Harriers U17s race to relay gold

IPSWICH Harriers scooped their first-ever gold medals at the national road relays, thanks to a terrific effort from their Under-17 boys' team at Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield.

IPSWICH Harriers scooped their first-ever gold medals at the national road relays, thanks to a terrific effort from their Under-17 boys' team at Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield.

The Harriers trio of Matt Barnes-Smith, Ben Spashett and Sam Jacobs beat the best in the country to write a new chapter in the history of the Ipswich club.

Not even the successful girls' squad of recent times, who dominated the national cross country scene, tasted victory at this event – they managed a second, third and fourth spot.

The Harriers had qualified for the final in style, after lifting the South of England title at Aldershot three weeks earlier. The winning quartet that day was made up of Barnes-Smith, Spashett, Jacobs and James McNally.

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The national final featured teams-of-three, so McNally was the unlucky one to miss out, but he will have a key role to play during the cross country season over the next few months.

First leg specialist Barnes-Smith, a pupil at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, gave the Harriers a flying start with a swift effort of 11mins 57secs for the undulating one-lap circuit (3,873m) around Sutton Park.

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He handed over to Spashett in second spot, just behind Gateshead's Chris Parr, and the Suffolk College student maintained this position with a strong second-leg run of 12.38. Gateshead had drifted off the pace, with Yorkshire club Holmfirth Harriers the new leaders.

Jacobs had anchored the team to victory at Aldershot, and he shouldered the responsibility again with a perfectly-timed run on the final leg.

Northgate School pupil Jacobs gradually made inroads into a 20-seconds deficit and powered into the lead during the final 800m to wrap up a superb win. He clocked 12.03.

Harriers registered a combined winning time of 36.38, with closest challengers Holmfirth five seconds adrift in second.

Bedford & County, who were second to Ipswich at the South of England event, were fourth.

The triumphant trio, in addition to reserve McNally, are all coached by Steve Benson at Northgate Stadium.

Benson said: "This is a magnificent achievement. The girls did superbly during their successful years, but it's even more competitive in the boys' section.

"It was a testing, hilly course. The team did so well against very strong opposition, and Sam Jacobs had another gear that he could have used during the final leg.

"After Matt brought us home in second, Ben temporarily moved us into the lead before he was overhauled by Holmfirth's fastest runner. Yet he kept us in touch with a good run.

"Sam gradually eroded their lead. It was an excellent tactical run and he finished looking very comfortable.

"Now we will be focusing on the national cross country relays at Mansfield on November 10.

"James McNally was very unfortunate to miss out. I'm confident of success with a three-strong team, but when we compete against teams-of-four we are even better. The opposition have no chance," added Benson.

Meanwhile Tom Sharland, another talented member of Benson's training camp at Northgate, has been selected to run for South of England at a European cross country race in Ghent, Belgium, this weekend. It will be the first time he has represented his region at cross country.


Teams: 1 Ipswich Harriers 36.38; 2 Holmfirth Harriers 36.43; 3 Aldershot, Farnham & District 37.04; 4 Bedford & County AC 37.17; 5 Gateshead 37.30.

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