The complete article is available as a pdfdownload »
A history of Leeds AC
Written by John Lunn
Chapter 9: Advances, declines, disasters and new moves
The euphoria of qualification at Leicester was not entirely unrelieved; the Club already knew that when Kim McDonald ran the 1500m in the Qualifying Match it would be his last race in Leeds City colours. He had set up a sports shop in Keighley (advertisements for which began to appear in Athletics Weekly at about the same time) and was returning to Bingley Harriers. He did the Club one last favour, however, by arranging the manufacture of the first batch of the new Club vest by the famous Keighley sports goods company Litesome (well-known as the principal manufacture of a certain item of sporting attire which has almost vanished from athletics.) The arrangement was not without its problems; the first batch were returned because the proportions of the diagonals wasn’t right, and some time after a correct batch appeared, apparently in January 1979, the ‘rejects’ appeared, to the annoyance of some Committee members, in a sports shop somewhere. Relations with Litesome got so strained that a wit in the Newsletter suggested that it had “nearly ended up with the Club declaring war on Keighley!” The transition was even accidentally documented on the cover of Athletics Weekly; the issue of March 17th showed Sandra Arthurton in action at Cosford in the old-style Women’s vest, while four weeks later Bill Fielding appeared in the new strip winning the British Over-50 title.
The loss of Kim further weakened the Senior Men’s Harriers team, though it didn’t immediately show; in the first event of the winter, the Cutlers’ Relay at Sheffield, a Leeds City team was victorious. However, analysis of the team shows the real position; the team consisted of a track man - Sean Cahill, two Juniors - John Doherty and Simon Cahill, the still-reliable Mike Baxter, and a comparative also-ran in John Dalby, a Liverpool University student who joined the Club after John Lunn spent a school parents’ evening interview recruiting him rather than discussing the academic progress of his younger sister! The first four runners built up a lead of about 90 seconds; then John listened to advice not to panic, ran his own race, and had enough left to hold off A.S.V.A.C.’s fast-finishing Dennis Mayho. A truer picture is shown by two other early-season performances; the Club didn’t send a team to the Northern Six-Stage Relay, and in the first West Yorkshire League the only Leeds City finisher in the first forty places was John Doherty -7th at the age of 17! In the second League race John finished 4th and Mike 5th, but the team, with Brian Hilton 17th and an apparently-returned Pete Stevens 25th, could only manage fourth. The third, promoted by the Club at Harrington High School, New Farnley, saw John finish second and Mike 6th, and still no team success; by this time the team race was counting six rather than four. John Lunn commented that “there is a solid pack of lads finishing in the thirties and forties;” a very different picture from three years earlier.
The saving grace for the male side of the Club in the winter of 1978 was the emergence of yet another fine tranche of youngsters, in particular among the Under-15s. Spearheaded by the apparently effortless Wayne Aylesbury, the team included Gary Hayton, at 14 a seasoned campaigner, the immensely strong and promising Chris Ryalls, and the gangling Steve Hardcastle; it was already strong enough to produce a clean sweep in the West Yorkshire League, placing its four counters in the first ten in all three races; furthermore there were at least five other promising boys - Richard Walker, Kevin Earle, Martin Gilpin, Paul Walker and Cornelius Kelleher - mentioned in an early-season Newsletter review. Before the end of the winter the group was to be strengthened further when the highly-talented Andy Rodgers left Wakefield Harriers to join the Club.
The age-group above them also had its moments, “seeing off Longwood in a couple of League races;” the core of the Under-17s was Roger Bloor and steeplechasers Chris Reid and Mike Cheseldine joined by another Grammar School name in Alistair Adams, the son of Dr. Ian Adams, who had set up for a time the first real sports injuries’ clinic at St. James’ Hospital. The Club had a good Aaron meeting, the Senior team of Simon Cahill, John Doherty, Mike Baxter and Sean Cahill finishing third and the Under-15s packing five in eight to win easily. There were also some successes at other events, notably at the Batley races, where a composite team of Chris Ryalls, Alistair Adams and John Doherty showed that it wasn’t only the Women’s section which could win races of that nature.
The Women were doing their share of upholding the Club’s reputation. They also won their composite relay at Batley, with Wendy Hirst and Carole Wood sandwiched between the fastest leg of the day - by Sandra Arthurton. Sandra continued her winning ways in Northern Women’s League races, winning the first two with Lorraine Holdsworth third in one of them; Julie Whiteley, now commuting full-time from Derby and in her last season with the Club, was regularly placed in the Senior races, while the Under-15 team of Wendy Hirst, Janine Midgley, Diane Burton and Gail Addinall was clearly stronger than all opposition. When it came to the W.A.A.A. Road Relay Championships in November, the Club had teams in all four age-groups, and the lowest-placed, the Senior team of Carole, Julie and Lesley Doyle, was 11th. The Under-13s (Sally Ramsdale, Beverley Bates and Rachel Vevers) placed 8th, and the other two took medals; Janine, Diane and Wendy taking silver, and Sandra, Lorraine and Sandra Gent bronze. A similar string of successes came in the Yorkshire Women’s Championships on the mud-bath of Lightcliffe; the Under-15s won and Under-17s won, Sandra Arthurton taking the latter title with Lorraine Holdsworth second, and the Under-13s finished third, with debutant Deborah Hirst getting a medal. There were also County places for Sally Ramsdale and Beverley Bates (U13), Janine Midgley, Wendy Hirst and Diane Burton (U15), and Julie Whiteley (Senior).
There was, however, one subject of controversy in cross-country running which came to something of a head at this time. There had been considerable correspondence about the domination of the Under-20 age-group by university teams, invariably composed of students who were also members of open clubs; Loughborough, Birmingham and Leeds had always been particularly strong, and on occasion clubs which thought they were in with medal chances in Area and National Championships felt aggrieved when their members turned out for their universities. There was a very considerable correspondence in Athletics Weekly on the subject, and it was far from one-sided; the writer recalls a forthright letter from South London Harrier and Leeds University captain Andy Evans, who pointed out with justice that it was often highly inconvenient or over-costly for students at universities some way from home to return, and that their commitment to their university was at least as legitimate as that to their club. However, in 1978 the Northern Cross-Country Association had put the cat among the pigeons by banning university teams and other ‘closed’ clubs (but not schools) from their Championships. This brought both protests and a reaction from the English Cross-Country Union, which passed a more moderate change of rule requiring athletes who wished to represent their University to get written permission from their Club. The Southern Association also adopted it, and pressure was put on the North to conform; eventually they did so, and it proved to be a lasting and effective solution.
The main feature of the Championship season of 1979 had nothing to do with the running; from about Christmas Britain suffered one of the last (so far) of the real ‘arctic winters.’ It wasn’t quite as bad as the legendary freeze-ups of 1946-7 and 1962-3, but racing was certainly disrupted. The Yorkshire A.A. Cross-Country Championship at Graves Park early in January wasn’t too badly affected, though it was significant that Roger Bloor, always at his best on hard courses, got his first County vest in the Under-17s. Mike Baxter finished 7th in the Senior race, to add another to his collection of County vests; John Doherty won the Under-20 race, but principally due to the absence of Bingley’s slightly older Steve Binns, who had emerged as the outstanding Junior that year. It puts things in perspective that in the Inter-Counties some weeks later John was a superb fourth into contribute to Yorkshire’s winning team - but Steve was an even more impressive winner.
The Yorkshire Association Championship at the end of the month was a different matter. By then the blizzards had intensified, and promoting club Longwood Harriers were forced into making a late change of course to Newsome High School, on top of a bleak hill south of Huddersfield. (Arthur Cockcroft, however, was full of praise for their organisation.) The conditions were extremely difficult - as the afternoon wore on a furrow was trampled in the snow which made it hard to overtake opponents, as to step off it put runners up to their knees in the soft stuff. The Club had two winning teams among its youngsters. In the Under-15 race there were three well up all the way - Wayne Aylesbury in 4th, Chris Ryalls getting off a sick-bed to finish 7th and Steve Hardcastle 11th in spite of floundering a bit; they then had another three contesting the last counting place, with Kevin Earle (23) holding it much of the way ahead of David Holdsworth (18), only for Gary Hayton to find a stronger finish to end up 15th. Chris Reid lived dangerously in the Under-17 race, going off with Peter Elliott and Longwood’s David Topham, but he managed to hang on to 6th, being caught late on by the more cautious but strong Roger Bloor, who finished one in front. Alistair Adams finished 10th, never being far from that place, and Mark Clark (23) got the better of Ashley Farnell (31) for the last medal. John Doherty had an off-day, finishing behind Bingley’s Colin Moore and Peter Elletson of East Hull; in the Under-13s Richard Earle, Kevin’s little brother, was an impressive 6th in only his second serious outing. The Seniors all struggled; Mike Baxter could only manage 13th, and the other counters were John Ashton (36), Pete Bradley (50), Gary Ineson (65), Roger Parker (80) and John Dalby (87), who just held off Bill Fielding.
The winter continued to affect things badly; the West Yorkshire Schools’ in February was run on an icy Thornes Park at Wakefield, which didn’t deter several members from placing; Chris Ryalls, Lorraine Holdsworth and Sandra Arthurton took their respective titles, Alistair Adams was Intermediate runner-up, Andy Rodgers was runner-up to Chris, and behind Lorraine Diane Burton took fourth place. The Under-15 Lads took silver medals in the Northern Championships at Blackburn, not being put off either by the weather, arriving extremely late for the start (Wayne Aylesbury’s granddad Reg had the wit to declare the team before the Club coach arrived) or by Witton Park’s famous ‘Saucer’ (one of the few serious rivals to ‘Hill 60’ at inducing terror in Southerners!) Wayne placed 7th, Steve Hardcastle 14th, Chris Ryalls 33rd and Gary Hayton 34th. The Under-17s finished 6th in a good-quality field (Chris Reid 22, Roger Bloor 32, Mark Clark 33, Alistair Adams 36); the Seniors, however, were nowhere near the front, though they finished a full nine. Mike Baxter had a decent run in 13th, as he “could actually see where his feet were landing,” but the rest were well back (John Ashton 120, Pete Bradley 134, Roger Parker 160, Gary Ineson 161, and “the geriatric” John Lunn 236 -“THREE PLACES AHEAD OF BRWSI!!!!,” as the Newsletter put it, complete with exclamation marks!
The course for the Northern Women’s at Cleckheaton received a certain amount of ‘stick’ from Roger Norton, being not only severe but part of it having been rendered dangerous by sledgers; indeed conditions was so severe that most of the races were shortened. This didn’t seem to trouble Sandra Arthurton any more than getting stuck on the way there; she arrived ten minutes before the under-17 races started and romped away with it. She was just as effective at Runcorn in the National Championships - run after a snap thaw on “that green stuff - which I believe is known as grass,” in Mike Sherman’s words - retaining her title untroubled. There was also a bronze medal for the Under-15 team, who packed three early on (Janine Midgley 20th, Diane Burton 27th and Wendy Hirst 35th) and then had a long wait for Tracy Rawnsley in 134th to close in. A Senior team finished for the first time in Club history (Julie Whiteley 23, Carole Wood 50, Lesley Doyle 177 and Christine Linton 212, team placed 17th), and Sally Ramsdale as a fine runner-up in the Under-13. The Men’s ‘National’ returned to Luton (and spectators effectively prevented future use of what was one of the best National courses ever by running through a farmer’s field of spring corn to cross the course and damaging it); again the Club bus arrived late, but as half ‘our’ Under-17s were representing Leeds Grammar School and the Seniors were below strength it didn’t rally affect things much. The youngsters finished 33rd (Chris Reid 120, Ashley Farnell 202, Roger Bloor 250, and Mark Clark 259), while the Seniors were 57th - back over 3,000 points only three years after scoring under 350! Mike had another good one in 23rd, and Roger Parker his best ever in 482nd; the others were Pete Bradley (358), Garry Ineson (606), Steve Haywood (720) and John Dalby (841).
In spite of the apparent recession in its Senior fortunes, the Club did one thing it hadn’t done in the preceding two seasons - it put out a team in the Northern 12-Stage Relay. Admittedly, it was more a case than usual of getting just about everybody capable of movement out on to the road at Roberttown, and the result was ‘only’ a 15th placing, but there was a certain lift in morale at actually being there. It didn’t help that John Ashton, who would normally be put on a short leg, led off on a long one so that he could go to a Rugby League Cup semi-final, and suffered in 25th of 26; but Sean Cahill made two places, Mike Baxter ten with a run inspired by the close proximity of John Temperton, and John Doherty, returning from injury, made two more. Pete Bradley, then studying for A-levels to enter university in his thirties, dropped five, two of which Simon Cahill promptly recovered; on the next two legs the “one-legged overweight geriatric” John Lunn held the place (though “in danger of disqualification for making a bidigital response to some remarks from Holmfirth Harriers”) and Mike Sherman pulled one back each. The last four - Garry Ineson, Joe Clancy, who lost one, Roger Parker, who did likewise, and Steve Haywood - held the line competently. There was some confusion at the end over times, due to the large amount of lapping; and it was after this that John suggested that teams rather than individual should be numbered in relays, with distinguishing marks for the legs, which had been done in the Hyde Park Relay for students for some years. Over the next few years the administrators came round to the same idea.
There were a couple of end-of-season efforts in the Harriers’ section which could be said to mark the end of one era and the beginning of another. The Northern Women’s Road Relay was a fiasco for the Club, in that the M62 was impassable, so the Club teams were unable to get there - all except one athlete. It was the saddest possible way for Julie Whiteley to end her connection with the Club, prior to joining Derby on her marriage, to run the first leg of the Senior race in isolation. However, the Parker-Lep cross-country meeting on Stockport’s Woodbank Park saw Sally Ramsdale win the Under-13 race, and a mention for another product of Leeds Grammar School making only his second appearance, a short “solidly-working” youngster with a penchant for jumping in puddles on Sunday morning training runs; his name was Phil Townsend.
Sandra Arthurton’s Moment of the Winter, however, didn’t take place on the snow or the mud - but on, the Cosford boards only four days after the ‘National.’ The coaches who nowadays talk about the need to “protect young athletes from over-competition” will no doubt be foaming at the mouth reading about a 16-year-old girl doing a full season of club and school cross-country championships and fitting in two indoor internationals as well, but Sandra seemed to thrive on it. She had already, after finishing third over 1500 metres in the W.A.A.A. Indoor Championships, had one outing in a match against France, where she also finished third; and then, in the middle of the week between the National and the English Schools’, she was down to compete against what was then the mightiest of European opposition - East Germany. Admittedly it wasn’t the strongest pairing the East Germans could have put out that she faced, but the leading opponent, Doris Gluth, was on paper four seconds quicker than Sandra. The race started at a reasonably crisp pace, but developed into one of those tight-packed contests where the lead changes a lot and there isn’t much room for manoeuvre, with Sandra tucked in for the first 800. It was at about this point that Fraulein Gluth was “sufficiently ill-advised as to try a little gentle (!) elbow-fencing;” Sandra clearly didn’t like it, and decided the safest place was in front - so in front she went, and simply shredded the other three. The picture of a radiant Sandra finishing which adorned Athletics Weekly said it all!
The Club had two other Cross-Country champions that winter. In the English Schools Andy Rodgers took the Junior title before he had had an opportunity to “wear the Club vest in anger;” Chris Ryalls had been unable to run due to an ankle injury, and the Newsletter considered the theoretical possibility of “two Leeds City lads fighting out a national title.” At the other extreme Bill Fielding found himself with a formidable challenge to his British Over-50’s title in the person of Rotherham’s former international marathon runner Eddie Kirkup, who had been a force to be reckoned with among the younger ‘Vets;’ however, the frozen winter seemed to suit ‘Father’ a great dial better, and he retained his title in style, as the cover of Athletics Weekly showed. The rivalry with Kirkup was to go on for some years, but ended in a remarkable fashion when it was discovered that at some point Eddie had surreptitiously ‘added’ a year to his age.
The Club opened its most important track season yet with a good second placing in the Leeds University-organised Yorkshire Bank meeting at Cleckheaton; the second place being behind Loughborough Colleges, which was anything but an inferior performance. There had already been titles and medals indoors for some of the Club’s members ; In the A.A.A. Under-20s Mark Johnson took a silver medal in the 60m Hurdles, and Aamer Khan a bronze in the Triple Jump at Under-17 level, while Ian Mowat had taken the Northern Indoor Shot title at Bolton. The meeting, however, still had to take place outside Leeds; the question of suitable facilities to stage meetings in the city had not been addressed. In March the Yorkshire Evening Post had an article on the subject, not from Roger Norton for once but from its sports editor Mike Casey, inspired by the announcement that Leeds Polytechnic were planning to stage the British Polys’ championships at Cleckheaton because “the track at Beckett Park is falling apart.” It was possibly a useful means of alerting the general public to the shortcomings of facilities in general and Beckett Park in particular, and may have been the catalyst which was to start major moves before the summer was out; but in retrospect the main feature of it is the appalling ignorance of what was actually going on in athletics in the city displayed by possibly the most prestigious figure in local sports journalism. He wrote in his article about the problems facing “up-and-coming sprinter” Sandra Arthurton, and suggested that “perhaps there were other local youngsters capable of following in her speedy footsteps.”
Two weeks after his article appeared Roger Norton previewed the Club’s season in a manner which might have answered his editor’s query. He pointed out that with the A team in the British League, a B team set to launch itself in the lower reaches of the Northern League, the Women’s team in the first division of its Northern League, and a successful Young Athletes’ team aiming for a second Final, there could be weekends when Leeds City would be turning out up to 150 athletes - “a formidable task for the Club’s officials.” He noted the large number of possible fixtures, with major Leagues, County and Area Championships, and the local West Yorkshire League, of which he was somewhat critical; he reckoned it was skewed towards the younger age-groups, that Senior athletes were more likely to “travel across the Pennines to the high-quality Stretford League competitions,” and that the “most difficult and time-consuming events” such as hurdles and long throws were neglected. (Little has changed in a quarter of a century in this respect.) His comments were certainly being echoed within the Club; nobody was in any doubt that the growth and success of Leeds City was coming at the price of forcing a continuous review of its operations and administration. It was perhaps an appropriate moment for the last of the founding senior officers of the Club to step down; in April Dave Hodgson retired as Honorary Treasurer, to be replaced by another former St. Mark’s Harrier in Roger Parker.
One thing never seemed to change. The A team approached its first British League meeting at Leicester with portents of doom hanging over it; fourteen first-choice athletes were missing, mainly due to injuries and a date clash with student championships, and John Lunn started his Newsletter article with a roll-call of absentees which looked to be a fatal blow to the team’s chances. “Had anyone suggested that we were actually going to WIN,” he went on, “the Godson Wonderbus would have been diverted via Menston for his personal convenience.” Nonetheless, win the team did, by a 26-point margin - and this was in spite of having to throw Aamer Kahn and Alwhille Macdonald into all three jumps (Olly managed to ‘zero’ in the High Jump due to some official failing to call him at his starting height) and have sprinter Paul Richards injured when volunteering to hurdle. The heart of the win came from the throwers - Ian Mowat and Paul Armstrong did three events each, Ian winning Shot and Discus, supported by Jim Ferguson and Adrian Riggs. On the track Kevin Walton had two wins (one A-string, one B), Charlie Beaumont repeated his Qualifier victory in the 400, young Stuart Newby had probably the best 800-metre race of his career in beating a good field on his Senior debut, Mike Baxter and Pete Bradley had another ‘repeat show’ to take 18 points in the 5000, and Simon Cahill, somewhat unusually, ran the Steeplechase and didn’t do badly. There was also a farewell and a last appearance - Brian Scott ran his last meeting before joining Lincoln Wellington, and Ray Barrow made his final competitive appearance running quite a reasonable first leg in the 4x100.
However, the outstanding event in the writer’s memory was the Pole Vault. Robin Murphy and Steve Denton weren’t at their best, and were faced with a mighty Chelmsford pairing of Graham Eggleton (a 4.60 performer) and Adrian Ross. It should have been no contest - but Robin had competed against Ross before, reckoned he tended to ‘lose it’ if the competition was slow and he was hanging about waiting to vault, and he therefore set out to ‘psych’ his opponent out. Steve, in an interview with the writer, recalled him passing instructions; while John Lunn, who was officialling at the event, remembers mainly Robin’s concern with the uprights. Now it’s perfectly legitimate for vaulters to adjust the stands according to their style of vault; those who go ‘straight up’ tend to want them as close to the plant box as possible, while those who describe a more rounded parabola want to set them further back. However, never before or since has John seen vault stands being adjusted with such precision as they were that day at Saffron Lane; Robin and Steve were having them moved a matter of five centimetres. Moreover, it worked; they couldn’t beat Eggleton, but Ross was duly beaten, even though the twosome cleared no higher than 3.05. Psychological warfare wasn’t in the same street!
The fixture pattern in the 1979 season of the League was peculiar, with most of the meetings crowded together; the first match was at the beginning of May, the second at the end of May, and the third on the Schools’ Championship date in early June. At least the second trip was a bit shorter - to Kirkby Stadium, where hosts Blackburn (who also didn’t yet have Tartan at Witton Park) got almost all their strength out and beat Leeds City by six points. There was the usual massive contribution from the throwers, in spite of a clash with the Inter-Counties taking Ian Lindley away; Ian Mowat took the Shot, and Paul Armstrong won all three B heavy throws; There was also a fine sprint haul, with Charlie Beaumont winning the 400 again, Kevin Walton and Nicky George doubling in the 200, and Steve Harrison winning the B 100; while Mike Baxter and John Doherty respectively won the 5000 and Steeplechase.
This kept the Club in front in the Division; but the next test, a fortnight later, was to be a lot more severe. Not only was it the most difficult travel of the year - to Cwmbran - but the throws section of the team was decimated. Ian Mowat was on international duty with Northern Ireland, Ian Lindley was in the middle of exams at Loughborough, and Paul Armstrong, who had joined the police, had had twenty-four stitches in a calf muscle after lacerating it by putting his foot through a cold frame while pursuing a miscreant across some gardens. In addition, Mike Baxter, Sean Cahill and John Doherty were all missing for various good and sufficient reasons. The fact that the team, finished fourth, which kept them three match points in front of Blackburn going into the last match, was largely down to the sprinters; Greg Colin made his first appearance and duly won both 100 and 200, with Ron Small and Kevin Walton taking the B events, and Charlie Beaumont made it three out of three 400s. There were good points in the Vault, Steve Denton taking the B event and Robin Murphy second in the A; the pair of them also filled all the throws, and it was here, in spite of taking six last places, that Steve emerged as a semi-serious thrower. Another major contributor was Martin Stitch, who among other events won the B Triple Jump. There was one definite positive from the trip, however; with a long coach journey and an overnight stop, the team come together in a way it never had before. As a Newsletter comment at the end of the year put it, “there were team members who didn’t know R.W.V. Murphy before June 9th - but not after!”
So Windsor, at the end of July, was one of the most tense cliff-hangers in Club history - and the team rose to it in spectacular fashion, beating the home side by eighteen points and taking the Division title and promotion. There were some splendid performances; Charlie Beaumont completed his perfect series on a double with support from Kevin Walton, Julian Marsay ran the 1500 and beat everybody bar John Doherty, and the throwers hauling in the points again - Paul Armstrong, stitches and all, winning the B Discus for an 18-point haul with Ian Mowat. The Two Ians took maximum in the shot for the last time; this was Ian Lindley’s farewell, as after getting a job in the Midlands he went to join the Club John Lunn unkindly referred to in the Newsletter as “Wolves and Bilious (or whatever!)”, and at least he left us with a “17-metre swansong.” He had set a Club record of 17.03, which has yet to be bettered, at the Inter-Counties earlier in the year.
Another eighteen came from the youthful triple Jump pairing of Aamer Khan and Mike Makin, while Ron Small produced some excellent sprinting against internationals and in his tenth season of League campaigning “the ancient Baxter” was still capable of sub-14½ minutes on a regular basis. Roger Norton commented that the team had gone into “unknown territory” and acquitted itself well; and there were no arguments.
The Women’s team, under new management in the form of Karen Morley’s mother Mavis, had also made a sound start in a higher Division, though in the first meeting the pattern was a pretty familiar one. For the previous two seasons they had been narrowly second to City of Hull; in the first meeting of 1979, at Gateshead, they were a mere six points behind the same club again. The opposition was, however, a lot stronger; in the same Division were Liverpool Harriers and Sale, both second-strings of National League outfits, and in the second match Leeds City found themselves down to third behind Hull and Liverpool. At Gateshead there was a massive domination of middle-distance events; Sandra Arthurton had a share in a double maximum in the Senior 800 and 1500, playing second fiddle to Carole Wood in the former and partnering Wendy Hirst in the latter, while Janine Midgley took the Under-15 1500 and Diane Burton (Under-17) and Karen Jenkinson (Under-15) had B-string wins to complement seconds by Wendy and Sally Ramsdale. Karen Morley won the Senior Shot, Diane Rimmington the Javelin, and both scored heavily in the Discus; while Elaine Rey, in her first league competition, set a Club Under-15 Javelin record; Nicola Dawson also broke the old mark in the B event, and had two further wins in Shot and Hurdles.
The meeting was, poignantly, reported on by Arthur Riggs; three weeks later he collapsed after a lunchtime run and died. In his Newsletter obituary John Lunn reckoned Arthur had “done as much for the Club in 2½ years ... as some loyal servants get through in a lifetime.” At Hull Sandra (over 800), Diane Rimmington, Janine and Nicola repeated their victories, Sally went one better in winning the Under-15 800, and Wendy had a good second in the Under-17 event. The third match is something of a mystery; John was unable to giver the Women full coverage in his end-of-season review since “in spite of heroic efforts by several officials ... we have been unable to lay hands on a result sheet” for it. However, the team must have finished second, because that was where they ended the season. This had been achieved with a lot of people filling in events they didn’t normally do; the classic being Sandra Arthurton’s appearance as a High Jumper (“Don’t laugh - she ranks sixth this season!”) There was one important new recruit, though she played no part in team affairs that season; Tracey Collier, one of Yorkshire’s leading multi-event athletes, moved to the Club from Rowntrees late in the season.
The newly-launched Senior Man’s B team had an impressive start to its career, in spite of being given an arduous Division; there were three regionalised Division Sixes in 1979, and we ‘caught for’ the Northern one, which involved one match at Harrogate and two at Carlisle. We managed two seconds and a third, finishing as runners-up to Harrogate A.C., who at the time had a lively mix of youngsters and active Veterans, in spite of some calamities, the worst of which being a ruptured Achilles tendon for Nigel Bailey when he volunteered to hurdle (we didn’t ask for volunteers after that.) Detailed results have proved hard to come by, but there were some interesting performances; it was in this year that Colin Hayton first started racking up points for Senior teams, being the highest scorer of the season. Several familiar Harrier names appear taking points - Brian Hilton, Brwsi Kilner, John Lunn, Joe Clancy and even Roger Parker figure in teams. There were also some youngsters to note; Mike Cheseldine did his first “full-length” Steeplechase in inimitable style, young jumper Radley Lowry and Javelin-thrower Chris Yates (who did other things as well) scored heavily, and Keith Burley, Andy Rivett and Gary Briggs came out of the Youngsters’ team to good effect.
However, the most memorable and intriguing incidents took place on the second of the Carlisle trips, on which the Club saved expense by sharing a coach with Harrogate A.C. John Lunn, who was team managing, had been scratching around as usual to fill the last few places in the week before, and on the Thursday night somebody brought over a new member - a big lad who was reckoned to be “quite useful” with the Javelin, but hadn’t yet thrown the Senior spear or turned out for the Young Athletes’ team. As he was willing to have a go, John got him to turn out - only to find out, somewhere on the top of Stainmore over half-way there, that in spite of being the long side of six feet tall he was actually still only fourteen years old, and therefore ineligible to compete.
For the only time in his team managing career John kept his mouth shut and fielded an illegal athlete - and in this fashion Mick Hill made his Club debut! The other was even odder, and concerned Border Harriers’ then Hon. Secretary Phil Nash, who was acting as starter at the meeting; at the start of the 1500 he raised the gun, fired it, dropped it, and set off as B-string runner. It’s probably illegal!
The outstanding team of 1979, however, in spite of all the above successes, was the Young Athletes; it could be argued that it was probably the best we ever had, and certainly finished higher in the National Finals than any other since. It turned out to have an advantage; unlike the Men, most of its fixtures were later in the season, in June and July, and this was emphasised when the first one, in early May, had to be postponed when the Leeds Road track at Huddersfield was flooded. In fact the first meeting to take place didn’t happen until June 24th, at Hull; and by that time some serious recruiting around the schools by the likes of Dave Young and Eddie Linsell had seen a lot of gaps filled. The clubs were in an odd system (which was to be used for one season by the Northern Men’s League twenty years later) of nine teams per Division with four three-club matches; it was only used for a short time because it produced so many one-sided fixtures, including one at Cleckheaton where Leeds City outscored the two opposing team put together by over 100 points, scoring 282 out of a possible maximum 308 and gaining maximum points in 18 events.
Few reports of the individual matches survive, apart from a newsletter article about the first, and the impression from that and a later review is the large number of participants over the season; it’s also noticeable that several athletes who were to have an impact over a period appeared in this season. Surprisingly, the outstanding thrower of the season was Jeff Boyes, who was regular A-string Javelin for much of the year; until Gerard Murphy “went on a long holiday to Ireland” Mick Hill didn’t get a look-in! Among debutants in the Hull meeting were long-jumper Jeremy Pilling, whose Junior record was to stand for many years, Richard Francis, a highly promising hurdler who eventually, like several others over the years, turned to Rugby League (his sister Sharon was no mean sprinter, as will later be seen), 400-metre runner Adam Hoyle and triple-jumper Ian Brameld; there was also a personal best of 1.75 for Steve Linsell. There was a powerful middle-distance presence, with only one point dropped over 3000m and Phil Townsend getting a mention for a double B-string win over 1500 and 3000, declaring himself for the latter on the line when he saw one athlete hadn’t showed up. There were big scoring efforts from the Matthews Brothers in the Vault, from Wayne Aylesbury beginning his distinguished steeplechasing career and continuing his occasional vaulting, and from a plethora of hurdlers including Mark Johnson, who was having an outstanding season, and Andy Heywood.
As the next two months went on it got better. Further strength was added in several directions, through sprinter brothers Lloyd and Eric Olpherts, jumpers Darryl Dingwall, Gregory Ayrton, Matthew Greenwood and Phil Telfer and two particularly notable late-season captures in Ian Welch, a “superlatively smooth” 400-metre hurdler from Morley who was “snatched by Mark Johnson from the jaws of Longwood” and “an incredibly precocious 13-year-old sprinter (who) tanked round 200 metres like a blond bull” called David Wild. There were strong contributions from Andy Rodgers, Chris Ryalls and Richard Walker in the Under-15 middle distances, from the previous season’s ‘old lags’ such as Andy Taylor, Mike Shaw, Gary Briggs, Chris Reid and Michael O’Donnell., and a Club record in the Triple Jump for Aamer Khan (he broke the one he’d set in a Senior match the previous day!) An analysis at the end of the year showed just how dominant the lads had been; out of 308 ‘event-spaces’ in the four matches the Club had had three blank spaces (all due to injury), 200 winners, and only one last place. The Regional Final at Middlesbrough was another easy win, by 51 points from the hosts, though again no results were ever received from the meeting; Jeff Boyes took fifteen throwing points, and Messrs. Olpherts (both), Wild, Welch and Khan (again both) were prominent. There was almost a Club 1500m Steeplechase record as well; but the groundsman who failed to put out the first barrier until the runners had passed denied Wayne Aylesbury his chance. The Club’s success in getting to a second Final produced some publicity in the local press; a picture of the youngsters outside the Templenewsam pavilion - possibly its last appearance - shows several of the above stars of the team, and one face that was to be familiar for many years - a gangling sprinter called Glen Reddington.
The Final got off to a dream start! Ian Welch had already set a Club Under-17 400m Hurdles record of 57.5 on his first outing; at Crystal Palace, after a slightly hesitant start, he “left a scorch-mark round his lane over the last five flights to pulverise the opposition, the League record, the Club record and the U.K. Youths’ record” with 54.8. In the ensuing 25 years to the time of writing only three people have beaten it. “After that,” said the Newsletter Review, ”the adrenalin flowed like water, and personal bests fell like confetti.” The team’s fifth placing in the Main Final has never been equalled; the amazing thing, and the comment on the strength of the League, was that Leeds City could only provide two other event winners - Ian himself, winning the B-string 100m Hurdles, and David Wild in the Under-15 200m - his 23.8 must have been the best by a 13-year-old that year. There were so many PBs that only those who either broke Club records -Chris Reid (‘Chase), Mark Hind (U15 800), Chris Ryalls (U15 3000 - which still stands in 2004) and Richard Francis (U15 80m Hurdles) - or finished second in their events - Andy Taylor (U17 800), Phil Townsend (U17 3000), Steve Hardcastle (‘Chase), Richard Walker (U15 3000) and Jeff Boyes and Mick Hill (U15 Javelin) - rated an individual mention in the Review. There was one name that didn’t appear in the result sheets; but it got its own moment of glory later. The Club had some time earlier been given a trophy by British Home Stores, who were doing a promotion with Commonwealth champion and PR firm director Alan Pascoe, and had decided that the President should present it to the person making the outstanding contribution to the Club during the year. There were no dissenters when in 1979 it was given to Eddie Linsell for his efforts managing the Young Athletes’ team to its finest hour.
Individual titles started coming in early; at the Yorkshire Championships Robin Murphy, Ian Lindley and Ian Mowat all won their specialities (the last-named this time setting a Northern Ireland record with 16.22 in second place) while Sandra Arthurton beat Julie Whiteley (in unfamiliar white and green colours) in the 800m, with Carole Wood fourth. There was also a clean sweep of both Pole Vaults, in conditions so bad that only four competitors - Robin Murphy and Colin Hayton in the Senior and Gary Briggs and Wayne Aylesbury in the Under-20 - actually registered a clearance. Sandra had an off-day in the Northern Women’s, only finishing 4th in the 1500; but there was a title at that distance for Janine Midgley in the Under-15 race, and medals for Angela Riggs (2nd U17 Hurdles), Carole Wood (3rd Senior 800), Wendy Hirst (ditto U17, with Diane Burton and Lorraine Holdsworth immediately behind her), and Tonia Phillpots (3rd Senior High Jump). On the male side there were Six Northern medals; gold for Mark Johnson in the Under-17 Hurdles, silver for Mike Makin in the Under-20 Triple Jump, Aamer Khan in the Under-17 Triple Jump and Keith Burley in the Under-17 Hammer, and bronze for Steve Collinson in the Under-17 High Jump and Wayne Aylesbury in the Under-17 ‘Chase.
Fourteen Club members took West Yorkshire Schools’ titles, including brothers Francis and Michael O’Donnell, Ian Welch (before he actually joined Leeds City - it was probably here that Mark Johnson, who also won, persuaded him) and inevitably Sandra Arthurton, who went on to add the English Schools’ title to her collection. Julian Marsay, somewhat surprisingly, ran the 5000 in the UK Championships, but had already taken a bronze medal in the A.A.A. Steeplechase (again setting a still-extant Club record, of 8.29.5); however, he had a poor run in the European Cup event, and his only subsequent appearance in Britain was a run in the Barnoldswick Fell Race - which he did not enjoy at all! Similarly, no more was seen of Greg Colin after the end of the season.
The most interesting Championship, however, was the A.A.A. Under-20s, which for the only time was allotted to Cleckheaton. There was a remarkable display of talent on view, and though some considerable names won titles or came close - Colin Reitz set a British record in the 2km. Steeplechase, Peter Elliott won the Under-17 800, and Steve Cram was outkicked by Graham Williamson in an outstanding 1500m - some others who found greatness were among the also-rans. Sixth in the 100 metres, for instance was a young man from London Irish A.C. (“My father comes from County Cork,” he told sceptical seeding officer John Lunn) called Linford Christie. The outstanding Club competitor was John Doherty, who ran 14.09.6 to take a silver medal in the 5000m and earn himself a place in the European Championships (Sandra Arthurton also competed in them); also well placed were Mike Makin (5th Under-20 Triple Jump), Keith Burley (6th Under-17 Hammer) and Mark Johnson (6th Under-17 Hurdles), but Simon Cahill found the second-best 2km ‘Chase ever run by an Under-20 Club member not enough to make the Final.
However, a few weeks later the Cahill family produced an achievement which has never been approached since; in the Emsley Carr Mile Sean became the only Club member (so far) to break the four-minute barrier. He clocked 3.57.0 (according to Athletics Weekly at least; the Newsletter gives 3.57.4). There was also a Junior international for Carole Wood, against Canada and Italy (and this time she got there!) There were also further Club records; Sandra Arthurton set one in her first really serious 3000 metre race, winning the Yorkshire Championship, and Janine Midgley, Karen Jenkinson, Sally Ramsdale and Judith Southwell shared a new Under-15 4x800m record which has only twice been bettered.
One feature, however, had changed hardly at all. The only public facility for athletics in Leeds after twelve years was still Templenewsam, still cinder in the expanding tartan age, still with only rudimentary proper field event facilities, even more rudimentary changing and social accommodation, with no regular staff and precious little regular maintenance, and absolutely no spectator accommodation at all. It was still after all this time impossible for Leeds City’s athletes to put themselves before the public of their own city; and groups of members, such as Arthur Riggs’ young sprinters, were in the habit of going to Cleckheaton to train. Dissatisfaction at this state of affairs was compounded by reports that both Sheffield and the Dorothy Hyman stadium at Cudworth were scheduled to get all-weather facilities in the near future. However, events were to start moving in this direction; and were to be given a push by an incident well beyond the Club’s control. The Templenewsam site had suffered from years of neglect; and while the Club had managed to get agreement to store its own equipment there, and provide such items as foam landing beds for High Jump and Pole Vault, security was always an issue when there was no staff on site for most of the week and only some fairly inadequate chain-link fencing (with the gates usually left open) to keep intruders out.
For all its imperfections, the article by Mike Casey appeared to have stimulated some thought in several places, not least at Leeds Polytechnic and among the City Council. Once again Arthur Riggs played a major part; he began to explore links with the city’s first real Sports Development officer, John Hammond, and his deputy Mike Lewis, both of whom were to play a considerable part in developments over the next couple of years. Through this contact the Club was invited to place a petition before the City Council in the early summer of 1979; discussions between Arthur, John Lunn and the two Council officials led to John addressing the Council about the state of facilities and exhorting the Council to take action. (John’s own view of who was responsible for this is plain from his comments in Arthur’s obituary; “I was the one that spoke, but Arthur prepared the ground.”) His address was politely received, but how much influence it actually had is hard to tell.
The other major move came from a change of attitude at Leeds Polytechnic, which centred around another figure who was material in developments - former international sprinter Nick Whitehead, who was a lecturer at Carnegie College, by this time an integral part of the Poly, and had not long before been appointed team manager of the British Olympic Games team for 1980. He was among those looking to widen the role of the body in community sports and away from its formerly somewhat elitist image as a specialist college for teachers of physical education. Several sports, gymnastics in particular, had seen links developing between Carnegie and public clubs; it was also beginning to be the way in which such institutions could attract government and other funding, and one item that the Poly. wanted to see funded was a replacement from the by-now crumbling ‘tarmac’ track that it had landed itself with in the early 1970s. Whatever the motivation, approaches began to be made for Leeds City to come to some arrangement to use the Beckett Park site as its future headquarters. By the autumn things had gone far enough for exploratory meetings to be held; the first was scheduled for November 30th. It was to be a timely date.
Templenewsam’s other disadvantage was its position. To most of the public of Leeds the picture that the name conjures up is the Jacobean house, the surrounding parkland and golf-course and the country walks and rhododendron gardens which the public has enjoyed since the estate was bought by the Council; it seems almost an idyllic and ideal place for a track. What many don’t notice was its proximity to one of the city’s major areas of social blight - the Halton Moor and Osmondthorpe estates.
Leeds City Council has never admitted to operating a policy of using certain council estates as ‘social dustbins,’ where it tended to house the bad payers, the families who failed to maintain houses properly and those who caused trouble for other residents; but certainly in the 1960s and 1970s this appeared to be happening to some of the older council estates such as Middleton, Gipton, Wyther Park and Halton Moor. There were growing signs of neglect, vandalism and social problems; the worst example the writer can remember involved a feud between two extended families on the Halton Moor estate which ended with something very like a pitched battle in the Irwin Arms. The pavilion at Templenewsam had suffered from several attacks of minor vandalism over the years; but on November 29th, 1979, it was set on fire, and just about gutted, and most of the Club’s equipment went up with it. There was no doubt it was arson; the Skyrack Express, the local weekly paper that covered the East Leeds area, quoted a police statement that “an incendiary device” was used to start it. The fire precipitated a first-class crisis for the Club; while hitherto it had had unsatisfactory accommodation at Templenewsam, now it had none whatever. The Club’s equipment was covered by insurance, so as a financial disaster it wasn’t complete; but the Council showed a marked disinclination to replace the pavilion or provide any alternative.
The immediate reaction, however, seems to have come from the Polytechnic; because in the Newsletter edition which came out in the following January John Lunn was already writing about groups of athletes using some of the indoor facilities at Beckett Park, and the cross-country runners training from the Pavilion. Ray Barrow recalled in an interview with the writer that other groups began to move into Beckett Park fairly soon afterwards; it appears, looking back, that the emergency did much to break down what had been expected to be considerable barriers. The tone of John’s editorial was upbeat; agreement was expected with the Poly. authorities, and members were being made aware of both the opportunities and the added responsibilities. There was likely, he said, to be a financial commitment towards the restoration of the pavilion which stood alongside the track, and which was in a semi-derelict condition after the last member of the ground-staff had moved out of the upstairs flat. There was also the security question of members being on what was not only a teaching but a residential site, with several hundred students being present for much of the year; the idea of Club identity passes with a photograph was broached. He stressed that any move was a co-operative venture, and that co-operation would have to be two-way. By April a meeting was held for coaches, athletes and members to explore the site, and progress towards an agreement was reasonably rapid, though not always smooth. The Club, however, had one important ally on its side; a man who was without doubt one of its least talented members athletically, but in every other sense was a man of remarkable abilities - John Munkman.
Even in a Club which has boasted of a rich cast of characters such as Martin Dell, Hugh Richardson and Robin Murphy John stands out. The writer recalls first meeting him on joining Leeds A.C; even then, in 1957, he looked ancient (he was actually in his forties) and out of place. He sprinted very slowly, running with an up-and-down arm action which seemed all wrong; he only occasionally competed but trained assiduously; and his obvious public-school accent seemed a bit out of place at plebeian Headingley. As a person he was also decidedly odd; a bachelor, he lived alone in West Park, seemed to have little life outside his work and athletics, and spent solitary holidays walking and climbing in the remotest areas of northern Scotland. However, outside athletics John was a power in his profession; he was one of the outstanding experts (some would say the outstanding expert) on corporate law of the late 20th Century. He was a barrister who seldom actually appeared in court (not at all, according to his obituary, for the last 28 years of his life), and whose opinion of many other lawyers could be scathing to say the least; one Club member has told of him describing a certain judge as not being fit to preside in a court case, and the judge in question was Lord Denning! Yet his opinions were sought by companies and local authorities, who paid considerable fees for his legal opinions. John gave his services freely to Leeds City, and was instrumental in scrutinising and advising on the agreement which gave the Club entry to Beckett Park. His influence was considerable even when he wasn’t there himself; the writer remembers a meeting with a somewhat offhand and patronising member of the Council’s staff, whose attitude changed dramatically when it was pointed out to him that John Munkman was advising the Club.
While all this was going on the competitive winter season was taking place as usual, with continuing mixed fortunes for Leeds City. The Women’s scene saw Leeds City continuing to dominate the younger age-groups with its growing and talented squad, and the early stages of a more solid-looking Senior team; when the two got together in composite relays the result could be as striking as it was a Kirk Hallam in September, when a team consisting of Sally Ramsdale, Lorraine Holdsworth and Carole Wood was good enough to beat everybody - except a team consisting of Janine Midgley, Diane Burton and Sandra Arthurton. The Club dominated the first Northern League meeting, with Sandra winning the Senior race and every other team winning; most of the names were familiar, but in the Under-17s Mesdemoiselles Burton, Hirst and Rawnsley were joined by a significant new figure in Nicola Porter. Another name coming to prominence was Southwell; elder sister Judith combined with Janine Midgley and Sally Ramsdale in the Under-15 team, and year-younger Fiona led home Deborah Hirst, Kirsten Scobie and Katrina Horncastle in a solid Under-13 win. The second match wasn’t quite so well dominated, though Sandra won again and Carole Wood finished third; but several of the younger runners had off-days, and teams were placed rather than winning. Sandra duly made it three of three in the last match; and the Under-13s were overall team champions for the season, with the other two age-group teams finishing runners-up. Diane Burton had a particularly good season, becoming the latest member, after representing the League, to figure in the Home International races in January.
The Yorkshire Championships saw even greater dominance; indeed Roger Norton reported that if Julie Whiteley, who finished fourth, had still been a Leeds City member the Club would have had a clean sweep of team titles. Sandra Arthurton finished third in her first Senior championship to Sale’s Kathy Binns (a resident of Todmorden), with Carole Wood 6th; counters in the three winning teams were respectively Diane Burton (1), Wendy Hirst (3) and Nicola Porter (8); Janine Midgley (2), Sally Ramsdale (7) and Judith Southwell (10); and Fiona Southwell (1), Debbie Hirst (2) and Kirsten Scobie (4), with Aileen Sharkey 7th for good measure. There was the usual hatful of County selections, Janine and Sally featuring in a winning Yorkshire Under-15 team.
The Northern Women’s Championships came to Roundhay Park in 1980, and produced one of the runs of the season. With a couple of leading contenders missing Julie Whiteley - by now Mrs. Laughton - was tipped by many as favourite for the Senior title, particularly as Sandra Arthurton was competing in the W.A.A.A. Indoor 1500 metres on the Saturday and in Roger Norton’s words “even if she travels back to run the next day is unlikely to be at her best.” On Monday morning Roger must have been suffering serious verbal indigestion at eating his words! Not only did Sandra take the W.A.A.A. title, and gain selection for the European Indoors; she came back to Leeds, turned out, and fought out a race-long ding-dong with Julie which was only decided in her favour on the last climb of ‘Hill 60’ - as a picture in the Yorkshire Post clearly shows. In 1980 Sandra didn’t play by the ordinary rules! There was an individual silver and a team bronze for Diane Burton in the Under-17 race, the supporting counters being Wendy Hirst (15), Tracy Rawnsley (30) and Nicky Porter (55); and a bronze for Janine Midgley in the Under-15s.
This wasn’t the end of Sandra Arthurton’s achievements that year. She had another remarkable double to come; first winning the 1500m in the Indoor meeting against West Germany (after the previous year’s win against the ‘other half’), and then deciding, as her times weren’t quite up to the stiff qualifying standard for the European Indoor Championships, to give further indoor running a miss and tackle the National Women’s Cross-Country at Rugeley instead. She ran “a sound tactical race” in her first Senior ‘National,’ aiming for international selection rather than a win, and achieved it by finishing 5th; and rounded off the season by contributing to a silver medal performance from the England team in 14th place, in spite of miscounting the laps and thinking there was one more to go as she approached the finish. The ‘National’ produced to more fine team performances; the Under-17s gained bronze medals, Diane Burton finishing a “slightly disappointing” 14th, Wendy Hirst a gritty 25th, and Nicola Porter (52) and Tracey Rawnsley (56) running far ahead of their Northern form. Meanwhile the Under-15s missed out on the same by one place, with Janine Midgley 14th in spite of a contretemps with a stream bank and a knee which finished up “literally a bit of a bloody mess,” Sally Ramsdale 27th, Beverley Bates 105th and Judith Southwell 152nd; younger sister Fiona was a fine 14th in the Under-13s.
The men’ side started with a performance which seemed to augur for a possible revival of Senior fortunes; the Club took bronze medals in the Northern 6-stage Relay Championships at Liverpool. Moreover it was a performance of remarkable consistency, with the six legs being run in times which ranged over only 48 seconds, and the team never out of the first five. Sean Cahill (21.05) led off in fourth place, brother Simon (21.29) dropped one which Mike Baxter (21.14) promptly regained, John Doherty (20.51) ran the Club’s fastest leg to go second, Brian Hilton (21.39) held it and Pete Bradley (21.20) lost out only to a fast-finishing Bolton. Unfortunately unavailability of some of the team meant that the Club did not contest the A.A.A. event two weeks later.
The following day three of the gluttons for punishment - Messrs Doherty, Hilton and Bradley - teamed up with Stuart Newby and John Lunn to finish fourth in the Cutlers’ Relay at Sheffield - and wind up in a slightly acrimonious affair. The race, organised by Sheffield University, was well sponsored by a local firm, and the pre-race publicity had stated that the first five teams would win prizes; no the day, however, only the first three were presented with them, and team manager Brwsi Kilner wasn’t taking that lying down. He wrote a polite, but clearly aggrieved, letter to Sheffield University the following day, “expressing the Club’s disgust” at this “breech of conduct,” and suggesting that the sponsors would not be too pleased to her of it. When he University Club appeared to have decided to ignore the problem in the hope it would go away, Brwsi wrote a second letter a week later, now with the official backing of the Club committee, threatening to involve the North of England A.A. and send copies of correspondence to the sponsoring company. The result of this was an extremely contrite letter from the University, citing industrial relations problems on the campus as the reason for not replying, and promising that the prizes would follow swiftly - as they in fact did. The team of Mike Baxter, John Doherty and the Cahill brothers also won the Aaron Relay in November, but the Seniors made little impact on the West Yorkshire League that autumn; though in the younger age-groups Chris Ryalls and Andy Rodgers continued to spearhead good performances, also winning their Aaron race with the support of Richard Walker.
The Championship season of 1980 saw the mini-revival of fortunes continue to some extent, though it didn’t start all that well - and not just for the Club. That year’s Yorkshire A.A.A. Championship was marred by large-scale absenteeism by the County’s leading athletes; in Leeds City’s case only Simon Cahill actually ran (3rd in the Under-19 race), and Mike Baxter was among a number of leading athletes who didn’t turn out and were lambasted by County secretary Geoff Clarke. He stated that he had written to many of those who were absent asking if they wished to be selected; of these only Mike had had the courtesy to answer, and his letter had arrived too late for him to be considered. Clarke criticised several leading athletes for running in continental races in preference to representing Yorkshire, and the English Cross-Country Union for picking them; and he claimed the team that had been selected would be too weak to stand a real chance to taking back the title. After all of which, needless to say, Yorkshire won!
However, when the Yorkshire Association Championships were held at Beverley the Club finished a team in all the age-groups bar the Under-20s (John Doherty was exercising his Northern Ireland qualification that day) on a course which combined splendid open running on most of the Westwood common across the road from the racecourse with one fiendishly muddy stretch in the woods which “provided spectators with “a whole new vocabulary” as the Seniors churned through it. There were two sets of team silver medals, the honour going to the under-15’s who not only supplied the second team but the first two finishers. It was always likely to be close between Chris Ryalls and Andy Rodgers, and it was the former’s well-developed ability to ‘put the boot in’ with a wicked surge at crucial moments which gave him the edge; Richard Walker supported well in 10th and Martin Gilpin (36) got the better of Paul Walker (46) for the last place. The Under-17s didn’t supply the same fireworks; it was more a case of four consistent runs from Wayne Aylesbury (8), Steve Hardcastle (9), Chris Reid (16) and Alistair Adams (17) which gained the medals. The Under-13 team of Alan Livingstone (23) and three youngsters from the same school (St Michael’s College), Colin Glacken (33), John Tuite (34) and Hugh Hegarty (48) placed sixth, one behind where the Seniors finished in their race.
Mike Baxter finished 4th on pretty well half training (a recent change of job had cut into his time); John Ashton (23) ran as good a Senior race as he ever did, while Pete McGouran (40) was overtaken late on by John Lunn, at 38 enjoying what was to be his last really competitive season - he finished one ahead of his age! Garry Ineson (52nd “dying ‘orribly,” in his own words) and Roger Parker (53) made up the counters. There was also a considerable controversy over Club colours when the Senior winner, Malcolm Prince of City of Hull (who at the time was working in Leeds and trained with the Club’s Seniors) was disqualified for wearing a Loughborough Colleges’ vest - in spite of the fact that it was the same shade of purple as City of Hull’s colours. The incident was made more controversial when somebody later pointed out that Peter Elliott, who won the Under-17s, had run in a black Adidas t-shirt without Rotherham’s seven-pointed star badge on it - and had not been disqualified. As a result everybody moved up a place - to Brwsi Kilner’s slight annoyance!
The Northern Championships at Durham was one to remember for all participants; the writer has never experienced quite such a quagmire in all his years of cross-country, as competitor, official or spectator. It was so glutinous as to be positively farcical; and Leeds City added to the comedy by going to the wrong changing-rooms and Martin Gilpin being so late for the Under-15 race as to start without fastening his spikes - and finish 198th in bare and sore feet! Surprisingly, track-man Andy Rodgers (4) got the bettor of hard-man Chris Ryalls (5); Richard Walker (54) suffered, according to the Newsletter, from “immersion of the kneecaps.” There was another upset in the Under-20s as Simon Cahill finished second to Blackburn’s Mick Morton, while John Doherty, whose season had been outstanding, only managed 4th - principally due to falling flat on his face in the mud after only about 300 yards; with Roger Bloor (59) and Malcolm Brine (96) the team almost got medals. A Senior team of Mike Baxter (23), Pete Bradley (95), Pete McGouran (97), Garry Ineson (113), Roger Parker (156 after a bad spiking) and Brwsi Kilner (223) also finished, but didn’t enjoy it much.
John Lunn, who dropped out at Durham, was meanwhile enjoying his ‘second childhood.’ He had managed to secure a year’s secondment to Leeds University (on full pay!), and was revelling in being the oldest competitor in student athletics. He had two particular memorable moments during the winter, and both involved Loughborough Colleges. One came when he was first counter in tenth for the University’s second team in the British Universities ‘B race’ championship and should, he claims, have had a medal; Loughborough’s winning team containing an athlete who he reckons was older than him and a lecturer! The other came in the other major student event, the Hyde Park Relay, where he found himself running for the B team (again) and taking off on his leg shoulder to shoulder with Sudanese international Omar Khalifa, a 1.46 800-metre man. That day he really learned the meaning of the phrase, “blown away!” Meanwhile another “elderly student,” Pete Bradley, earned himself a British Polytechnics’ representative vest.
The ‘National’ at Leicester was initially notable for Leeds City starting four teams in three races - in the Under-17 race the Leeds Grammar School team consisted entirely of Club members. The Club team managed to defeat its ‘alternative’ team, finishing 30th as against 34th, in spite of Wayne Aylesbury dropping from the early 30s to 211th on the last lap for some cause which was “drastic and connected with his guts.” He finished one ahead of Chris Reid, and behind Gary Hayton (100) and Steve Hardcastle (176); had he held his place the team would have been in the mid-teens. The Grammar School counters were Alistair Adams (128), Dave Warner (185), Cornelius Kelleher (229) and “’Opalong Phil Townsend” (285). The Seniors saw a distinct improvement over their placing of the previous year, finishing 26th; it also saw one of Mike Baxter’s lowest-ever placings in 76th, though his work had prevented him training as he usually did. Even so he was “first counter for the nth year” in a team which saw Pete McGouran run his best race yet for the Club in 156th, Pete Bradley finish 242nd moving through and John Lunn 366th going back, and reliable regulars Brian Hilton (412) and Brwsi Kilner (491) making up the team; Roger Parker (683) and Steve Haywood (874 of 1,710) also finished.
However, the older and the younger lads were very much Leeds City’s supporting cast that day; the fireworks came in the Under-20 race. The clash of the year had been expected to be between Steve Binns of Bingley and Mick Morton of Blackburn, the one the season’s form runner and the other coming storming back from injury; but Steve suffered a hip injury, and the clash didn’t materialise. It was then expected to be between Mick and Rossendale’s Dave Lewis - but the clash that actually occurred was between Mick and John Doherty, and it produced one of the finest contests of all Nationals in the last half-century. Nor was it as simple as that - because, in the newsletter’s words, “from the first sight ... there were five away, and two sets of amber diagonals among them.” Mick, John and Dave were joined by Colin Reitz of Essex Beagles and Simon Cahill, and for the first quarter of the race they were all close; but even then “Messrs Lewis, Reitz and Cahill showed every sign of being the supporting players.” For the vast majority of the six miles it was Morton and Doherty, literally shoulder to shoulder, except for one burst from Dave Lewis which proved to be his undoing, while an equally tight battle for third was going on behind them. The issue was only decided in the finishing straight, where “Mick ... wrung out of himself the final surge which was to be decisive;” Simon equally narrowly lost out on the bronze medal; and the silver that John took home was the first individual medal that a Club member had won in the Men’s National since amalgamation. Back in the middle of the field Roger Bloor (255) and Malcolm Brine (279) ensured a team finished, in 17th place - equal on points with Leeds University, but beaten on the last counter rule; Mike Cheseldine backed up in 321st place.
There was also considerable success for Club members in the English Schools’ Championships. The West Yorkshire team which won the Intermediate boys was half a Leeds City outfit, Wayne Aylesbury finishing 15th, Chris Reid 18th and Andy Rodgers 26th; with the support of the Bradford Grammar School (and later Bingley) pairing of Andrew Leach (who was to have a spell of carrying all before him) and Richard Nerurkar (who as to have a distinguished international career) their success is not surprising. Diane Burton and Sally Ramsdale also gained Schools internationals on the strength of their performances in the equivalent Girls’ event, to add to a growing tally of ‘vests.’
For the second year a team was got together for the 12-Stage Relays, and for only the second time it qualified for the national event at Sutton Coldfield by finishing ninth in the Northern race at Derby, on a course based on Markeaton Park part of which has literally vanished under the A38. In both races Leeds City had a moment of glory; at Derby this occurred when Sean Cahill, on the short first leg, finished literally a dip ahead of Gateshead’s international steeplechaser Dennis Coates. This left John Lunn ‘in it’ with a vengeance, but the old gentleman not only managed to drop only seven places but stayed ahead of Gateshead - as his University team-mate Geoff Turnbull took a wrong turning! Two more ‘old hands’ followed, Malcolm Cox dropping a further two and Mike Baxter picking four back up; on the next two John Ashton dropped one which John Doherty promptly recovered. Both the next two runners, Garry Ineson and Brian Hilton, lost one apiece; Neill Marshall held on to 8th, but Pete McGouran lost a further place, and Joe Clancy and Pete Bradley stuck with it. Ninth was a considerable improvement over the previous year’s effort, and it was secured with an altogether more consistent performance.
When it cake to Sutton Coldfield three weeks later, it was decided to give youth its head and put John Doherty and Simon Cahill on the first two legs. Whether this was a wise policy is debatable, but it did lead to a moment which was not to be repeated for another 26 years - after John turned in a storming run - still the second-fastest Club long leg ever at 26.00 - in eighth place Simon ran 14.09 on Leg 2 - still joint fastest Club short leg - and for a few heady minutes Leeds City led the National Relay! One member, however, wasn’t cheering - Pete McGouran had to follow that! His run wasn’t bad - indeed it was equal to the slowest long leg on the medal-winning team of 2005 - but he dropped seventeen places as a lot of clubs put a strong man on Leg 3. From then on the team was in the back end of the 28-strong field, and it had a longer and weaker tail than at Derby. Neill Marshall dropped another four, Mike Baxter - only half a minute slower than John - pulled them all back, but then it was slowly down - John Ashton one place, John Lunn another, Steve Hayward three, Brian Hilton, Mike Cheseldine and Alan Judd one each. At least Joe Clancy on the last leg held on to 26th place, and he also had the distinction of appearing on the front cover of Athletics Weekly - waiting to start his leg as the winning Bristol team finished!
In among all the Harriers’ success some of the younger members also picked up medals ‘on the boards’ in the A.A.A. Championships, all in middle-distance events. Sally Ramsdale, who took silver in the Under-15 1500m, and Diane Burton and Wendy Hirst, who fought out silver and bronze in the Under-17 1500m, were familiar names, but one of the less familiar figures had his day when Stuart Bailey, who had been running second-string to Andy Taylor in the previous summer, ran above any form he had shown outdoors to take the bronze in the Under-17 800m, “in spite of running the last sixty metres on rubber legs and pure guts.” Andy himself might have been ‘in the frame’ but for taking “one of the notorious Cosford ‘dives’;” while Aamer Khan set a personal best Long Jump and followed it with an off-day in the Triple. There also appeared to be a potentially good youngsters’ distance-relay team developing, as a trio of Chris Ryalls, Richard Walker and Andy Rodgers won two relays in March in short order - at Gateshead and Warrington. However, events were to bring this team up short.
There seemed to be a more optimistic outlook for Leeds City in the spring of 1980. The Newsletter that came out in April, which notified members both of the meeting with councillors on the Beckett Park site on April 22nd and the Annual General Meeting a week later, stressed the amount of work that needed to be done to get a successful arrangement in place, but also presented the message that it was likely that positive steps were being taken at last to improve the dire state of facilities for athletics in the city. In retrospect it was a ‘watershed’ period; because once the Club did start using Beckett Park not only did Templenewsam stop being part of the Club’s life, but within a short time the Harehills Liberal Club ceased to be the winter headquarters, the only connection retained with that era being the Boxing Day Handicap, which still at the time of writing takes place on Harehills Park. Templenewsam, however, was to suffer probably the saddest fate - simply abandoned and left behind by all concerned, a ghost of an athletic past. Those who went up the hill to see, or take part in, the highly successful English Cross-Country Championships held in the park in 2004 will probably hardly have given a second glance to the overgrown shale track, still showing signs on the inside lane that somebody runs round it; and future generations certainly won’t realise that the Club they have now had its formative period in that now apparently unprepossessing place.