In a very competitive race against some of the country’s top veteran teams, Mansfield Harriers tasted glory as they won the British Masters Cross Country Relays Championship title in Derby on Saturday.
Pre-race favourites were Leicester, who had won the title for the past two years, and Salford Harriers, who have been one of the country’s powerhouse teams for many years.
But it was the Mansfield squad, now based out of West Notts College, that took the trophy and medals.
Urged on by raucous club-mates around the course, all five of the Mansfield squad ran up to or above expectation.
Prior to the race, team manager Steve Davies and coach Pat Carlin had been quietly optimistic about the club’s chances and were hoping to possibly sneak a medal with a top three placing, given that the team included two top runners in England international Mark Johnson and Alan Smith.
However, it was the three other members of the team that really stepped up with outstanding individual runs when the pressure was on.
The club got off to an excellent start on leg one with Alan Smith bringing the team home in second position with a time of 10 minutes 15 seconds, just behind a Coventry team over the 3k undulating course.
Steve Capewell maintained second place behind the Coventry runner on leg two with a solid 11mins 03secs clocking and crucially did not lose any time on the club’s main rivals.
On leg three Mark Johnson showed his class as he powered the club into a strong lead, running the quickest time among all of the day’s runners of 10-05.
The chasing clubs had elected to put their stronger runners on the later legs and, as he set off in the lead on leg four, Phil Shaw was under pressure.
Despite the disadvantage of having to run the whole race isolated in the lead while the three chasing clubs were able to benefit from being close together and racing each other directly, Shaw ran a controlled race and maintained the lead for Mansfield, clocking 11-35 as chasing clubs Charnwood, Leicester and Salford began their charge.
On the last leg Paul Butcher held off the fast-finishing Charnwood and Leicester athletes to bring the Mansfield squad home for victory with a time of 10 -20.
Mansfield’s B team of Gary Morley, Dave Binch, Colin Fell, Steve Davis and Terry Ashmore finished a creditable 16th.
In the ladies race the Mansfield squad of Bev Armstrong, Amanda Shaw, Denise Winfield and Julie Bell finished in 13th position.