adams’ Grammar were dropping back and at this point found themselves trailing by around 30 seconds, and continued to fall behind over the remainder of the race, but retained their position in 3rd, ahead of RSSH’s ‘B’ team.
Will Hayward (R V) worked very hard to retain the RSSH lead over Sedbergh in the 3rd leg, after which we found ourselves seven seconds ahead – another gritty performance from Will who showed a real none-shall-pass attitude. Alex Shaw (Ch UVI) in the second short leg found the going nice and easy, but the competition a little closer than he’d like – his time of 3:36 to Sedbergh’s leg of exactly the same time meant that it was everything to play for as Theo Clarke (S UVI) set off for the final long leg.
Theo struggled to hold off Sedbergh’s star runner of the day, John Campbell, who appeared to be taking chunks out of Theo’s lead with every hill. He was finally caught going up the steep verge up to Oldham’s Gap – perhaps the infamously hilly terrain around Sedbergh gave them an advantage here – and Theo finished his leg six seconds behind.
Everything was down to Oscar Dickins (R V) on the final, medium distance lap. He set off at a tremendous pace, and had caught his man by halfway round the course. It seemed he was destined for a great victory, but Sedbergh’s runner ran a terrific race and stuck to him like glue. The effort Oscar had expunged to make up the gap started to tell in the closing stages of the leg, and Sedbergh once more took the lead. Oscar had nothing to answer, and finished just five seconds behind. There was some consolation for him in learning that he had managed the fastest leg over that distance (5:58), but not much! A fantastic race to watch, and though it was tough to be beaten so narrowly, we had to hand it to Sedbergh, who ran a tactical but very gutsy race and who ultimately deserved the win.
There were plenty of positives for RSSH though; the boys had shown real heart and there were some excellent individual performances among this team reconstituted after a sickness bug had decimated our squad overnight; and of course our girls showed their huge promise for the year ahead with their first major victory of the season – the first of many, I am sure.
It should also be noted that there were also some great efforts by the boys’ ‘B’ team, especially by Charlie Davis (PH UVI) and Naveen Garikapati (Rb LVI) who ran times not far off those of our top ‘A’ team runners. Well done to all who raced.