The Welsh Road Relay Championships for all age groups came to Carmarthenshire for the first time as Pembrey Country Park hosted this popular fixture last Saturday.
Elite Welsh and club road runners headed for one of Carmarthenshire's most popular open spaces over the weekend (September 16th). It was hailed as a great opportunity to showcase the county's athletic talent against Wales' best.
The start of the Senior/Masters race (pic by Paul Stillman)
The event provided the chance for both established and up and coming endurance runners in Wales to compete against each other in a competitive team format. Races included a primary school challenge, full junior programme, men's, women's and Master's races - with more than 20 clubs and over 150 teams entered in time before the closing date at the start of the month. The under 13 and senior age group were run in a team of 4, while all the others were completed as a trio of athletes.
The races acted as a preparation for clubs that will be contesting the ERRA National Road Relay Championships in early (October 7th).
The park situated near Llanelli provided a stunning backdrop for the event which has utilised several venues in recent years. In a change for 2017, the Championships moved from their usual date in March because of a particularly congested Sprint calendar in 2017.
Pembrey Country Park has been transformed into one of Wales' top visitor attractions providing a unique blend of coast and countryside, with eight-miles of golden sands and comprises acres of grassland and woodland adjacent to Cefn Sidan Beach. Also, there's a spectacular backdrop of the Gower overlooking the coastal scenery of Carmarthen Bay.
Previously it has been held over the years at Llandow and Pontypridd, with a change this year when it arrived in West Wales. The event at Pembrey Country Park was organised by Welsh Athletics in conjunction with Carmarthenshire County Council and Carmarthen Harriers.
Presentations were made to the top three teams as well as the individual winner of each category. They were presented throughout the day by athletes Dewi Griffiths and Josh Griffiths, Hedydd Davies Chairman of Carmarthen Harriers, Kevin Evans President of Carmarthen Harriers, Graham Finlayson Race Referee as well as organiser Neil Thomas and the Head of Operations at Welsh Athletics, James Williams.
The course took runners on a scenic and traffic free route around Pembrey Country Park. It was designed so that runners only needed to complete one loop each before handing over to a team member. There was a core loop of 2,500m, with an extension increasing the distance for the older age groups.
It turned out to be a rather showery early morning, before the conditions improved in time for the start of the races. Despite a quick passing shower in the middle of the afternoon, it stayed mostly dry for the majority of the day with the frequent showers forecasted staying away. With light winds, it was the perfect opportunity to record quick times and promising performances.
A good crowd turned up to enjoy the day’s activities, helped with the usual music played to keep the runners going as well as excellent race commentary from Alex Donald.
The day’s programme got underway with another look at the upcoming future stars – two 1500m primary school challenge races featuring a total of athletes. The local club made home advantage count in the boys with a one-two individual finish. Carmarthen’s Iwan Thomas won the race with his training partner Ifan Bowen just behind. Kian Wilson , from Bridgend AC got on to the podium following his third place finish. Coming as no surprise, Carmarthen Harriers clearly won the team title thanks to Jake Lynock in fourth and the B team also scored well in second. The other scoring clubs were Blaenau Gwent AC in third and Bridgend AC who were fourth.
In the second race for the girls, Ellie Morris (Blaenau Gwent AC) took the win. Erin Morgan (Carmarthen Harriers) came second and a bronze medal for Alice Davies helped her Cardiff AAC team to team gold with Millie Gold and Lowri Windsor also scoring. Carmarthen Harriers and Bridgend also fielded scoring teams.
Menai’s long journey down South was rewarded as they took the under 13 boys title for the second successive season in the first of the Welsh relay championships. Joseff Morgan got them on their way with Dylan Robb and Harri Morgan keeping them in the lead. Math Thomas’ time of 8:33 was the quickest of the race and led the team home to gold. The Cardiff’s A team (Ben Farrell, Joe Joyce, Rhys Blow and Ben Hughes) won silver while Brecon AC (Arthur Bell, Rory Orton, Isaac Pierce and Owen Griffiths) held onto bronze by only 7 seconds.
1 Menai T&F 38:01; 2 Cardiff AAC “A” 39:07; 3 Brecon AC 39:14; 4 Newport Harriers 39:21; 5 Carmarthen Harriers 39:48; 6 Bridgend AC 40:17; 7 Swansea Harriers 43:38; 8 Cardiff AAC “B” 11:56
The under 13 girls went off at the same time as the boys, with a big number of these athletes experiencing road running for the first time. It was Newport Harriers who came out on top in this age group (Lily Williams, Ceri Griffiths, Lily Hart and Alyssa Baker). Carmarthen Harriers were the next to finish (Faye Jones, Keira Carmody, Milly John and Amy Greatrick) in second with Blaenau Gwent AC (Lowri Prosser, Bethan Key, Mia Thomas and Chloe Hale) closely behind in third. Hale produced the fastest leg.
1 Newport Harriers 40:48; 2 Carmarthen Harriers 41:30; 3 Blaenau Gwent AC 41:56; 4 Llanelli AC “A” 44:00; 5 Bridgend AC 44:20; 6 Llanelli AC “B” 49:16; 7 Aberdare VAAC 22:21; 8 Cardiff AAC 22:42
Next to go were the combined under 15 and 17 boys and girls – totalling in four age groups and 34 teams competing at the same time for the spectators to enjoy. After winning the under 13 title in Bargoed, it was no problem on their first appearance in the under 15 girls category as they won again (Caitlin Gwyther, Darcie Bass and Ashleigh Willis). Menai’s next medals came from the girls who took the silver (Ffion Madi Rees Jones, Abbi Parkinson and Samia Jones) and completing the podium positions were Cardiff AAC (Nia Clatworthy, Bethany Gold and Megan Friedli)
1 Swansea Harriers “A” 33:44; 2 Menai T&F “A” 34:22; 3 Cardiff AAC 35:11; 4 Carmarthen Harriers “A” 35:46; 5 Menai T&F “B” 37:05; 6 Newport Harriers 37:52; 7 Carmarthen Harriers “B” 39:22; 8 Aberdare VAAC 39:23; 9 Swansea Harriers “B” 41:12; 10 Llanelli AC 44:51
The start of the U15 & U17 race (pic by Nathan Jones)
There was a good battle in the under 15 boys as the Cardiff & Carmarthen squads remained close throughout. In the end, it was the blue vests of Cardiff AAC that just took the win by 13 seconds (Lloyd Jones, Jacob Reynolds and Ben Reynolds) from the West Wales club (Liam Edwards, Jac Chapman and Dafydd Jones). A strong performance from the Llanelli AC trio (Samuel Bird, Ieuan Griffiths and Adam Beer) saw them win their first medals of the day with bronze.
1 Cardiff AAC “A” 31:45; 2 Carmarthen Harriers 31:58; 3 Llanelli AC 32:42; 4 Menai T&F 33:36; 5 Aberdare VAAC 33:58; 6 Swansea Harriers “A” 34:04; 7 Swansea Harriers “B” 34:42; 8 Newport Harriers 35:13; 9 Brecon AC 36:35; 10 Cardiff AAC “B” 10:54
Newport Harriers had a promising set of results in the under 17 categories, first taking the title in the men’s (Spencer Smith, Jackson Mountford and Remi Adebiyi) before finishing off with a silver in the women’s (Catrin Phillips, Bethan Wainwright and Ellie Robinson). After a close conclusion to the U15 boys, it was Carmarthen Harriers’ boys that took the silver medals this time around (Tomos Rees, Archi Morgan and Ben Thomas) with Cardiff AAC’s athletes settling for bronze (Morgan Glyndwr James, James Gold and Iestyn Edwards).
Shortly after winning the U15 girls, Swansea Harriers’ under 17 women’s team matched the result produced by their club mates (Bronwen Stratton-Thomas, Rebecca Martin and Mollie Jones) while Menai T&F won their third set of team medals after coming in third out of six teams (Catrin Donnelly, Jody Cain and Swyn Edwards).
U17W: 1 Swansea Harriers 34:51; 2 Newport Harriers “A” 37:16; 3 Menai T&F 37:30; 4 Carmarthen Harriers 38:23; 5 Cardiff AAC 41:14; 6 Newport Harriers “B” 42:15
U17M: 1 Newport Harriers “A” 29:28; 2 Carmarthen Harriers “A” 29:41; 3 Cardiff AAC 31:27; 4 Brecon AC 31:52; 5 Aberdare VAAC 32:05; 6 Newport Harriers “B” 33:12; 7 Llanelli AC 38:40; 8 Carmarthen Harriers “B” 10:37
Jones, Reynolds, Thomas and Stratton-Thomas all won their second medals thanks to their fastest leg performances in their age group.
The final race of the day saw the senior and master’s categories set off with over 50 teams running side by side on the roads of the park. With a team of four for seniors and three for masters over a course of 5.0km, runners came and went at different intervals.
Last year’s winners Swansea Harriers were the pre-race favouties going into the finale and when Dewi Griffiths took full control on the first leg within 400m, there was no looking back as the West Wales club comfortably retained their title won at Bargoed last year. Local favourite Griffiths ran a quick time of 13:46 and it was no surprise to see him claim the overall quickest time for the former Carmarthen Harrier. With great road running also from Jon Hopkins (14:49) and Jonathan Tobin (14:54) in the second and third legs, it was left to another Carmarthenshire athlete, Josh Griffiths to lead the team home for an excellent win (14:27) on his & Dewi’s doorstep event, while taking the second quickest time in the process.
Last year’s runners up Cardiff AAC (Matt Clowes, Carwyn Jones, Jac Smith and James Thie) had to settle for third this time around, as a strong Swansea team also saw them claim the silver medals thanks to their B team (Marc Hobbs, Jack Gooch, Liam Lloyd and Ian Harris).
There was further success for the women’s team in the white vest, as they also won with ease for a successive year from their rivals by nearly 7 minutes. The team consisted of Kate Roberts (17:48), Caryl Jones (17:03), Andrea Whitcome (17:21) and Alaw Beynon-Thomas (17:04). They also completed the four fastest times of the race.
A great performance by all these top class runners, watched on by many of Wales’ talented youngsters.
Also in the senior women’s age group, Lliswerry Runners were awarded with the silver (Sandra Chipper, Emma Wookey, Antoinette Dumayne and Nicky Collin) while the Amman Valley Harriers quartet enjoyed a fine run in third (Luticia Thomas, Clara Davies, Llinos Jones and Rachel Davies)
In the masters 35, there were team wins for Amman Valley Harriers (Tanwen Randell-Davies, Rachel Allcock and Naomi Williams) and Swansea Harriers (Wayne Bowen, Raul Reismann and Charles Walsh) for men and women respectively. Parc Bryn Bach Running Club were the second male team home (Michael Cope, Gavin Patterson and Stephen Mathers) and Newport Harriers in third (Richard Jones, Gareth Knight and Kevin Seville). Parc Bryn Bach made it a double in the women’s (Julie Cashell, Kelly Collins and Rachel Lewis) while the Port Talbot Harriers A team won bronze medals (Mandy Morris, Anna Parsons and Helen Jones)
After winning two set of silver medals in the 35+, they went one better in the master 45 women as they won the overall age group (Sian McGoldrick, Keri-Lyn Jones and Sharon Newell). The Carmarthen Harriers ladies completed the course in second (Louise Jones-Evans, Elizabeth Davies and Gill Edwards) with the Parc Bryn Bach B team making it their second team on the podium (Alison Holton, Caroline Matthews and Suzie Tew).
Swansea Harriers continued to impress, with the latest title coming in the master men 45 age group. The team consisted of Thomas Guest, Martyn Hughes-Dowdle and Eamonn Kirk with Llanelli AC (Steve Williams, Ian Webb and Jason Price) picking up second and Aberdare VAAC (Adrian Lewis, Steve Smith and Steve Julier) third.
Three South Wales teams took the spoils in the master men 55 category: again led by the team from Swansea (Ifan Lloyd, Rob Falconer and Steve Smith). Bridgend AC were second (Simon Osborne, Gregg Newhams and Rob Hunt) were in second and Neath Harriers (Simon Partridge, Neil Horsley and David Crane) came third. In the women’s, there was the only one team entered and they were Port Talbot Harriers (Pauline Williams, Linda Woodland and Deb Chick)
Elizabeth Tremlett, Louise Jones-Evans, Deb Chick, Jack Tremlett, Eamonn Kirk and Ifan Lloyd were all announced as the fastest legs.
Many thanks to all the ever hard working officials, staff and volunteers from Carmarthenshire County Council and Pembrey Country Park who contributed towards a fantastic day as well as all those Welsh Athletics staff who worked hard behind the scenes before and on the day: Alex Donald, Steve Brace, Jacqueline Brace, Graham Finlayson, Kay Chapman, James Williams, Steve Jones, Andrew Jenkins, Darran Williams, Neil Thomas, Jake Morgan and others.
Athletes now look forward to the Admiral Swansea Bay 10K & Cardiff Half Marathon in the next fortnight and our best wishes to those who will contest the National Road Relays in a few weeks time. Attention for the park now turns to cross country, as the club and council will join up again to host the third round of the Gwent cross country league on Sunday 3rd December.
Report by Nathan Jones (Carmarthen Harriers).
Full Results from the weekend are available on the right hand side – Mae’r canlyniadau llawn o’r penwythnos ar gael ar y dde.