Highgate Harriers celebrate their best ever finish in national Six Stage Road Relays

Highgate Harriers’ manager Ben Pochee hailed the men’s team’s historic sixth-uccess after replace finish at Saturday’s national Six Stage Road Relays as “a real David and Goliath story”.

Finishing the Sutton Coldfield race in an overall time of one hour, 47 minutes and 35 seconds behind winners Sale Manchester, Highgate improved on their previous best finish of seventh set back in 1991.

Danny Russell completed the first leg in 17 minutes 21 seconds and he was followed by Audun Nordtveit (17:49), Shaun Dixon (17:47), Ryan McKinlay (18:17), Murray Strain (17:48) and Ben Noad (18:33) to secure a momentous result, much to the delight of Pochee.

“It’s basically the great and good of middle distance running from all their clubs to try and dish it out to see who’s going to be top 10,” said the Highgate men’s team manager.

“We had a strong team, but I was realistically hoping for top 10. If we could have come in ninth or 10th we would have been made up.

“In the entire history of Highgate Harriers we’ve only ever finished in the top 10 in this event twice before and the highest of those was seventh [in 1991], so to get our best ever performance is fantastic.

“It’s just so hard to get a top 10 in these events and we were only 35 seconds off bronze, so it was so close. There was nothing in it.

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“You’re taking on much bigger clubs – clubs with a bit of financial backing, clubs with a much bigger member base, so it was a real David and Goliath story.”

The historic result follows on from further success earlier in the year when Highgate clinched their first ever Metropolitan League title in February and Pochee has set his sights on carrying this year’s form into next April’s 12 stage relay.

“We haven’t been near those heady heights for years, so to go and beat it [our record] was fantastic. It’s hopefully just the start. I think we’re building momentum now, so we can actually chase national medals,” added Pochee.

“There are two national Road Relay Championships, the six stage and then in April there’s the 12 stage, and I genuinely believe we actually have an outside chance – if we can get everybody together, which is a bit like herding cats – of going for a medal.”

And the Harriers could yet be promoted to fifth place, depending on the outcome of a complaint levelled against an ineligible Central AC athlete.

The result was also something of a double victory, as Highgate emerged victorious from a friendly bet with Brighton Phoenix.

“There’s quite a few clubs like us trying to add something different to proceedings, as athletics is quite traditional,” Pochee explained.

“Brighton Phoenix have a whole host of international runners. They’re a very strong and small club like ours, so I sent them a challenge as they were bigging up their chances.

“The challenge was whichever club finished ahead of the other one, the club that lost would have to wear the victor’s sweaty vest in a ‘we are not worthy pose’, which they humbly agreed to. They were very honourable about it!”

Meanwhile, in the junior events, Terry Fawden recorded the fifth fastest first leg and the ninth overall quickest time on the day to help Highgate’s Under-15 side to 19th place, while the Under-17s crossed the line in 34th.

Highgate’s national Four Stage Road Relay women’s quartet finished 33rd in a field of 77 teams, thanks to Katie Meredith’s strong opening run of 16:07.