20/02/2010: Not the best day for a major club effort

20th February – Yorkshire Cross-Country Championships, Wakefield

The Yorkshire County A.A. may have made the right decision in postponing this event in January, but they made a poor one in choosing to stage it a week before the National Championships.  Certainly in the Senior and Under-20 races at any rate there was a significant shortfall in turners-out, and not just from Leeds City; a lot of people appeared to be saving something for next weekend, and the quality of most fields was down on what it might have been.  The upside was a splendid day for weather on the usual challenging Thornes Park course, and several splendid races to go with it; but for Leeds City it was possibly one of the least productive Yorkshires for some years, with only one title brought home.

There were no Club takers in two of the races, and in three others there wasn’t a complete team, even though apart from the Senior men the races only count three nowadays.  Kieran Savage ploughed a lone furrow in the Under-13 Boys, and to say it was his first experience of Championship racing 22nd wasn’t too bad a furrow to plough.  In the equivalent Girls’ race there was at least nearly an individual medal to shout about; Gemma Keir was involved in a pretty tight race for most of the distance, hanging on stoutly for 4th place and pretty certainly gaining County selection as a result.  The only other turner-out, Nicola Sawyer, had a decent run in 36th.  The third race where there were only a couple out was, somehwat surprisingly after the Northern, the Under-20 Men, run in conjunction with the Seniors and therefore (in spite of distinctive yellow numbers) not easy to follow; clearly the Edgbaston Mafia had decided that two trips north in a week would cut too deeply into a student budget.  Dale Worton made a determined effort to be well up, and for the first two laps was challenging for medals, but slipped away a bit on the last and wound up 7th, good enough for a County vest but perhaps not quite up to his superb Northern effort; however, Danny Davis in 15th looked to be about the same distance behind Dale as he had been at Blackburn, so it could just have been a strong field.

Two teams didn’t get medals – though one of them might to the unknowing have seemed to.  The Under-15 Girls placed 11th, with Georgia Yearby having the  best run of the day in 24th place, well up to recent form; support came from India Wilson (59) and Beth Roberts (62), but Grace Coburn had a problem and came out.  The Under-15 Lads were missing a sick Luke Murray, so the main interest for Steven Eastwood and Harry Foster was to go after County selection.  In 9th place Steven just got it (one of those in front was a Humbersider, as their Championships were being incorporated in the event) while in 15th Harry missed out; but again neither of them was up to their Blackburn form, judging by their positions vis-a-vis those they ran against there.  They did, however, have a team this time, as Jake Teale and Alex Murgatroyd turned out, the former for only the second time and the latter making his debut.   They both started cautiously, running together at the back of the field, but later on made a little ground and finished 54th and 57th, Jake being third counter in the fifth-placing trio.   However, there was a Leeds City vest in front of them, as Luke Cooper, another debutant, placed 26th; unfortunately, he’s moved recently from Pudsey & Bramley, and was running as a non-scorer.  Had he counted, the team would have been third.

The Senior Men were extremely short-handed – no Dave Webb (understandably – see below!), no Darran Bilton, no Martin Hilton (sidelined with an eye infection), no Martin Gostling (creaking), and of course none of the out-of-county gang.  The team that turned out was still anything but negligible, and there was some determination expressed among its members to beat Bingley nonetheless; but while they achieved this, Hallamshire got everybody out and won by 15 points.  It looked likely from the first of the four laps, with a large pack of red vests in the early group and the Leeds City guys a bit back; and while in some  years there’s been a surge-through after a couple of miles it never really happened this time.  Chris Birchall, Mike Burrett and Adam Osborne did move up to between 5th and 8th by the half-way stage and looked to be laying a sound foundation, but on the last lap the Sheffield outfit all seemed to get the bit between their teeth and make a few places, and the Leeds trio didn’t, finishing 9th, 10th and 11th.  The one big surger was Greg Hull, who ploughed out of the twenties to wind up 14th; he informed Roger Norton that in the twenty or more years he’s run in the Yorkshires he’s occupied every position between 1st and 15th – is this a record?? James Smith battled hard for most of the way in the lower teens, but just isn’t the same man on mud as on tarmac and slipped to 22nd on the last lap; he was passed on the run-in by Oliver Ziff, whose efforts confirmed that his good run at Blackburn was no fluke.  There have been years when six in 22 would leave the Club delirious; not any more, but this was a sound effort from what was really an augmented B team.

There was a ‘C team’ masquerading as the B outfit which finished a solid 5th overall.  Paul Marchant (24) moved through off a steady start and very nearly made the A squad with a strong finish; Mark Bryant (39) reappeared for the first time since last May to quite striking effect, and the evergreen Martin Farran (46) was well pleased with his run (“getting there for the National,” was his comment afterwards).   Ben Dyson also made the first half of the field (68th), and the second six was competed by near-Vet Pete Steel (109 – “not bad on twenty miles a week!”) and the slightly younger Danny Jones (125).

If there were gaps in the Men’s team the Senior Women were comparatively mob-handed with seven starters and most of the ‘front-end’ in action; and if they couldn’t beat a powerful Hallamshire squad with plenty of strength even without Hatti Dean it wasn’t for lack of trying – and not by much either!  Only five points separated the two clubs at the end; and while the gap to Bronze medallists Wakefield was barely narrower (six, in fact) it would have been a different story counting four.  After her recent efforts it was no surprise to anybody that Susan Partridge was right there from the off; the individual race very rapidly became a two-hander with Victoria Wilkinson, though two Wakefield girls were never far away on the first two laps, and at one stage Susan looked to be poised to cause an upset; only eight seconds separated them at the end.  Sarah Peterson had a sound and steady race, settling early on in about 20th place and battling for a couple more on the last circuit to finish 18th; but the Silver was really settled by Emily Klee on the last lap.   Not renowned as a finisher, she seemed to have settled for 10th, but off the last hill suddenly found a kick and took the two immediately in front to wind up 8th.  Those steeplechases last summer seem to have done her the world of good.

As with the Men there was a second team, which finished 14th of 25 and would have been higher if Jennie Guard hadn’t had a bit of a tempestuous time; she was clearly in a bit of distress on the last lap, and 69th place was well down on what she’d done at Blackburn.  The other two had good runs; indeed it looked at one stage on the last lap as if Sophie Lovell (26) might just challenge to nick the medal from Sarah as she came through the field like the proverbial dose.  Alison Varley has ( according to dad and guru Arthur Cockcroft) “got the bit between her teeth this year,” and 41st place and sixth Veteran Lady to finish were both good efforts.  The final finisher was Veronique Marot (83), not quite at her best but probably still feeling the traumas of her canal-bank adventure (full story in plain envelope to discerning adults!!)

So the title?  It had to be the Under-17 Men, as it was never likely in spite of the very strong field of individuals that any club was going to put out three to come anywhere near Gordon Benson, Mike Wood and Elliot Todd.  (It might have been a different story if Holmfirth had had a third man, but then …..)   Sure enough, the trio were up in the leading bunch of six or seven from the off, with Gordon characteristically preferring to run in front even when challenged by the powerful Max Kaye.   On the first of the two longer laps Mike moved up to join the first two, and the two Leeds lads put the pressure on; on the last lap it paid as Max went back, and Gordon found the better edge to move away by eight seconds from Mike.  Elliot, meanwhile, had run rather more steadily in view of a recent cold (he seems to attract half the germs of Leeds in winter!), and concentrated on holding 6th place to make very sure of the team win (by 33 points!).  Jamie Higgins, who slugged his way solidly round a hard course to finish 35th, was the only other finisher; Rob Torch was out with a tweaked back, and Alex Hart simply looked off it from the first lap and probably did himself a favour by coming out.

BROKEN RECORDS AND OTHER MATTERS

February 14th saw two Club records go down at the longest and shortest ends of the running spectrum and some 1200 miles apart.  Close to home Matt Hudson, who’s been peppering the 60m Hurdles mark for most of the winter, knocked it down twice in a day at the U.K. Indoor Championships at Sheffield, clipping 0.02 seconds off in the heat with 8.00 and then finishing 6th in the Final in 7.95.  On the same afternoon James Wilkinson set a PB over 3000m with 8.11.37 – three seconds faster than his outdoor best; also competing were Dan Gardiner (7.00) and Anthony Timms (6.80) in the Long Jump and Alice Simpson (12.50) in the Shot.

The Club Marathon record has had a habit of lasting for a long time.  It’s only had three holders in almost forty years  – John Lunn (with 2.23.30) from June 1971 to April 1983, Brian Eden (2.21.16) from then until October 1993, and Trevor Wilson (2.19.49) ever since – until February 14th, when Dave Webb ran the distance for the first time at the Seville Marathon.  The intention was to gain a qualifying time for the European and Commonwealth Championships, and the intention was achieved; in 8th place in the race he finished in 2.15.42, lowering Trevor’s time by a massive four minutes.  The Scribe ventures to suggest, however, that if Dave does gain selection for one or the other Games the record might on this occasion not last quite as long as in the past.

Matt Hudson wasn’t the only Club member to go to the London Games on January 31st; after his comparative disappointment in Glasgow the week before Julien Gittens went to the other end of the country and further extended his Over-45 Triple Jump record to 12.15 – not without a few alarums and excursion with “my usual start of wild fouls.”  One never knows – he might have a good day yet and get it right first time, and then who knows what might follow?

Last week saw a bit more undercover track activity, and a few more personal bests to keep The Ranker in winter work.  On Tuesday Dan Gardiner and Anthony Timms went to Sheffield to play in the R.A.F. & Inter-Universities’ Meeting, and played to some effect, Anthony putting in another sound early-season log Jump at 6.71 and Dan winning the event with 7.10 and then going on to pulverise his best with the 7.26k Shot with 13.62 – sixth best in Club history.  On Sunday it was Alyssia Carr’s turn to rewrite something with a vengeance at the Sale Open meeting at Sport City; she shaved her best 60m to 8.33, but took a substantial half-second of her previous Hurdles mark with 9.44 – and half a second over such a short distance is a lot!  It’s also nice to see one of the triers achieving ahead of previous; Bradley Robinson put in a solid Long Jump of 5.18 and then got to a Under-17 Ranking List with a 7.95 60m.