Wigan Harriers made the short journey up the A49 to Worden Park in Leyland with high hopes of a successful end to the cross country season on Saturday. The ladies team needed to confirm their 2nd place to guarantee promotion, with an outside chance of topping their Division should they clinch all 10 points. The Senior men went into the fixture lying in second place in Divison 4, but with ambitions of grabbing first place to go up as champions.
A strong turnout from Harriers senior runners assembled beneath incogrously clear and sunny skies in Leyland. The forecasts had threatened everything from hail to rain, but not the sudden squall that greeted the start of the U13 girls race. Alice Rowe, Olivia Greene and Rachael Sidebottom representing Wigan set off in the U13 race just as the heavens opened and reduced at least one club tent to a twisted wreck. Kieran Dunn represented the U11 boys and came a magnificent 15th for the club. Whilst the youngsters battled it out on an increasingly heavy route, the seniors huddled bravely in the tent taking turns to hold it down!
When the sun emereged once again, so did the Harriers in time for the senior ladies race. Jaqui Jones and Jayne Taylor had both struggled with injury over the past week but turned out at Leyland for the sake of a good team result. Tracey Dutton overcame her own injury woes with a fine run to lead the Harriers home. Hot on her heels was an increasingly impressive Julie Platt with perhaps her best run of the cross country season just 8 seconds later. Both runners ran almost in formation throught the race working their way through the field as a pair. Jayne Taylor and Jaqui Jones finished with just 10 seconds and a Preston Harrier between them to round off the season.
The ladies efforts earned them 9 points on the day to take second place in their division, just a single point behind a strong Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton team. In the Vet 35 category the ladies earned a victory on the day with them finishing in second place in the league. The four competing team members can be extremely proud of their achievements this season after scoring well in 5 fixtures over a demanding season.
The men were next out on a generally flat but heavy course that was proving to be a real strength sapper. Endless analysis of the league tables resulted in the conclusion that Preston Harriers or Barrow B Teams could snatch the title with a win if Wigan were to collect 8 points or less. The mission was simple: to finish in front of as many Preston and Barrow vests as possible!
A contingent of 8 runners set off but were shortly reduced to 7 when Andy Radcliffe suffered an asthma attack. Fortunately Andy was able to recover quickly but he had been forced out of the race after a promising start. Tim Pilkington led the charge to promotion for Harriers followed by Dave Collins who is continuing his current run of good form. Dave Waddington, Andy Eccles and Kevin Edwards followed in close order with Darren Jackson finishing as 6th man. Graham Millington finished as first reserve as 7th man home.
Preston Harriers B team had indeed collected 10 points for their winning performance on the day, but an excellent 2nd place saw Wigan Harriers clinch the top spot in Division 4 to go up as champions. The Vet 40 team actually notched their first outright victory of the season to consolidate a solid 2nd place in the Div3 vet category too.
Although the season may nave been a triumph for the Harriers Teams as a whole, there remain one or two individual achievements worthy of note. Dave Collins ended the season in joint 4th place from only 4 results in a very competitive V50 category, with Andy Eccles an admirable 11th. Tim Pilkington did the club proud in 27th place overall. For the ladies, Jaqui Jones was 12th lady overall with Tracey Dutton and and Julie Platt in 13th and 14th respectively.
The teams gathered in The Brocket later on Saturday night to swap war stories over a few celebratory pints and reflect upon a highly succesful cross country season for the Harriers.