Leigh Sports Village was the venue for the opening cross country fixture of the season this weekend with a fine turn out from Harriers to get the campaign underway. 5 complete Wigan teams crossed the line from both the junior, seniors and veterans as 21 club members competed in the red and black.
Unseasonably glorious sunshine and blue skies greeted runners on the generally flat and fast course. a distinct lack of rain over recent weeks left the going firm throughout with very few competitors opting for a spike. The Under 11 Boys were the first to test their mettle in rising temperature with Mathew Baptista finishing a very creditable 14th from a field of 66 in 8:24. Max Lucas was next out in the U13 Boys category and put in a solid run in 12:36 for a good opening to his season.
the U13 girls were able to field a full team of 3 runners and were led home in style by Kim Baptista with a very impressive 4th place in 10:22. Grace Walters and Olivia Smith ensured a fine haul of points for the team finishing in 17th and 37th respectively. Their combined performances were enough to place the Team 3rd overall. Such a strong performance early on in the season bodes well for the rest of the year and if the girls can continue to field a full strength team they look set to do well in the competition.
There was enough time for the boys to reclaim the spotlight as Henry Lucas put in a very strong run for 8th place overall amongst the U15 boys, before the girls were once again stealing the limelight in the U15 competition.
Emma Wheatley, Alice Rowe and Rachel Sidebotham strode out as out U15 girls team and claimed 4th place overall for Harriers. Emma led the way with a quality run for 11th place in 15:21, very closely challenged by Alice just 7 seconds behind in 15:28 and 13th place. Anchoring the team was Rachel Sidebotham who brought home the points with a 16:21 run for 22mnd place.
With the youngsters having set such a high standard the pressure was now on the Senior runners of the Endurance Wing. Injuries and commitments elsewhere had prevented several regular cross country stalwarts from attending, and so it was even more important that Jayne, Nina and Shona put in a good performance to bag those early points.
Jayne Taylor has found form again of late which was abundantly clear in a superbly confident run for 12th place overall and 4th place in the Vet category. Nina Fisher is beginning to realize some of the potential she has tapped into for her PB road performances this summer, and was able to convert that increasing speed to cross country. Nina worked hard for 41st place in 24:09. It was then down to Shona Taylor to bring home the points which she did in some style with a 59th place overall, which equated to a fabulous 30th in the vet category. Thanks to these performances the Ladies team start the season in 12th from 17.
The Senior men had begun the week concerned about fielding a full squad following various injury crisis and illnesses. Mike Harris bravely volunteered to make up the numbers despite a dodgy Achilles, only for a last minute rallying of the troops producing 9 runners on the day. Despite the strength of the team the pre-race excuses were flowing thick and fast and varied from injury niggles, excess alcohol the previous night and vindaloo for lunch!
No such excuses from Gary Wane who arrived with his Private Pyle psycho haircut after a week of eating raw meat judging by his fully focussed scary race face. This was at least one Wigan runner clearly “on a mission”. With temperatures rising as the day wore on, the talk was of sun tan lotion instead of the usual cross country discussion about base layers.
Steve Nicholls and Chris ‘Crazy Horse’ Burgess set the early pace as the men fought their way through the congestion of the first lap. Mike Harris was the jam in a Dave sandwich, nestled as he was between Mr Collins and Mr Waddington for much of the first large lap. Coach Waddington was showing little of the strain from his recent 50k ultra marathon whilst Dave Collins found extra impetus from his ill advised curry intake. Making his debut for the club and taking part in his first cross country event was Dean Atherton. Dean was brave enough to mix it up for the first couple of laps with Insane Wane who was firmly focussed on seeking targets to hunt down and despatch.
Peter Mills interrupted his training for Abingdon marathon to support the club with a speedy 5k. Unfortunately the Senior mens event takes place over 10k, a fact which delighted Peter no end. Despite this he dialled in to a swift 7:15 pace which he maintained solidly throughout the race. Acting as Harriers sweeper, (which means struggling along at the back), was Graham Millington, racing his way back to fitness after a recent 100k odyssey in the Lake District and making sure everyone knew about it.
Steve held on to his prime spot to finish first Harrier in 37:08 and 34th place overall. He was followed by Chris Burgess in 38:07 who gave his usual full blooded performance and just managed to avoid vomiting on the finish line marshal as he crossed the line. Bagging second place in the V45 category and 54th overall was Dave Waddington in 38:33. Dave had managed to pull out a short gap over Mr Collins who followed up in 38:48 in 59th place. Mike Harris was 4th Harrier in 39:44 and 71st place overall.
The raw meat paid off for Gary Wane who grabbed the all important 6th spot to complete the scoring for the Senior Team in 42:20. Peter Mills was none the worse for the extra 5k finishing in 44:02. Graham Millington finished with an excuse list longer than his recent ultra marathon but declared himself pleased with 44:50. Debutante Dean struggled in the heat but finished well in 45:49 to see a full 9 Harriers home.
The Senior Men ended the day in a comfortable 6th from 15 teams giving a solid platform for the rest of the season. The Vets Team seem set for an exciting year with a highly creditable 4th place from 14 teams o the day. With sunshine, blue skies and a distinct lack of mud, Leigh offered a gentle introduction to this years cross country competitions.