09/12/2009: Sticky end to indifferent league season

6th December – Complete Runner League, Guiseley

STICKY END TO INDIFFERENT LEAGUE SEASON

Even on a dry day Nunroyd Park is likely to be wet.  After a week of more or less uninterrupted rain a couple of dryer days had precious little effect, and by the end of the afternoon parts of the park could have served for a re-enactment of Passchendaele, though generally all competitors and spectators were understanding about keeping off the taped-off cricket area.  The gruesome underfoot conditions were compounded, for the third time this season, by a wind of such viciousness as to almost give The Scribe, who was ‘volunteered’ to assist with lap-switching duties, a strained arm from restraining the tape he was holding; the only saving grace was that the rain held off.  The weather certainly was a factor in a none-too-sparkling afternoon’s performances from Leeds City, though as ever there were those who rose above the glutinous conditions and those who were sunk by other causes.

The Club finished teams in only five of the age-groups, having no representatives in two of the younger ones; however, two of the three others at least showed some individual successes.  The Under-11 Boys was a bright start, with Tomas Szajdzicki, one of several of the younger athletes who favoured tights against the wet and wind, completing a consistent season with another second place, the position he occupied in the season’s overall competition.  After making his debut in the one meeting with decent weather Haydn Williamson had a tough second effort, but coped soundly and ran in 15th.  Chloe Harley had a better-looking run (15th) in the Under-17 Women’s race, while in the Under-15 Boys both Steven Eastwood and Harry Foster were in a leading group of four from early on.  On this occasion Steven (3rd) had the better of it, but only by a place and a couple of seconds – literally – from Harry, who early on was being justifiably wary of a Thursday-night muscle-twinge, and by the time he decided it was all right and put a finish in Steven had got himself just far enough away.  In the overall results the finished fourth and second, Harry beating Wakefield’s Jake Worton for Silver in a tie-breaker by precisely one second.

In fifth place the Under-13 Girls had possibly their best team race of the season; up at the front Gemma Keir pretty certainly had hers, sticking with Abby-Mae Parkinson and Annabel Mason all the way and launching a final kick to head the latter and finish second.  This trio have had an up-and-down contest all season, so it wasn’t surprising that the overall result was close, and Gemma just got shunted to third.  After a couple of slightly disappointing runs Nicola Sawyer suddenly found her webbed feet and ran a whole lot better to finish 15th, Danielle Griggs (41), out for the second time this year, coped well with the heavy going to make up the count, and Gabrielle Scobie (48) finished with commendable determination.

The Under-15 Girls have been well down the field all year but always conspicuous by their presence, and it was good to see them round off the season with a better sort of performance.  The most marked improvement cam from Georgia Yearby, whose 17th place was a further move upwards in the one youngsters’ field of the day where numbers weren’t down, the luminous green gloves may have had something to do with it, but confidence had a lot more.  Grace Coburn (38) was, understandably after her injuries, a mite wary on the sticky going, and India Wilson (40) really prefers the track, though she always gives twelve pence to the bob whatever she does; it was also good to see Beth Roberts (42) giving it a go.

There was one certain team title for the Club; the Under-17 Lads didn’t really need to turn up to collect theirs, having won the other three, but there’s such a thing as pride, and the trio that turned out made it a perfect four.  The glue-pot might have been stirred up to perfection for Gordon Benson; he slotted in with a leading group containing the very strong gang of ‘usual suspects’ – Messrs Schofield, Kaye, Kerfoot-Roberst and Elliot Todd – for one lap, then put the boot in at the start of the second and was not seen again!   He made a full day of it by taking off the overall title as well; Elliot, who’s still not 100 per cent from earlier in the season, had a bit of a fade and was pushed into 6th by a fast-finishing Tom Travis-Pollard.  (Have there ever been as many ‘double-barrelled’ runners in West Yorkshire??)  The count was completed by Alex Hart, who clung limpet-like to 13th in spite of sounding to be coughing half his lungs up going through the finish area for the first time.

All things being considered, the Senior Ladies who finished in third place overall this season have done themselves quite proud.  They were perhaps a little disappointed to finish fourth on the day, three points behind Keighley and Craven, but the essential difference against their splendid Wakefield run is that Rachael Dyson is a ‘top-of-the-ground’ runner who simply doesn’t cope as well with quagmires.  (This isn’t a criticism – some folk just don’t!)  As against her 15th place last time she was fourth counter in33rd, and it made the difference.  In compensation there was another splendid run from Sarah Peterson, who clearly revelled in the heavy going, and looked to be going to hang on for 4th until the vastly-experienced Lisa Mawer found a finish, and on a day when the tough needed to get going Alison Varley (possibly piqued by certain comments made by The Scribe) did just that and produced her best of the year in 23rd, a fine effort from an experienced hand.  (She also took 4th overall place among the Over-40s, missing out on third only on a tie-break.)  The less-experienced but on this season’s form increasingly tenacious Sarah Whitley did another buckling-down performance in 26th to complete the counting foursome, and there were two other heartening sights – Jennie Guard returning to a bit of cross-country form and moving up to 38th in the later stages with a strong run, and in 54th Sian Davies not only getting the better of Veronique Marot at last (Veronique’s 75th was in part due to turning her ankle shortly before the race) but finishing one ahead of the famous Jean (“Oh, Mrs. S., you look ‘orrible!”) Shotter.

However, the Senior Men gave up the team title rather tamely by a failure of people to turn out; the margin of victory on the day allowed Bingley to take the overall title by just ten points.  There was not question, however, that the guys who were there didn’t give it everything they had; but the gap to the fifth and sixth counters was just too big.   Nobody gave it more than Martin Hilton; finding himself in a straight race with Mark Buckingham, the only one of his leading rivals to turn up, Martin didn’t just hang on but took it to his younger rival, knowing that in a finish his sprint wouldn’t be enough.  At one point it looked as if he might do it – but it wasn’t to be, though the four–second gap was only so big because having been passed he slowed in the last fifty yards.   The next three finished in a line after contrasting races; Adam Osborne (11) going off quickly, having a bit of a fade and coming back strongly on the fourth lap, Nick Hooker (12) running just off the leaders, making a mid-race surge and then not quite holding it, and Paul Marchant (13) coming from some way back with a strong second half of the race.  After that, though, there was a long wait to a contrasting last two counters – the youthful Will Plastow (35) battling though the heavy going but losing out on strength to some of the older hands, and the somewhat less youthful (48, The Scribe believes) Martin Farran, who ran one of his crafty working-through races and just got the better of Sam Wallbank by a couple of places ion the last lap to finish 46th.

Sam led home a B team which amassed over 500 points (Bingley’s scored 172, and their 12th man was a place in front of Martin F.).  Steve O’Neill (79) was another who liked the Nunroyd mud less well than the Thornes Park surface, and after a race-long struggle was passed in the run-in by Ben Dyson, who clearly liked it better.  Pete Steel just put himself in the first 100 – 99th to be precise – and the team was made up by Danny Jones, who looked to be rocking a bit in places by held it together for 113th, and Gary Wilks, who ground his way round to 134th thus denying both John Mace (142) and Rob Gatenby (149) a counting place.  In the overall results the Two Martins both got a place (Martin H. second Senior, Martin F. 5th Over-45); the only other first-sex placer, Danny Davis in the Junior Men, has been off-colour for a week or so and was probably wise to give this one a miss.  In the overall team contest, Bingley’s win put the two clubs level, but the winning margin this time was enough to give them an advantage of just ten match points – and the title.

SELECTION AND TITLES FROM WET WEEKEND

Being somewhat restricted by a failed e-mail, the Scribe has only recently got hold of the results of two events in which Club members did themselves proud.  The most recent round of the U.K. Cross Challenge, at Liverpool on the 28th November, was as usual the trial to pick teams for the European Cross-Country Championship; and it’s no great surprise on recent form, but highly heartening for himself and the Club, that James Wilkinson will be in the Under-20 team after finishing second, only a couple of seconds down on the winner.  There was quite a sizeable representation from the Club in this race, but it has to be said that form was a bit patchy, probably due to the glutinous condition of Sefton Park; of the other four members Carl Smith placed a useful 17th, and Dale Worton’s 63rd place was probably a form run in a strong field; but in 75th Geoff Belcher didn’t appear to have got anywhere near his form of a month ago, and Danny Davis (97th) seems to have stuck pretty fast in the gunge.  With the Seniors not this year being up for Europe, only Martin Hilton and Joe Townsend turned out; according to sources not a million miles from Leeds 11 Martin was, considering his state of fitness, reasonably pleased with 60th place, while as Joe was only half a minute or so down – much as at Wakefield – he appeared to continue his improved form.

The Northern 10 Miles Road Race Championship must have been the last to be decided for the year, having taken place the day after Liverpool in conjunction with the Thirsk 10; and it’s a safe bet, with the lousy weather on that day, that nobody suffered the heat-stroke that occurred in the same race one year when it was held in summer!  There was some quite hot stuff on the road, though, as the resurgent Andrew Pearson, who’s been making considerable waves this winter, came up against Dave Webb; and in modern conditions a win by a matter of seconds in 48.32 means the roads must have been steaming a bit after they’d passed.  For once this season Andrew was bettered, and the Northern title must have made Dave’s trip from Birmingham worthwhile – even more so as he took a couple of Gold medals back with him, as Mike Burrett (8th, 52.39) and Paul Marchant (9th, 52.46) provided excellent backing-up to tame the team title comfortably.  It should have been even better, as Simon Deakin finished 4th in 50.35; but as he’d only entered on the day he wasn’t eligible for either title.  Still, it does mean that since he moved over from Rothwell six months ago Paul’s picked up a Yorkshire and a Northern medal – not bad going, eh!

AND JUST A FEW MORE ITEMS ….

A couple of Club members were involved in the North-East on December 6th, as Alex Davy reports in an e-mail; he and Aidan Adams took part in the Norman Woodcock Memorial 5-Mile Race, promoted by Elswick Harriers “on the rather pot-holy ambulance-track on the inside of Newcastle racecourse.”  Aidan finished 5th in 26.16, with Alex, running “my first race in the blue and amber since June and a stress fracture,” was justifiably pleased with his 9th spot (6.48), though reckoning with a few more races under the belt there’ll be better things to come.

There’s even been a little activity on the indoor tracks last weekend.  Katy Marchant went to Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall as part of the England team for the Schools’ Combined Events’ International and finished second with 3440 points, which as it’s her first as an Under-20 puts her in the Lists again.  Her individual marks were 8.98 Hurdles, 5.10 Long Jump, 8.98 Shot, 1.62 High Jump and 2.39.71 800.  On Sunday Matt Campleman went to the City of Manchester Open at Sport City and was involved in one of those races where numbers participating doesn’t matter; there were only two takers in the Under-15 60m Hurdles, but the fact that Matt had to run a new PB of 9.70 to win by a fiftieth of a second suggests it was anything but uninteresting.  Later in the afternoon Matt finished last of three in his 60m heat, three-hundredths behind the same lad, but set another PB (8.28) in the process.