The finale of the Red Rose Cross Country League 2012 took place at a busy Leverhulme Park this weekend with a fine showing from Wigan Harriers. Relatively benign conditions greeted runners arriving in Bolton for this last race in the season with a few Championship places left to decide. Recent rainfall resulted in a testing course which was heavy in places with a good dose of traditional cross country mud thrown in.
After siting the gazebo on the highest and driest ground available, the Senior Team members set off to watch the juniors finish their season in style. Nathan Dunn faced his final showdown of the season against Josh Boyle of Hyndburn in the U13 boys race. These two talented youngsters had been battling it out for top spot all season with barely a second separating them at the end of each race. Nathan needed outright victory to have a chance of winning the series.
In a truly thrilling finish Nathan entered the home straight trailing somewhat to the Hyndburn runner who opened up a gap as he broke for home. Nathan kept calm and slowly hauled back the deficit before timing his final push to perfection. With around 50 metres to go he found another gear and passed Josh with gathering pace and charged for the line with the Senior Team cheering him on. With both boys level on points it is Nathan who takes the title on the tie break rule of having run all 4 events in the series over the 3 finishes of his competitor. Congratulations Nathan!
In the U13 girls race it was another splendid run from Charlotte Newsham to take 3rd place in 10:11. Charlotte secured joint 3rd place in the League. Only an outstanding run from Natalya Irvine of Blackburn Harriers for her first win of the season denied Charlotte 3rd place outright. Rebecca Jones also did Harriers proud with 18th place in 11:24. Alice Rowe didn’t run on Saturday but her performances over the previous 3 races earned her joint 9th place. Well done girls!
Emma Wheatley and Rachel Sidebotham represented the club in the U15 Girls event. Emma came home in 16th place in 20:33, followed by Rachel in 21st in 21:09. Rachel ended her season in 17th place overall.
Christmas came early for Richie Noone in the form of a very smart looking pair of cross country spikes courtesy of Andy Eccles. Andy generously donated an unwanted pair to the grateful Richie who promptly donned them for a recce of the route and declared them comfy as a pair of “beddies”. Half way round the recce Andy seemed to have a change of heart and decided to stand on Richies foot, spiking the shoes and leaving them with a 2 inch tear. Instead of a nice pair of shiny new shoes, Richie was hobbling round the course with a shoe stylishly bandaged back together with blue electrical tape: Austerity Measure Specials!
After a couple of races to soften up the wet ground the course was looking decidedly boggy in places. Dave Collins surveyed the 2nd hill on the route declared it was in such a state that most runners would be walking up it no matter what was on their feet. Graham Millington declared this to be nonsense.
“I reckon that’s definitely runnable” he said, and immediately slipped on his backside, slid down the hill and almost collected Mr Collins on the way.
At 1.35 the Senior Ladies headed out on the first of their laps of the course with Jayne Taylor leading the way for Harriers. Jayne needed to finish in front of season long rival Suzanne Budgett of Leigh RMI in order to secure 3rd place in the Lady Vets League. It was a fine run from Jayne but 10th place overall, and 1st L50 runner wasn’t enough to beat the RMI runner who put another runner between them to finish 2 points clear for 3rd in the competition. Jayne does finish in first place in the 50+ category for the season though.
Next over the line for Wigan was Tracey Dutton, charging her way to 20th place overall and 3rd in the L40 category. All that cross training on the road to recovery seems to have paid off as this was Traceys best finish of the Red Rose season. It left her in joint 9th place overall in the Lady Vets Competition, and a fantastic 3rd place in the L40 category.
Another Harriers runner stepping up the pace on the way back from injury is Jacqui Jones who also saved the best till last this weekend. Jacquis’ race for 24th place overall also bagged her 3rd place in the L45 category. This was enough to ensure joint 14tj in the Vets competition and an impressive 5th in the L45 league. Continuing this theme was Shona Taylor who placed 29th Vet for her highest finish of the campaign.
The cumulative performances of our Senior Ladies landed them top spot in the Vets League. This is a remarkable performance particularly when considering the ladies scored in only 3 out of the 4 races this season and all of them have fought injuries at one point or another during the campaign. Its good to see a Wigan Harriers sitting firmly at the top of the table so well done to all of our senior Ladies runners for a fabulous effort this year.
Debut cross country entrant Gary Wane was quickly introduced to the “man up” ruling when he produced a smart looking base-layer ahead of the Senior Mens race. A delayed start gave enough time for the man-suit debate to reach ridiculous new heights as the wearing of gloves came under scrutiny too. Dave Collins wasn’t to be parted from his woolly mitts, and thanks to the reasonable temperatures on the day Mike Harris wasn’t forced to carry through his threat of breaking ranks and bringing shame on the club with the wearing of an undergarment.
When the gun finally went off for the start of the final race of the day, 10 black and red vests charged up the field for Wigan Harriers. It is a real testimony to how the club has grown, and how active the members are that we are now slightly disappointed not to field 2 full mens’ teams. Work pressures kept regulars Darren Middleton and Kev Edwards away, whilst Tim Pilkington was still reportedly applying ice to a swelling which has been troublin ghim lately.
Mark Rogers led the way for the men through the congested first half lap which saw considerable bunching at various points. Dave Collins and Dave Waddington used course knowledge to their tactical advantage and attacked the first couple of turns in order to get ahead of the crowds. The bunching on the initial hill climbs made overtaking impossible without risking a tumble.
Mike Harris and Andy Eccles followed behind with Martin and Barry competing for the final scoring place in 6th and 7th position. Graham Millington claimed to have stopped to tie a shoe lace on Lap 1, a story met with counter claims along the lies of, “yeah – and I stopped for a cup of tea and a burger too…”. He was followed by Richie Noone in his makeshift shoes with Gary Wane making a cautious start with a dubious ankle. The final place for Harriers was taken by the vintage black and red vest of Tony who joined us as a guest runner for his first cross country of the season. We’ll be expecting the membership fee to accompany his application for some time in the new year!
Mark had a spectacular run for first Harrier home in 42:12 for and a highly impressive 41st place overall. He was pursued by Captain Awesome himself Dave Collins in 43:56 for 59th overall and 2nd V50. Dave actually finished the campaign as 3rd V50 runner, but as the category extends to all 50+ runners he was relegated to 5th by a couple of speedy V55 men. If only he had tried hard enough… Just a few places behind in 66th overall was Dave Waddington in 44:37 as 9th V40
Mike Harris reports settling down into a steady, if somewhat lonely run in 4th place for Harriers. With Sefton Park having been his first experience of local league cross country, Bolton was something of a contrast. The runner behind was too far away to challenge, whilst the man in front was sufficiently distant to maintain the gap despite a few surges from Mike to make up the space. He finished well in 81st place in a time of 46:33
Andy Eccles looked to be running well as he continues to pick up fitness following a calf strain earlier in the year. Our club coach is his own harshest critic although his time of 47:24 earned him 10th V50 in 94th place overall.
Martin Andrews was gradually caught by Barry Abram over the first 2 laps who encouraged his team mate along as he passed. Martin dug deep and latched on as the pair of them swapped the position several times over the last couple of miles. After the final lap of the big field it came down to flat our sprint to the line in which Martin reports Barry made him “suffer for it”. Martin edged it at the last to round off the scoring for the team as 6th man in 103rd place overall in 48:46. Barry was just seconds behind in 48:49.
Graham Millington had a grandstand view of that race as he trailed just 45 seconds behind. Graham was digging deep as he battled to stay ahead of Richie Noone for the first time in a competitive outing. It was only as he began the final loop of the field and saw Richie offering support from the sidelines that it became clear why Rich hadn’t appeared on his shoulder sooner! It turned out that whilst Richie securely taped his dodgy shoe to his right foot, he took less care with the shoe on his left foot – which disappeared in the mud within a mile of the start leaving him to limp back to the tent village. Reports of him taking it off and chucking it into the bushes as an excuse for an early finish are both unkind and unfounded.
Phantom pursuit from Richie didn’t do Graham any harm as he crossed the line for 109th place in 49:33 in what he claims as his best cross country performance of the year so far. Next home for Harriers was Gary marking his debut with a fine performance for 149 th place. Gary was ably supported throughout by the new Mrs Wane. This prompted several runners to wonder at what point their own spouses no longer found it romantic to stand around in a freezing cold and muddy park whilst they run about in shorts for fun….(general consensus was shortly after the 1st wedding anniversary so make the most of it Gary!)
The mens Vet team finished in a respectable 3rd place on the day for 5th overall in the competition.
Jayne Taylor strictly limited access to Traceys Muffins as runners queued up to get their portion in the gazebo afterwards. The tent was packed up in record time as Harriers headed of with some haste with the prospect of the club Christmas night out to follow later that evening. There wont be a report of the Christmas night out but one or two revellers were forced to delay their Sunday run till at least Monday, and one or two were still a little poorly on Monday too!