28/12/2009: End of year round up

Once the West Yorkshire League season had finished, on the 6th, there’s been a bit of a gap in regular activity for quite a lot of the Club, but quite a lot of members have been up to things – so here’s something like a blow-by-blow account to keep people informed.

12th December – WILKO’S SUCCESSFUL IRISH ESCAPADE

James Wilkinson could hardly have done more to justify his selection for the European Cross-Country Championships than finish third in the Under-20 event and play a leading part in England’s team win – and yet The Scribe ventures to suggest that however pleased he was there’d be an element of “so near and yet so far” about his feelings.  Not only was he only headed by Nick Goolab for second by about the thickness of a vest (they were given the same time), not only were both the British lads a mere second off winning, but the winner, Belgium’s Jeroen De Hoedt, was one of the two lads James burnt off from the water-jump in the European Junior Steeplechase in July.  Large numbers of the Club appear to have seen the event on television (The Scribe, being involved with Santa Claus at the time, didn’t), but it must have been something of a storming last kilometre, even more so as the fourth man was only two seconds back.  The Scribe passes on everybody’s congratulations on a job thoroughly well done!

On the same day the second Northern Athletics Indoor Open at Sheffield saw some determined efforts from the small number of Club members who made the trip.  Both Alyssia Carr and Melissa Fletcher put themselves in the ranking lists over 150 metres, Alyssia with a quick 20.19 in a race mainly against lads, and Melissa with 21.90 in an all-female heat; they also both ran a decent 60m (8.47 and 8.95 respectively) and produced good Long Jump marks (4.47 and 4.22) off the rather ‘dead’ E.I.S. runway (an opinion expressed by several jumpers).  Melissa found herself exactly one centimetre in front of Sam Clark, though he was probably the happier as his 4.21 was a PB by quite a bit and took him into the Under-13 List.  There was quite a turn-out in the High Jump, with James Heaton opening his season with a sound 1.90, Steve Linsell finding 1.80 and not being far off 1.85, Connor Morley clearing 1.55 and Tom Lindsay hitting 1.70 as par t pf a good day’s efforts which included a 6.14 Long Jump and 8.34 Shot.  However, happiest bunny of the afternoon was probably Matt Campleman, who went home with three PBs – though such is the nature of athletics that there’ll be a little disappointment in there.  He went, according to his Mum, with targets in mind of eight seconds in the Hurdles, eight metres in the Shot and five metres in the Long Jump – all good marks for an Under-15 multi-eventer – and came back with 8.19, 7.98 and 4.98!   Still, progress is progress, even if it isn’t quite what you wanted!

Not yet past December, but the Club already has a 2010 County Champion!  Being (as in so many other things) a law unto themselves, the North-Eastern Counties (which in athletic terms are a county within the meaning of the Act) traditionally hold their Championships before Christmas; and on December 12th at Branksome School, Darlington, on a course which at first sight seemed to consist mostly of a grass verge alongside the road, Carl Smith took the Under-20 title by just about half a minute.  (And how does The Scribe know so much about the course?  Well, he just happened to visit his son the following day – and he lives in the next street!)

On the following day there were a couple of elder gentlemen motoring round the roads in not-too-distant parts, in spite of some horrendous weather which nearly saw one of the races put off.  It required a course inspection along the Loxley Valley before the Percy Pud 10k was allowed to start, but when it did Darran Bilton bashed his way through the floods to finish second – and somewhat remarkably, second vet! – in 32.06.  Over the Pennines Chris Corcoran had a day out in the Stockport Ten-Miler, and wasn’t displeased with 140th in a big field in 70.23, which placed him 8th in the Over-55 age-group.

There was more indoor action on the 20th at the City of Manchester Open, and another rack of good performances was recorded by Club sprinters.  One intriguing question was what exactly happened to Kadena Cox; according to the result sheets, having failed to finish Heat 10 of the 60 metres, she went back and ran in Heat 11 to record a very decent 8.19.  Dan Gardiner, now officially an athlete of full age, had a run-out to good effect with a 7.13 60 and 8.80 60m Hurdles, adding a win in the Long Jump with 7.08, while brother Jacob was hardly left out with marks of 7.36 and 8.95; there were a couple of crisp 60s from Tom Mosley (7.19) and Harvard Jefferson (7.38), while Jack Mosley and Dan Brownbill both had a bash at 400 on the boards, finishing first and second in their heats (52.88 and 53.36), though The Scribe suggests that as both are tall lads they didn’t find the tight bends as comfortable as outdoors.  It almost goes without saying that Alyssia Carr and Melissa Fletcher turned out, and as both improved on the previous weeks’ 60m times (8.43 and 8.88) they probably reckoned the trip was worthwhile.

The whitest Christmas for many a year made proceeding with the traditional Club handicap events a rather parlous business, but both, in some form, went ahead.  The Deserters’ Dash on the 23rd adopted a new course devised by Phil Townsend, which in The Scribe’s view was a potential significant improvement on the course through the Allenbys used in previous years, though he respectfully suggests there is potential for one change improving it.  Icy pavements (which caused the cancellation of the Junior race) meant that the distance was curtailed from the original intention; this turned out to be to the front-marker’s advantage, as Janek Popiolek (who reappears flashing from Pudsey for this occasion!) got the better of Mark Sawyer by seventeen seconds (29.21 to 29 38) and were not seen by the rest of the field.  Mathematical extrapolation by Twons suggests that at the intended distance they would have been caught by Dale Worton (watch time 30.41; actual time subtracting handicap 18.41), Danny Davis (30.58, 19.18) Will Plastow (31.02, 19.02) and Joe Townsend (31.12, 18.12), with Nick Hooker (31.26, 18.26) splitting the pair.  Still, it’s all supposed to be merry Christmas fun, isn’t it?  Fastest on the road was Simon Deakin (18.09), with Gordon Benson (19.24) quickest of the youngsters and Sophie Waterhouse, putting in a rare appearance (unsurprisingly, as she’s at University somewhere in London) the sole lady taker in 26.19.

The most important feature of the Boxing Day Handicap was the turn-out; after some disappointments in recent years there were 23 finishers (well, 21 really, as Nick Hooker came for a jog as he was racing the next day and Phil Townsend didn’t actually cross the line), a figure which gratified Arthur Cockcroft and clearly showed the value of advanced publicity.  It may well have been the slowest Boxing Day for a while, but “Harehills Park was a white-out,” so it was hardly likely that the talismanic thirteen-minute barrier was going to be approached; indeed the fact that Joe Townsend cracked fourteen minutes (13.59) and several others (Dale Worton 14.15, Oliver Ziff 14.20, Geoff Belcher and the re-emergent Spike Williams 14.25 and Mike Salter 14.31) was creditable under the circumstances.  It’s something of a tradition that former members as well as present-day ones are invited to turn out, and it’s also something of a tradition that they tend to do well, this year was a case in point, as Graham Needham (actual time 17.48) held off Ollie by two seconds to win the race, with Rachael Dyson striking a blow for the distaff side with an ‘actual’ of 17.53.  The handicapping was clearly up to its usual standard – first three in five seconds, first twelve inside half a minute.  (And if anybody doesn’t think that’s good, try doing it yourself!!)

December 27th is a bit late in the year for a Northern Championship, but this year the 10k road event was outsourced to the Ribble Valley 10k, so that ‘s when it was. Clearly the course around Clitheroe had been ploughed free of snow and ice, because the event – attracting quite a lot of the North’s leading distance-men – was quick to say the least; Bolton’s Tom Lancashire won the race in 29.21, Blackburn’s Ben Fish took the Northern title in second place (29.38), the first eight broke thirty minutes and Simon Deakin, the Club’s best-placed finisher, found a crisp 30.31 only good for 14th overall and seventh among the pre-entered.  Carl Smith (27th, 31.17) didn’t enter as an Under-20, but was in fact on place behind the official first Junior home; also out and going reasonably fast were Adam Osborne (44th, 32.28), Nick Hooker (52nd, 32.46) and Alex Davy (74th, 33.56), while in 141st Trevor Clough (37.43) placed 5th among the Over-50s.