Northern Road Relays, Birchwood, Warrington, 24th September

MEN TAKE NARROW VICTORY AS WOMEN AND U13 BOYS COMPETE WITH DISTINCTION

The Harriers season opens in earnest at the Northern Road Relays. Leeds City have developed a strong recent tradition in this event with both men and women finishing highly and, as ever, the aim was to match (or exceed) past performances.

The U13 boys opened proceedings and set the tone in fine style finishing in 7th place only 14 seconds off 3rd. Billy Dawson in particular produced a run of real promise on first leg coming in 5th in 10:34 and Alex Booth (11:30) and Dominic Peterson (11:10) backed up strongly.

The Women’s team will be looking to improve on last years heroics and after failing to finish a team last year 11h place over the 4×4.9k course represents a good start to the year. Jennie Guard kicked things off with a sound 18:05 to come home in 21st place. Rachael Dyson (19:49) and Ruth Wilcox (19:24) then ran well to give the returning Claire Duck on the final leg a fighting chance and she duly responded with a 17:39 for 4th quickest on the leg as she cut through to 11th. Sheryl Punter, carefully dipping her toe into longer races to gain strength over the winter in support of her track endeavours, ran first leg for an incomplete B-team and was certainlt not disgraced with a 20:11.

The Senior Men managed to raise three full teams plus the solitary Aaron Lowery running first leg for an incomplete D team (21:06).

The C-team was kicked off by the legendary Trev Wilks (20:01) a highly experienced head handing over to Elliot Todd (20:14), probably the youngest runner in the entire race! The two Petes (Steel and Branney), with 20:39 and 20:26 respectively, were followed by the returning Mike Williams (20:01) and Ben Dyson (21:07) to finish off a very consistent all-round performance in a creditable 35th position.

Dale Worton lead off for the B-team and was probably a bit below his best clocking 19:48 for 39th. Danny Davis, fresh from his first couple of weeks of training “sessions” at St Mary’s university covered the 6k in 19:29 with Leon Foster (lamenting the late start time that made getting to Preston in time to see his beloved Tranmere get humbled by the mighty North End impossible – 19:47) handing on to the speedy and impressive pair of Fergus Meade (19:13) and Mike Burrett, who shrugged off the after effects of the Great North Run with 19:05. Gavin Chatterton was probably adversely affected by the twin effects of a recent bicycle crash and several other ailments too numerous to list but bought the team home safely in 16th place, comfortably qualifying for the National Relays with a 20:19.

The A-team were hoping for a 3rd win in 4th years but the unfortunate loss of Alan Buckley and Martin Gostling with colds necessitated a bit of a reshuffle and were thought to be a bit up against it. James Smith, enjoying a sharpener ahead of the Amsterdam Marathon, stayed slightly off the fast early pace before hitting the front half-way and striding to an impressive first leg victory in 17:47. Youngster Chris Wright was then handed a difficult situation with the impresive duo of Liverpool’s Jonny Mellor and Sunderland’s Patrick Martin chasing him down. However, he admirably kept his head under pressure for a sound 18:49 leaving Martin Roscoe to continue limiting the losses which he did in the traditional full blooded style in 19:18 leaving Leeds some 1:45 off the lead at the half-way mark in 6th place, a tough but manageable gap to close.

Simon Deakin set to the task and his 17:58 made up ground on all the teams ahead of him winding up in 4th place, just on the heels of Lincoln and, more importantly, Morpeth. The race then came down to a 2 on 2 duel between the strong and experienced Morpeth pair of Peter Newton and Ian Hudspith and the two James’, Walsh and Wilkinson. Walsh quickly close the small gap on Newton but came up against stiff response before finally opening up a more decisive gap in the later stages, his 17:28 the 5th fastest stage of the day. This left Wilko with a small gap over Hudspith at the start of the final stage. He made short work of Liverpool Harriers (still out in front at this stage) who unfortunately ran out of runners and at first increased the lead. However Hudspith ran a superb middle section and close to within 4 seconds before Wilko finally managed to crack the resistance and marginally increase the gap by the end to a decisive 11 seconds, his 17:19 the 2nd quickest leg of the day.

Results available at http://www.noeaa-athletics.org.uk/Pages/Article.aspx?id=255