Wigan Harriers travelled up the M6 in force for the final fixture of the Mid Lancs cross country season in Kendal on Saturday, and came back with a sack full of silverware. The Robin Park trophy cabinet will be groaning under the weight of new additions after a day that saw 3 Wigan teams promoted along with individual glory for a pair of stand out athletes.
Blue skies and sunshine at the Crooklands venue made a pleasant change from the biblical conditions that have characterised this season. A strong contingent of Juniors got the excitement underway with Harvey Scarborough setting off at full throttle from the outset in the boys U11 event. Harvey led from the front for much of the race before finishing in a highly commendable 2nd place. Thomas Scarborough battled it out with a pack of runners before grabbing an excellent 6th place with a well fought race.
Jack Dee Ingham led the charge in the U13 boys race along with George Scarborough and Matthew Lynch. Jack tore away from the field and even without any real challenge to his lead he maintained his usual effort and high standards throughout the race. Jack eventually finished a comfortably 24 seconds clear of second place to finish the season in joint first overall with Kai Atkins of Pendle. George and Mathew each got stuck into some gritty competition in the pack with both lads working visibly hard on the climb towards the pylon. Both deserved their respective 8th and 11th places.
Thomas Mason finished a fine 10th in the U15 boys race with Danielle Thompson taking 5th in the U17 womens event before the Senior runners took their turn to chase some glory for the club.
The Senior Ladies went into the race with everything still to run for. Depending on their performance in this final fixture they could have finished with promotion, as champions or with nothing at all.at the start of the week a litany of injuries and dental mishaps amongst the regular runners threatened to leave the ladies without a full team and the prospect of missing out on the success they had worked so hard for since October.
Sarah Morton was first to answer the call and bravely strapped her broken toes together to once again pull on the brightest pair of neon pink cross country shoes the mid lancs leagues have seen. Julie Platt interrupted her Ultra-Marathon training to help the team, and Jayne Taylor downed a few paracetomol to mask the lingering pain of major midweek dental surgery. Caroline Rasburn didn’t even own a pair of spikes but turned out for the club in her trail shoes to ensure there were enough runners to secure some points. Natalie Thompson threw herself in at the deep end with the seniors to ensure the ladies actually sent out a 5 strong contingent.
Jayne Taylor put in another quality run and looked strong throughout. It is typical of Jayne that she was straining every fibre to bag another place even with just 20 yards of the season left. She finished 8th on the day with her 3rd outright victory in her category. This earned Jayne the overall V45 title for 2014. Julie Platt hauled in runner after runner to finish in a fabulous 20th place and second lady over the line. Caroline Rasburn was grateful to find the course unusually firm under foot as she charged round to 36th place in her trail shoes. A truly spirited run saw her bag the points as 3rd Harrier.
Sarah Morton was also probably pleased at the lack of mud on the curse this year as she managed to keep her spikes relatively spotless on her way round. Sarah and Natalie traded places en route before crossing the lines in 44th 51st respectively. the combined sum of their efforts, and those of every other lady to run for the team this season was promotion to Division 1 as Champions.
The Senior mens team started the day in a strong position to claim their 3rd promotion in successive seasons and 16 chaps had made the trip to Kendal to make sure there was no shortage of strength in depth to make that happen. With the Harriers battle cry of “Come on Kevin!” rending the Cumbrian air and confusing the opposition, the men set off for 5 alps of this heavily altered course. Landscaping of the showground site meant a shortened route, but 2 more ascents of pylon hill to make up the distance.
Andy Kaufman led the way once more with a truly quality performance that saw him finish the 5.41 miles in just over 32 minutes for 16th place. Dan Gray gave us a hint of what may be in store for us next season with a stunning 33:12 for 23rd place closely followed by Mark Rodgers in 33:29. Mark had been carefully checking over his shoulder to prevent Mr Fitzpatrick deploying his reaper manoeuvre in the last 100 yards once again. It worked, and Gary finished 18 in 32nd place just 18 seconds down.
Steve Nicholls and Chris Burgess were involved in their own personal race for 56th place with Steve coming on top with just an 8 second cushion over Crazy Horse. That was the A Team over the line and trophy number 2 in the bag as their performance was enough to claim both promotion to the top flight as well as the outright victory in Division 2
Such has been the enthusiasm for cross country and our Mid Lancs campaign this year that Kendal was the 4th occasion that Harriers managed to get a complete B team over the line. Leading the way was Kevin Edwards in 37:29 who had clearly responded to the battle cry. Richie Noone may have finished higher in pervious fixtures he hasn’t often run a better race than he did at Kendal. With the firm conditions suiting his natural speed Richie pushed Kevin for the honour of 1st in the B Team with a 37:35. If Richies’ run was good, Colin McEvoys was outstanding. Fresh from a 10k road PB only last week, Colin made the most of his pace to notch a superb 37:46 for his best result of the season.
Barry Abram gets faster every race as he builds towards his annual visit to London on marathon day. A 38:09 earned him 5th spot in the B Team ahead of Mike Harris who grabbed the final scoring position. Mike had been side lined for several weeks with an ankle injury and had little hope of getting close to his usual personal standards. Its an easy thing to toe the line when the going is good, but quite another to put athletic ego to one side just to bring home vital points for the club. Well done Mr Harris.
There then followed a furious scrap for 1st place in the incomplete C Team as Gary Wane, Graham Millington and Andy Eccles ran themselves to s standstill. Gary and the wily Mr Eccles had danced around the last lap like two wary boxers each daring he other to make the decisive move. So concerned were they with their own tactical battle they allowed Graham to catch up and join the tussle on the final climb up the hill. A lung busting charge for the line saw Gary home first with Mr Millington running scared all the way with Andy snapping at his heels. Just 6 seconds covered the 3 Harriers. Paul Bryers and Dean Atherton rounded things off for Harriers in 39:51 and 40:42 after settling their own battle earlier in the race.
Before the race an analysis of the league tables showed that it would take a monumental performance and a mathematical miracle for the B Team to achieve anything other than a respectable finish. As the first time Harriers had ever fielded 2 teams for a full season this would have been an achievement in itself, but on the most successful day in Harriers cross country history there was to be one final flourish. The B Team had run so well and so hard that the mathematics had gone the right way and they bagged 2nd place in Division 4 and promotion to Division 3 next season.
Well done to everyone who has pulled on the red and black vest of Wigan Harriers to represent our club this season. It has been a mud soaked, wind blasted, storm wracked few months when the easy option on so many occasions would have been to roll over beneath the duvet and leave all that cross country nonsense to someone else. It has also been a barrel load of laughs, unbeatable camaraderie and downright good fun as true team spirit was forged in the crucible of adversity that was the mud of Hyndburn or the lactic hell of Witton Park. We will collect our Championship medals with pride, pause a moment to savour the success, and then begin to plot next years campaign in the top flight of the Mid Lance leagues!