Relegation from the top flight for both the Bournemouth AC men and ladies in the Dorset Road Race League marked the end of an era for the club. An era that they once dominated and the yellow and blues were the undisputed powerhouse of the Dorset running scene. Times have changed now and over recent years they’ve fallen behind some of their rivals in the quest for high race placings. This has been brought about in part by a shift in priorities, with the club joining the Hampshire Road Race League as well and focusing on competitions like the Southern Road Relays.
Last season it proved extremely difficult to get teams out for the Dorset Road Race League, let alone ones that can compete with other big clubs in the region. The good news though is that this is the dawning of a new era and its going to be one where the club fully intends to compete on all fronts and there will be new methods brought in to try to encourage participation in races. The team ethic needs to be brought back into the equation and the importance of these league races will be communicated to all members.
One plus point of dropping down to the second tier was the fact that they now only need four men to form a scoring team instead of five. That will be a real bonus as it will make it easier to hit the mark and easier to get a full team in the upper end of the field.
There surely can be no better way of seeing the New Year in though than running up Gravel Hill twice!! That’s what Dorset runners tell themselves every year anyway when they line up for The Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon on New Year’s Day morning. It’s certainly a great way to blow the cobwebs away after a heavy festive period of gluttony and partying.
The response to the call for club members to start racing again was well received and Bournemouth AC had one of the strongest teams they’d had out for quite some time. Two-time winner and king of the Gravel Hill climb, Jacek Cieluszecki, was in the ranks. Last season’s runner up in the men’s individual table for the Hampshire Road Race League, Rob McTaggart, was also on the roster. He was hoping to arrest a disappointing run at the Dorset County Championship cross country race at Canford School.
One man who’s been on fire of late and had an outstanding run to finish second in that same County Championship cross country race is Ollie James. He was also likely to be a major contender. Coming off the back of a fine PB of 2:41:26 at the Malaga Marathon in December, Matt Brown was back in the game, as was Stu Nicholas who ran the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon two weeks prior in 2:48:40.
Even the Bournemouth AC ladies were out in force, with Emma Caplan lining up alongside Debbie Lennon, who was runner up in the 60 to 64 category in the Dorset League last season. After making the switch from Southampton to Bournemouth AC, Michelle Dorrington was also competing and would be strong addition to the team.
A lot of Dorset’s finest athletes from other clubs were also in the race. Lewis Clarke of Poole Runners and Thomas Corbin of Poole AC, who finished first and second in last year’s race were back again and Boscombe 10k winner Dion Garner was also in the mix. Chris Wood and Jez Bragg of Twemlow Track Club and Jonny Cooper of Egdon Heath Harriers were also well capable of competing for honours.
Boosting Poole Runners chances of wrestling the Ladies First Division title away from Egdon Heath Harriers, Molly Rasch had made the switch over from Dorset Doddlers. That could well prove a crucial signing for the light and dark blues who also had for BAC member Gemma Bragg in their side.
Unbeknown to anyone in the Bournemouth AC camp, Joe Arundel also turned up. He was runner up to JC in the 2018 edition of the Broadstone Quarter and ran the Chichester 10k in 31:30 last year. He went to prove that wasn’t a fluke by completing the Great Manchester Run 10k in 31:35 a few months later. He wasn’t wearing his Bournemouth AC vest though and in fact hadn’t renewed his membership from the previous year so couldn’t count as a scorer in the Dorset Road Race League.
Once everyone had said Happy New Year to each other and done their warm up runs, it was time for race to begin. The lead pack set off at a ferocious pace, well under 5 minutes per mile. That included Ollie, Joe and Tag. There is a downhill section shortly after the start followed by a hill that leads almost to the 1 mile point.
It was heading up that hill where Ollie and Joe started to pull away, along with Thomas Corbin. Ollie hit 5:02 for his first split, despite the hill. Then he went on to register a 5:11 for his second mile split. The Gravel Hill climb starts on the third mile and Ollie was really strong, going up there in 5:43.
After that it’s back down the hill and Ollie managed to get back to 5:11 pace for his fourth split before registering a 5:14 for his fifth split. He still had to climb up Gravel Hill a second time though. Ollie took it in his stride though and powered up there with a 5:45 for his sixth split. That left just half a mile left, heading downhill to the finish.
Getting through that at 5:01 pace, Ollie made it to the line in an astonishing time of 34 minutes 37 seconds. That would have been a course record as it was quicker than anyone else had previously managed. Unfortunately for him though, Joe Arundel had somehow managed to go even quicker and it was him who came out on top, clocking an unbelievable time of 34:18.
The new course record illustrated the phenomenal form that Joe must currently be in and he’d simply blown everyone away. Even Ollie in the end and that was no mean feat. Ollie’s average pace for the run was 5:19 which was amazing given the 460ft of elevation he’d faced.
Meanwhile, slightly further back there was a battle going on for third place. It was a battle that Tag had been winning, right up until the last bit of the hill. That was when JC went past him, demonstrating his extraordinary strength on the ascent.
Reaching the line in 35:19, Jacek had come in just five seconds ahead of Tag in what had been a truly great battle. Tag took 4th place in 35:24. They were both quicker times than Lewis Clarke’s winning time in last year’s race and would have won it in quite a few of the previous years as well.
That meant the first four were all essentially Bournemouth AC runners. Unfortunately Tag wasn’t wearing his Bournemouth AC vest though so like Joe, he wasn’t counted in the official scoring for the league. That left them with only two scorers out of the four, with Ollie being first scorer and Jacek second.
Thomas Corbin was the best of the rest, getting round in 35:38, with last year’s winner Lewis Clarke having to settle for 6th place in 36:10. Chris Wood came in in 7th place with a time of 36:40, just ahead of Egdon Heath Harriers pair Jonny Cooper and Jamie Barrington who came 8th and 9th in 36:43 and 36:45. respectively.
Poole AC man Luke Terry completed the top ten, going over the line in 36:52, with Jonathan Churchill of Egdon taking 11th place in 36:55.
Pacing his run pretty well, Stu Nicholas was pleasantly surprised with what he was able to produce and he finished 12th in a time of 36:59. That put his average pace for the run at 5:40. Dion Garner was the next man to arrive at the finish, taking 13th place in a time of 37:05.
That was just enough to edge him ahead of Matt Brown who came 14th in 37:07. That was an excellent run from Matt and he was officially Bournemouth AC’s fourth scorer, completing their team for the Dorset League Second Division. That meant that even without Joe and Tag scoring for them, the yellow and blues still had a lower scoring first four than any other club, including those in the First Division.
It was a truly dominant display that showed that with the talent they have at their disposal, they should not be out of the top division. They should be up there challenging for league titles. As it stands though, the target will be to top the table and gain promotion back to the top flight.
Jack Galloway and Jez Bragg gave Twemlow Track Club their second and third scorers, taking 15th and 16th positions with both recording a time of 37:10. Liam Openshaw, Charlie Collins and Dave Hicks then completed the scoring team for Poole AC taking 17th, 18th and 19th positions. That was enough to give Poole AC the win in the First Division.
Champions Egdon Heath Harriers had to settle for second place on this occasion, with Twemlow Track Club taking third and Poole Runners getting fourth.
Ricky Brennan was next in for BAC and he crossed the line in 41:22 which put him in 48th place in the overall standings. Had Bournemouth AC been in the top division, Ricky would have been fifth scorer and it terms of league places, he came in 41st. That would have meant BAC would have just been edged out by Poole AC for top spot.
That was all hypothetical though as they easily topped the Second Division standings. Wimborne AC were a distant second and Purbeck Runners came third.
Emma Caplan was third female over the line and 58th overall in a time of 41:50. She was also first vet so was awarded a trophy for that. Isabel Davis of Pubeck Runners was first female, getting round in 40:09 which put her 41st overall. Molly Rasch arrived shortly after to take the second lady spot in 40:40.
Caroline Wilkins was second scorer for Poole Runners and fourth female in 42:45 which put her 74th overall. Hayley Martin of Poole AC was fifth female in 43:44 and she was 83rd overall. Gemma Bragg was third scorer for Poole Runners and she got over the line as 6th lady in 43:56. That put her 87th.
In previous years that would have been a wrap and a win for Poole Runners but one of the recent rule changes meant that ladies teams in the top division needed four to score. Therefore, it wasn’t done and dusted yet for the Poole Runners women.
Julie Wargent of Egdon Heath Harriers was 7th female, completing the course in 44:17 which put her in 94th place overall. She was first in the 50 to 59 category. Lauren Baker-Little of Poole Runners crossed the line in 44:40 to confirm the victory for them. She was 8th lady and 101st overall.
Aidan Marlin was the next Bournemouth AC member to arrive at the finish. He ran the first couple of miles really fast at 6:05 minute mile pace but he started to find it pretty tough going once he hit Gravel Hill. For a newcomer to the race, the steep gradient and the relentless nature of the climb can easily take you by surprise.
Aidan battled on though and made it to the line in 45:05 which put him 111th overall. His average pace came out as 6:47 which wasn’t bad considering the elevation he had to overcome.
Michelle Dorrington was second scorer for Bournemouth AC and she paced her run pretty well to get to the line in 47:03 making her 14th female. That put her 139th overall and her average pace of 7:10 was pretty strong on a course like that.
Easily the most reliable woman in the ranks last season, Debbie Lennon was back to begin a new season and vie for top spot in the 60 to 64 category once again. She got off to a reasonable start, finishing as 21st female and clocking a time of 49:27 which put her 173rd overall.
She was just over a minute off her Broadstone Quarter time last year so she still has a way to go to hit top form but that’s understandable given the amount of time she had out. She also came second in the 60 to 69 category, with Heather Khoshnevis once again claiming top spot in that category.
They had a great battle for the 60 to 64 category win in the league last season but Debbie will need to get back to her best soon if she’s going to have a chance of edging Heather out for that prize in next year’s award ceremony.
That was enough to seal the win the Second Division for the Bournemouth AC ladies and it was great to see them get off to a great start and there is hope that this could be the beginning of a resurgence for the yellow and blues. Purbeck Runners finished second, with Lytchett Manor Striders third and Wimborne AC fourth.
Egdon Heath Harriers finished second to Poole Runners in the First Division but they were a long way behind and will need to improve in subsequent fixtures if they are to continue their reign as champions into the 2025 season.
As is tradition at the Broadstone Quarter, the presentation for the previous season took place after the race and, although she lost out in the 60 to 64 category, Debbie still collected the prize for highest placed female for Bournemouth AC.
Taking 176th place overall, Jud Kirk got over the line in 49:39 and in terms of league placings, that put him 123rd and 2nd in the 65 to 69 category behind Colin Bird of Egdon Heath Harriers. He finished 115th for the league in 48:14.
Next over the line from a Bournemouth AC perspective was Nikki McTaggart who took 234th place in 54:18. That was close to five minutes quicker than the time she recorded in the 2017 Broadstone Quarter race so that illustrated how much she’s improved since then. That was despite nearly seeing last night’s takeaway again whilst she was going up Gravel Hill, twice!
She was 38th placed female overall and 31st in terms of league placings. In the 35 to 39 category for the league, she finished third, so all-in-all, it was a solid start to the year for Nikki.
Concluding the race from a Bournemouth AC perspective, Sam White came in just under the hour in chip time to take 317th place in 59:55. She was 77th female and 23rd in the 50 to 59 category. In terms of league placings, she was 57th and she was 9th in the 55 to 59 category.
It was definitely a ‘start as you mean to go on’ situation for Bournemouth AC as both their men and women opened the season with a win. With 11 fixtures left to go though, there is still a lot of hard work ahead of them if they are to gain promotion back to the top flight. It’s certainly well within their capability though, provided they can stay focused and keep getting teams out for forthcoming races. If they can do that, they’ll be well on the way toward putting BAC back where they belong, which is of course, at the very top.