Returning to the same area as the previous day’s Long, Team GB were greeted by a radical change in the weather, with warm sunshine replacing the rain. The dry conditions and the prospect of fast head-to-head relay racing would make for exciting spectating on this forested hill, close to Banska Bystrica.
Finlay Todd and Grace Molloy were the lead-out runners for the two M/W18 teams, with Eilidh Campbell also making the most of the opportunity to pit herself against the other first leg runners in her W16 class. Eilidh had a solid run, with only one or two small mistakes, meaning a respectable top 10 finish and this rounded off a promising debut in a GB vest, with much to take away for the future from this experience.
Meanwhile, in the men’s race, Finlay had lost contact with the pack, following an error costing him a couple of minutes, but by managing to keep his form for the remainder of the run, he left Alastair Thomas with the prospect of fighting for a podium position on the second leg. This he duly did, pulling back several places and handing over to Freddie Carcas with the team in 9th. Freddie then had his best run of the weekend and was only kept off the podium by a strong finish from the Austrian and Norwegian 3rd leg runners, ending up 8th and less than a minute from glory.
Freddie was later asked how he felt the relay had gone and he replied
“It was nice to finish off what has been a disappointing weekend for me personally, particularly with the miss-punch in the sprint, by bringing the team home so close to a podium place. I was set up in a decent position by Fin and Ali and, although I was a touch scrappy at times and dropped some time towards the end when the Austrian got away from us, it was great to be fighting up that final hill with some of the top boys.”
In the women’s relay, Grace had a difficult run on the first leg and was far from happy with her result when she spoke afterwards and it would have been easy for the rest of the team to admit defeat at this point. However, Laura King was having none of it and she produced her best performance of the competition and, by being 5th fastest on her leg, drew the team up into 12th overall and within touch of a top 10 placing. Lucy Haines repeated her strong, consistent form of the previous day and, by being 8th fastest on the final leg, she brought the team home in 9th position.
This is the first time since 2009 that the two 18 class relay team have finished in the top 10 at EYOC and is a testimony to the athletes’ dedication, grit and resilience and bodes well for the future.