By Andy Tong
TONBRIDGE Athletics Club won their first senior national cross-country relay title to crown a season of remarkable achivement.
The quartet of George Duggan, Charlie Joslin-Allen, Ryan Driscoll and Chris Olley improved on a bronze in 2015 and silver in 2016 to take gold in Mansfield on November 4.
At Berry Hill Park they edged out a traditionally strong Aldershot team by three seconds as Olley out-kicked Jonny Hay in the final leg.
“Charlie, George and Ryan have won medals here [in Mansfield] as under-15s so it shows how well they’ve come through,” said team manager Mark Hookway.
Tonbridge have now claimed a ‘treble’ after winning the National Cross Country title in March and the National Six-Stage Road Relay -Championships in October.
The only glory that still eludes them out of the four major team championships is the National 12-stage Road Relay in April.
The club also enjoyed success in the junior men’s race. Loughborough Students narrowly won but were ineligible as university teams are no longer allowed medals unless all their runners are first-claim members of the team.
So Tonbridge were moved up to the gold medal place after strong running from Alasdair Kinloch, Jamie Goodge and James Puxty.
Mark explained his team’s brilliant run of success, saying: “Its taken many years to reach this stage, with some of the senior team having been through all the age groups with us.
‘We have significant depth now and so it’s not just the four who ran in the relay but a mass of others who push each other on’
“Over the past 10 to 15 years we have managed to progress from winning under-13 championships, moving up to under-15, 17, 20 and now the senior events. It’s what we always hoped to achieve.”
The club secured its first senior national title in October 2015, having managed nothing before since the club’s formation in 1947.
And the team is going from strength to strength, with younger runners jostling to gain a berth in an already youthful senior set-up.
“We have significant depth now and so it’s not just the four who ran in the relay but a mass of others who push each other on,” says Mark.
“They are scattered across the country, at university or for work, and we have some based in USA who are on sports scholarships.”
“However, they have all kept Tonbridge close to their hearts and are very aware of how each other is doing, both in training and racing. So they spur each other on and we, as coaches, try and encourage that.”
All four members of the team regularly run between 60 and 100 miles a week with a mixture of different paced training and conditioning.
Mark adds proudly: “They are all 23 years old or younger so they haven’t yet reached their peaks.”
So there is more to come from the quality quartet – perhaps that missing fourth title for the four of them.