Frontrunning Robilliard gets his medal upgrade

GIAN-LUCA ROBILLIARD’S bold front-run for a county age-group 800m title was the pick of Guernsey’s performances on day one of the Hampshire Track and Field Championships.

It is a county championships with a difference – as even a cursory glance at the programme will show.

Competitor numbers stood just over half the usual total for the annual event at Portsmouth’s Mountbatten Centre, with Guernsey’s contingent of seven a far cry from the 50-plus of the past.

But it is part of the return to relative normality following the onset of Covid and, as medals go, not a bad start for Guernsey.

Competing in an U17 800m which featured two U20s contesting their own age-group title, Robilliard outshone his age-group rivals to win in 1min. 58.1sec.

The Guernsey youngster led overall through the bell in a reserved 59sec. and stayed ahead into the home straight, where Jersey U20 Jem Gurner – one of 43 entries from the sister isle – rallied to edge him by 0.6sec.

But having beaten Basingstoke’s Guy Stevens’ 1-59.6 for top U17, Robilliard earned his county crown.

‘It was good, and the race ended up being how I wanted it to be – almost as a sit-and-kick type of race,’ he said.

‘Leading out from the front was what I wanted to do, gain control of the race and just give it all with 200, 250 to go.’

Ahead of his bank holiday Monday 1500m, the middle-distance specialist added: ‘It’s an improvement from two years ago, where I picked up two silvers … hopefully I can make it two golds.’

The championships tend to be further down the adult elite agenda, with only three seniors contesting a women’s 1500m that was merged with the U17 and U20 races.

But Emma Etheredge stood atop a county podium in surprise after finishing third overall behind two breakaway juniors.

The previously Alderney-based athlete had not raced under 5km on the track until late June, but she has quickly found her feet over the middle distances and headed the second bunch the whole way, posting 5min. dead. Guernsey teammate Laura Quayle placed third senior.

Dan Galpin, who is battling the after-effects of catching Covid in June, joined the previously-injured Richard Bartram in a four-man race over 5,000m.

The field passed 3,000m tightly packed in 9-24, but the elastic broke as the Southampton winner pulled clear, followed by a Portsmouth rival.

Bartram held on for bronze with a fine personal best of 15-43.1, while Galpin exceeded expectations with 15-51.7.

Richard Thorburn, bearing Southampton colours, posted 1-59.8 for third in a very tight senior 800m.

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