Wimborne Athletic Club

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Drama at the Southern Road Relays – 19th September 2014

Ian Kennedy reports from the Rushmore Arena.


Tom Bourne makes Athletics Weekly

After a hectic track season there is only a brief respite before the club’s middle distance runners immerse themselves in cross-country for the winter season. But before we turned our attention to cross-country, we tackled the South of England Athletics Association (SEAA) Road Relays. As the numbers of athletes in our middle distance squad have continued to increase, and we have developed more strength in depth, we are now more likely to give a decent account of ourselves in relay events … and so it proved.

The SEAA Road Relays attracts a top quality field (for example our senior women had International runners such as Emilia Gorecka, Steph Twell and Jess Judd to contend with!) and it is held on private roads at the Rushmore Arena near Aldershot. Male teams on the Saturday were made up of four runners running either 2997m or 3851m. The under-13 through to under-17 girls teams were of threes, with distances varying between 2291m and 2997m, and our senior women’s team was made of four who each ran 3851m.

It turned out to be a day packed with incident. The first drama we encountered was on the walk from the car park through the woods to course. Quite literally, we stirred up a hornets’ nest! Two of our entourage were amongst those who got stung, Lisa Copeland and Millie (Sophia’s younger sister).

Race numbers were collected and team sheets completed in readiness for the first race of the day – the under-13 girls. Running the first leg for our team was Abbie Lovering who did a great job for us. We were very interested to see how the changeovers between the relay legs would work. At the end of leg 1 there were more than 160 athletes involved in the changeover, all arriving in a fairly narrow window of time … needless to say it was pandemonium. The way it worked was that there was a white line across the width of the road and once your runner had crossed the white line on the right-hand side of the road, then your next runner could cross the white line on the left-hand side of the road. With so many athletes there it was very difficult to see your team-mate and so time was being lost. It was decided that for future changeovers non-competing WACers would be there as an extra pair of eyes to give advanced warning of an approaching red vest. Even this was fraught with difficulty as it was hard to make yourself heard over all the noise of others doing the same thing. The very first changeover turned out to be the most chaotic of all as the field spread out a little and the other races had a few less runners in them. Fern Morrison and Sophia Orr ran legs 2 and 3 and they ran times that were only seconds apart from each other. Forty-fifth team on the day was a good result for a team made up with two runners in the lower half of the age-group … very well done girls.

Since Lucy Anderson arrived at the club in the summer it’s raised hopes and expectations over what a WAC under-15 girls’ team might achieve over the winter in the endurance events. A team of three with Grace Copeland and Lucy Ballam looked an exciting prospect. Lucy B did a fantastic job on leg 1, making up many places in the second half of her run. She was 28th by the end of leg 1. Next it was Grace who tore through the field, getting the team to 9th. Lucy A then took over and was flying, gaining a further two places in the first half of her run. Then disaster struck … Lucy had a serious breathing problem with around 1000m to go, and had to pull up. Lucy recovered her breathing post-race, but of course she was extremely disappointed about how things had turned out. A DNF is always a disappointment but somehow it seems a bigger setback when you’re in a team event. The response of her team-mates was as terrifically supportive as you could have expected. Those girls, although they haven’t been running together for very long, are a very tight-knit group. This is the first time the three of them have competed in a team event together, and their performances showed the huge potential they have … they would have further opportunities to show what they could do as a team in the forthcoming cross-country races over the next month or so.

We have a talented pool of under-15 boys runners and four of them combined here. Michael Johnson got the team off to a solid start, with Tom Bourne running leg 2. Tom’s was one of the outstanding runs of the day (as recognised by Athletics Weekly, who interviewed him – see above). The boys ran legs of 2997m, Tom’s run was remarkable as he ran it more than 20 seconds quicker than his PB for 3000m on the track – this is all the more amazing when you consider the undulating nature of the course! He made up many places and was the fastest under-15 boy in the race. Fine runs from Liam Murphy-Parry (WAC’s next fastest U15B) and Matt Yates brought the team in a very respectable 17th – out of 44 teams.

In the under-17 men’s team we saw the customary grittiness of Sam Davies giving total commitment to the cause on leg 1. Piers Copeland took over, he’s been struggling with an issue with his foot recently, but this didn’t seem to hold him back too much (he was our second fastest on the day). Joe Miles ran leg 3 before Jason Sotheran on the home leg as fastest in the team.

The final race of the day for us was the senior women. Fittingly leg 1 was run by Sarah Orr, the club’s most improved senior female distance runner (by some margin according to latest Run Britain latest statistics). She ran an excellent leg before handing over to Becca Skeats (Scooter) who was able to step up to the plate as an under-20. Making her debut for WAC was Jeannette New who has been working hard at track over the past month. The final leg went to Helen Edbrooke who stepped into the team late on and did a superb job for us (she was WAC’s second fastest women).

Jess Judd poses with Sophia and Millie Orr

All in all it had been quite a day – plenty of highs but a few low points too. We had much to dwell on after this meeting, and plenty to feel positive about as we approached the cross-country season. We all have our fellow competitors who we look up to who inspire us, and even within our club younger athletes often look up to older ones. One thing that was refreshing about this day was how accessible the international stars were. Jess Judd, in particular, took time out to speak to, and have her picture taken with, some of our girls. Things like that contribute to making our day’s racing a richer experience.  Well done team … and than you Jess Judd.


Under-13 Girls – 29:18 – 45th of 67





Abbie Lovering



Fern Morrison



Sophia Orr


Under-15 Girls – 22:22 after two legs





Lucy Ballam



Grace Copeland


Under-15 Boys – 42:48 – 17th of 44





Michael Johnson



Tom Bourne



Liam Murphy-Parry



Matt Yates


Tom Bourne was the fastest u15B on the day.

Under-17 Boys – 55:17 – 24th of 34





Sam Davies



Piers Copeland



Joe Miles



Jason Sotheran


Senior Women – 1:10:25 – 55th of 59





Sarah Orr



Rebecca Skeats



Jeannette New



Helen Edbrooke



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