The 2018 RVA Relays lived up to the hype. We saw two of the fastest splits ever and two awesome finishes. Combined it was a three second margin of victory for both races! West Springfield and Atlee both held on for the win Saturday in awesome races but the real story was how they won and the race itself.
The 5x2500m relay format that the RVA Relays has is certainly unique. It sometimes favors different runners than the 5K but just like a team title race, it shows all your team's true depth. That was evident this weekend with the races and how two teams, Colonial Forge and James River attempted to win.
Both teams employed the "run & hide" technique where a team front loads (puts their best runners upfront) and tries to hold on for the win.
Now we do see this style of racing quite often in track and honestly it does work but in XC over 2500m it has yet to produce a winner at the RVA Relays. Each year teams try it and fall just short of winning. This year though those teams took it to the brink and almost did what many thought was implausible.
The reason we think this way could be done is just how dominant both of these teams were for the majority of the race. Forge led dominantly for 3.75 legs while James River made it 4.25 legs in the lead. In fact, both of these teams had some of the most impressive performances we've seen as a whole team yet.
To get in the lead and lead big these teams took care of business. They knew their only chance was to gap the field and hold on and both teams did just that. Allison Fick and Aaron Johnson both took that role seriously and took care of business. It wasn't just them though as their teammates too did everything they could to give their 5th man the space he or she needed.
Running from the front is not easy either. That is why we wonder, could anyone win with this tactic? Would you run with this tactic?
It didn't work out this weekend for them as West Springfield and Atlee slowly made up the distance on them and did not lead until the very end. That of course is when it matters most.