22/10/2009: One that always seems to get away

17/18th October – National 6-Stage, 4-Stage & Young Athletes Relay Champs., Sutton Coldfield

ONE THAT ALWAYS SEEMS TO GET AWAY

In the long list of titles won by the Leeds City Senior Men’s Harriers’ squad in the 21st century, two are conspicuous by their absence – and the National Six-Stage remains one of them.  It certainly isn’t for want of commitment and effort; the team which went down to Sutton Park on Saturday was as good as any ever turned out.  It’s partly that in a six-stage event one outstanding run can turn the scales, and the clubs in front included members of the Great Britain cross-country team who can make such an effort, whereas the Leeds City team has got there, as it did again, by consistency.  Still, the Men were challenging throughout; Greg Hull wasn’t displeased with the efforts of either the Men or the Women, who each get their report below.

Men’s 6-Stage – A team 5th (1.45.13), B team 31st (1.51.39)

In previous years the A team has often been some way back on the first leg, in part due to the ‘front-load factor’ of weaker clubs with a strong man putting him on early to get a good race.  Although this year, though the factor clearly showed (St. Helen’s Sutton’s Dave Forrester led, and several other clubs who were ‘up there’ never showed again) Alan Buckley was right in there in 7th place, right in a bunch within about fifteen seconds of the lead – oh well, twelve if precision is required (17.22), and ahead, but not far ahead, of the Southern ‘big guns.’  It looked close then, with thirteen clubs within twenty seconds, but at the end of Leg 2 it was even tighter; the first six were separated by a mere seven seconds, Newham, Bedford and Sale had all come through, and on the tail of the pack was James Walsh, whose 17.31 was a splendid holding run while all around him went into yo-yo mode.

On Leg 3 eventual winners Newham got away, Belgrave came up into the leading group, Aldershot began to move and there were some fiery runs down the field – and Leeds City moved into second.  At 17.41 it wasn’t the recently-married Dave Webb’s best-ever day on Sutton Park, and there was over half a minute gap in front of him, but it was more than enough to put the challenge on for the rest of the race – and it was very sharply taken up on the next leg.  Third-fastest on the leg and the Club’s fastest overall, James Wilkinson set about hauling in Kevin Skinner and did so in some style, his 17.19 pulling back half a minute and reducing the gap with two to go to 17 seconds.  However, it was clearly a false dawn even as it arose, with Newham holding Mo Farah and Moumin Geele back for the last two legs.

In fact Leg 5 was something like the Star’s Parade – Farah, Phil Wicks, Chris Thompson, Scott Overall and a couple of Africans all rolled out and flying, and it would be the day when Darran Bilton wasn’t at his bounding best.  Whether he was hit by the ‘Fondles Factor’ or just had an off-day The Scribe isn’t sure, but his 18.10 not only dropped three places but more importantly lost a lot of time on the clubs around.  Nonetheless there were still three clubs only half a minute in front, and a medal was a possibility if Simon Deakin was at his best – but quite simply he wasn’t.  Greg reckoned he “looked to be running tight and not flowing,” and while 17.40 was well good enough to hold the position the three in front – Belgrave, Aldershot and Bedford – moved away.

In 31st the B team was the fourth ‘second division’ across the line, which wasn’t quite as emphatic as Greg had hoped for.  Mike Burrett led off after his outstanding effort at Beckett Park, but didn’t quite produce it again, placing 46th in 18.21 but with a lot of teams in close contention.  This gave Adam Grice the chance to do a bit of working through, which he took to the extent of seven places (18.29), a time that indicates the mountains (or the babies) are still in his legs.  After that it was steady but unspectacular progress.  Chris Birchall (18.41) made further progress, pulling back a couple, but wasn’t as sharp as at Beckett Park, Joe Townsend (18.56) made a further place, Martin Gostling, fastest on the team with 18.11 and clearly recovering from his aches and pains, picked up another four, and Geoff Belcher, a last-minute ‘pull-in,’ took another with 19.01 to earn a respectable finish and place 8th among Northern and second among Yorkshire clubs.  There as, however, one warning note; not only did Aldershot finish third, but their ‘stiffs’ were 19th, 1½ minutes up on Leeds City’s.  It looks as if some of that fleet of kids are growing up!

Women – A team 29th (1.05.37), B team 55th (1.11.56)

Without Susan Partridge and Claire Duck a high finish wasn’t ever likely but it was pleasing to see two full teams out and battling.  Moreover with the front-load factor being even more emphatic in this race than in the Men’s it wasn’t a surprise that Rachael Dyson was well down on the first leg;16.42 was well up to standard on her previous form, but with so many class performers put in early on she found herself back in 55th.  It was enough to give Emily Klee a platform from which to launch a run-through, however, and with 15.50 Emily duly hauled back nineteen places.  Kirsteen Young, who’s been slowly progressing her way back from injury (physio, heal thyself?!), showed that the progress is getting solid by picking up another six (16.07), and to bring the team up to its final resting-place there was another good steady run (16.58) from the returning Sophie Lovell, clearly indicating that Halifax wasn’t a one-off and there’s more to come.

The B team seem, according to one member, to have enjoyed themselves.  Anna Martin (17.37) had an altogether better run that her Beckett Park disaster (apparently she wasn’t feeling her best on that day), placing 69th and handing on to Sian Davies, who prefers the country to the road and dropped two (18.58).  The lapse was temporary, as on Leg 3 there emerged the Club’s youngest ‘rave from the grave’ – Becky Townsend, racing for the first time in about three years and considering her complete lack of speedwork racing well.  Her 17.06 hauled back eleven places, and led up to something of a Grandstand (or is that Grandma!) Finish as Veronique Marot, in her own words “full of running and very co-ordinated, something that doesn’t happen very often these days,” stormed past another five.  She mentioned that even the great Jim Alder “commented on how good I looked on the run – but then, his eyesight’s been failing for years.”  (And no, Jim – it wasn’t The Scribe’s invention – honest!!)

Young Athletes Relay

For whatever reason the only race with Club representation on Sunday was the Under-17 Men, in which two teams turned out. Michael Wood led off the A trio, which in such a short relay saw a lot of ‘front-loading,’ and found himself in 17th place in 12.16; Gordon Benson didn’t run a lot faster (12.12) on the second leg, but with not so many quick boys around him moved through to 7th.  On last Elliot Todd, who’s been off colour and hasn’t raced much in the last month, wasn’t his usual sparkling self (12.41) and dropped three, meaning the team finished in 10th place, about 1½ minutes down on winners Ipswich. As at Halifax last week Alex Hart had a strong run to form, bringing the second trio in 46th of 78 on the first leg with 13.12; Rob Torch wasn’t a lot slower (13.18) picking up a couple of places, and Jamie Higgins (14.02) made another on the last leg.

ODDS AND THE OTHER THING

Regular participants in the Yorkshire Veterans’ A.A. Grand Prix Series were mainly missing, due to holidays and injuries, from the eighth race of the series at Greetland; the only two participants, however, kept up their challenge for a place at the prize table at the end of the season.  Sean Cotter finished second overall in 36.37, and is sufficiently far ahead in the overall Over-40 category to be likely to take the title after the last race in November (Unless Pudsey & Bramley’s Richard Pattison finishes in the first eight); while in 234th place (45.18) John Mace consolidated his third place among the Over-55s, finishing in that position.

Darran Bilton had a second day out at the weekend; wearing his second-claim club Swaledale’s colours he won the Richmond Castle 10k in 32.49 by a fair margin.  Just under a quarter of an hour later Alistair Davy, returning to racing after an absence, was 4th Over-60 finisher in 47.27.

Also out on Sunday was Paul Marchant, who’d been on the ‘reserve list’ for the Relay but had been ‘stood down’ to run the Bridlington Half-Marathon instead, a decision justified with third place (behind the fearsomely-reincarnated Andrew Pearson) in a useful 70.25 which puts him firmly on the Ranking List.  Also out was Chris Corcoran, placing 4th among the Over-55s with 1.32.39.

There was a bit of a Club showing in three of the events in the Bradford City Runs on Sunday.  Jennie Guard went for something longer and finished 62nd in the 10-Mile event, in a highly respectable 69.09, while Mark Sawyer recognised his limitations (it’s only about his fourth race since deciding to have a go at 45-plus) and stuck to the 5-Miler, finishing a creditable 18th in 36.47.  Daughter Nicola was one of a trio of Club members in the first half-dozen of the Youngsters’ 2½-mile event, finishing 6th in 14.57; the only girl in front of her was Gemma Keir, one place ahead in 14.01, while Steven Eastwood finished second in 12.16, a minute behind the winner – and as that was Sam Kerfoot-Roberts that’s not a bad effort.