West Yorkshire League 4, Wakefield – senior harriers

In a dress rehearsal for the Yorkshire Championships in January, Thornes Park in Wakefield hosted the final West Yorkshire League race of the season. This time last year the course was snowbound; this year, just the usual mud.

Katie Parry has been in great form recently and she had another strong run, always in the first few before moving through to take 2nd on the final lap. She was ably supported by Emily Birchall, returning from injury and slotting straight back into the sharp end of the race with a composed run in 7th. Just 8s behind and providing the 3rd Leeds City runner in the top 10 was Karen Hallas. The team was completed by the consistent (24th, 27th and 25th in her last 3 WYL races!) Rachel Dyson in 25th. Had Claire Duck not been missing through illness and had Kirsteen Young not had to drop out after the first lap with an injury, a team victory could have been on the cards; as it was there was just 3 points in it at the end, with Holmfirth just coming out on top.

Close behind was Jennie Guard, looking more like her old self in 27th, and, in a close finish, Ruth Wilcox held off Sarah Whitley in 31st and 32nd. In 48th, Sian Davies completed a B team which would have finished 5th, whilst the ever-smiling Faye Pinker finished in 68th.

With 3 2nd places and a 1st, Leeds finished as 2nd team overall with 7 points to Holmfirth’s 5. Claire Duck and Katie Parry claimed 2nd and 3rd whilst Rachel Dyson was 9th. Also making the top 20 were Jennie Guard and Sarah Whitley in 13th and 15th. Ruth Wilcox finished as 5th F35 and would have been very well-placed in the overall women’s standings.

The men’s team title was already in the bag before this race but Leeds still wanted the clean sweep and had to hold off a determined team effort from Holmfirth to do so. As the runners reached the first hill, it was no surprise to see a blue and yellow vest in the lead. What was surprising was that it belonged to James Smith, famous for his dislike of all things muddy. Once in the lead, he surged on, opening up a near 100m lead before the end of the first lap when Simon Deakin decided it was time to pay closer attention. Deak overhauled the tiring Smithy, who was remembering exactly what he hated about cross-country in the first place, and opening up a lead of his own before himself being caught and passed by Holmfirth’s international steeplechaser and now triathlete, Mark Buckingham. Martin Hilton, getting into his cross-country stride as the season progresses, was never out of the first few places and finished 4th, far closer to Keighley’s Jorge Thomas than at the previous race. Joe Townsend carved through the field to finish 6th whilst behind him James Smith rallied to finish 8th in what was probably his best cross-country race yet. He only just held off Dale Worton by a second, as Dale moved through the field throughout the race, confirming his excellent form of this season. Dale and Joe have perhaps been learning from Doscoe, who also moved gradually through the field to finish 13th.
Similarly, Greg Hull, another of our Great Club Servants (according to the recent Athletics Weekly poll), moved further up the field every lap, finishing 17th after a fierce battle with one of the university athletes he coaches. Chris Wright, after a tentative start, finished 23rd whilst Alex Davy and Elliot Todd were engaged in their own battle in 28th and 29th, with Alex just coming out on top. Ben Dyson was close behind in 34th, possibly his best race of the season so far. Completing the B team was the evergreen Martin Farran in 62nd whilst Gary Wilks finished 154th.

Leeds completed their clean sweep in the team competition whilst the B team were the 3rd best team on the day. Simon Deakin won the men’s title whilst Ben Dyson’s improving form saw him take a well-deserved 7th. Dale Worton won a closely-contested junior men’s title and, if Leeds City’s over 35s recognised the M35 category, Alan Buckley and Martin Hilton would have finished 1st and 2nd. Doscoe won the M45 but probably doesn’t recognise that category either and was in fact one of the highest ranked seniors overall, whilst Martin Farran was 2nd M50.

It’s been a successful first half of the season for the men’s and women’s harriers which bodes well for another strong showing and more titles in the championships in the new year.