SWINDON Harriers team manager Simon Dill has paid tribute to the club’s senior men after they produced an excellent team performance to qualify for the English National 12-Stage Road Relay Championships next month.

The Harriers clinched their place in the finals for the first time in more than a decade after finishing ninth at the Midland Championships, which was a terrific way to celebrate their return to the region after several years competing in the South of England event.

Dill said: “I am so proud of everyone. In the five years I have been team manager for the road team, I reckon this is the best result we have had. It was unbelievable.”

“It was a bit of a gamble to switch to the Midlands region from the South of England, but I reckoned we would have a better chance of making the top 25.

“But I never thought we would finish in the top 10 – the lads were incredible.”

The Harriers were given a solid start on the first of the four consecutive long stages, with Nyle Clinton finishing 13th, and by the end of that first third of the race around Sutton Park, Birmingham, the club had risen to 11th after further good runs from Sergio Martinez, Simon Byrne and Courtney Chessell.

Youngster Ethan Pierce brought the Harriers into the top 10 on stage five as he climbed to ninth, and with Luke Byrne and Chris Reade maintaining that momentum, the Harriers were eighth at the halfway point.

Gary O’Brien and Daniel Patel kept the Harriers in eighth and it was only on stage ten that Omer Homer dropped a place. Mark Pierce and Jason McGinley maintained that position to the finish line, much to the delight of all the team’s supporters around the course.

Dill added: “We have really good strength in depth now. I reckon it is the first time we have qualified for the Nationals in 19 years.”