It was a history-making day for Heanor Running Club at the Midland Counties Road Relays as the 29 runners surpassed all expectations to enjoy the most successful day in the club’s 31-year history.
The men’s A team lined up the strongest it has ever been on paper and the six duly delivered to claim a top-five finish as the B team also qualified impressively for the national final in three weeks’ time.
Equally impressive, Heanor RC’s ladies claimed notable scalps in finishing sixth while Danielle Smith, Emily Deeming and Georgia Stirland ensured an under 15s girls team featured in the Young Athletes event for the first time.
In increasingly warm conditions, James Mee was the star for the men’s A team, on his debut for the club.
The 24-year-old set off in eighth following Chris Rainsford’s efforts on leg one and went on to rein in the entire field to bring the side home a clear first. Mee’s swift clocking of 17:57 also saw him finish fourth fastest individual on the day.
Dale Annable continued the charge on leg three and at the halfway stage little-known Heanor RC surprisingly led by a 26-second margin.
With big-hitters to come from the more experienced sides behind, the lead dwindled despite the best efforts of Joe Rainsford, debutant Stuart King and Mark Powell and the six eventually finished fourth, the highest finish in either Northern or Midland competition in the club’s history.
Further good news followed as the Heanor B team also qualified for the National final, meaning the club will have two sides competing against the best in the country for the first time ever.
With the top 25 from each regional qualifier progressing to the final, Matt Bickerstaff, Tim Holling, Tom O’Mara, Shane Rice, Carl Hughes and Lee Perkins managed to sneak into the final qualifying position, finishing 25th overall (and fifth B team).
Not to be outdone, Heanor RC’s ladies A team also claimed the scalps of well-established sides as they finished a magnificent sixth.
Midland Masters 10K champion Louise Insley got the team off to the best of starts, handing over to Jill Burke in ninth.
Burke consolidated before Wendy Mullineux, following on from her fourth-placed finish at the Gawsworth 10K six days before, gained one position to pass the baton on to captain Lisa Palmer in 11th. Palmer used her years of road relay experience to anchor the team superbly to sixth.
Kicking the whole day off, Danielle Smith, Emily Deeming and Georgia Stirland made a little club history by becoming the first U15 girls side to compete for the club at such an event, finishing a creditable 19th.
The triowill head to the final ready to test themselves against the country’s best.