Heanor Running Club was the top-performing team from the county at the ERRA National 12 and 6 Stage Road Relays last weekend as the men secured a club-best 26th-position and the women a top-40 spot.
In breezy but sunny conditions in Sutton Coldfield, the yellow and blue did Derbyshire proud at the iconic event in what was a disappointing reflection of the county’s current running scene.
After qualifying for the national final with a sixth-place finish at the same Sutton Park venue two weeks ago in the Midland Counties Championships, Heanor RC’s 12 men tackled the alternating stages of 8.96k and 5.14k with aplomb.
Kicking things off on stage one, as he did at the regional championships, Stuart King performed admirably on a tough leg to come home just outside the top 30.
Tom Roethenbaugh followed on leg two and clocked 16:49 to take the honours as the fastest HRC short stage time of the day.
Three runners from that sixth-place finishing 12 were absent for the final, but the impact was minimal as James Mee and Cory Parker combined to bring the side into the top 30 for the first time with four stages run.
Dale Annable sliced through the field to bring the team into 23rd. Dale (28:41) also clocked the fastest Hucknall Running Club long stage time of the day and ran 40 seconds quicker than on the same course last month.
Gordon Smith, an under-the-weather Joe Rainsford and Tim Holling consolidated the team’s position in and around the top 25 before the final third of debutante Dean Taylor, Tony Weatherson, Daniel Heathcote and Chris Dale combined to see the team record the club’s best-ever finish after almost five hours of racing.
Team manager Rob Rainsford, was pleased with the team’s competitive showing among the country’s top talent and said: “We didn’t put any pressure on today given the number of runners we had missing.
“But every team can say the same and both the teams we had out performed beyond expectation. We’re proud to field teams in both races and finish as the first club in the county.”
The women’s race, which saw long stages introduced for the first time on the opening two legs, saw the Heanor sextet claim 36th-spot out of forty complete teams.
The women’s team was missing influential team captain and British Masters champion, Lisa Palmer, Jill Burke and the in-form Wendy Mullineux, who had all played their part in the team’s 10th-place finish at the Midlands race two weeks ago.
Stepping up to the plate, Abbie Leivers and Wendy Roethenbaugh kicked things off on the two opening long stages. The pair combined, on what was something of a trial run of the additional long stages, to bring the team home 44th with two stages run.
Louise Insley and Claire Smith combined in the middle-order to see the side sit 37th after two of four short legs before Kirsty Hessey and Karen O’Hanlon rounded off the team’s efforts on the final two stages.
Attentions now turn towards the opening BDL road race fixture at Teversal Grange this week before more members don the yellow and blue for the Derby 10k this weekend.