Lancaster Mid Lancs XC finale

The final stop for the Mid Lancs Cross Country season was Lancaster. With a lengthy drive an effort was made to car share which contributed to a great race atmosphere. Everyone collected we set off from a very sunny and mild Wigan and after crawling through traffic in Lancaster arrived at a chilly and wind swept Ryelands Park.

We parked up and were greeted with a friendly phone call, “Where’s the tent we’re bloomin’ freezing here!” or words to that affect. Never one to upset Mr Collins we raced over and battled the gusty winds to erect our rather tired looking tent. Continue reading

Sefton Park – Mcain Cross Challenge 2012

Sefton Park is the big event on the annual cross country calendar, combining both the Mid Lancs league with the McCain Cross Challenge series. Coach loads of runners from all over the country descend upon the park last Saturday, (24th November 2012), for a series of races offering European qualification to some of Britains’ elite runners.   Wigan Harriers responded to the a chance to test themselves against the best in the UK with a bumper turn out to contest both Junior and Senior distances. The trusty Gazebo was bursting at the seams with a full 15 Senior men, along with the Ladies Team and our younger runners. Base camp  looked splendid with our brand new Wigan Harriers “shark-fin” banner declaring our presence amidst the rest of the Mid Lancs clubs.

Welly booted wives and children also turned up in numbers to support the Harriers, whilst Darren Jackson and Andrew Meadows took care of photographic duties.

First out to test the course were our junior runners, many of whom were fresh from success at the Greater Manchester Schools Cross country last week.  The Under 11 boys set off at 11am and Mathew Baptista had a great run for 40th overall and 32nd in his age group from 136 runners in total. The Under 13 Girls were next out on the 3km course and Kim Baptista flew the Harriers flag in 12:5, bagging  34th  from 98. The U13 boys ran the same route with 127 contesting the race. Nathan Dunn was the first Wigan runner home posting 11:26 for a fantastic 17th place. Scott Thompson was 70th in 12:47 finishing well amongst a pack of closely matched runners. Kerian Dunn rounded off a grand showing from our U13 boys with 13:28 for 95th place.

In the U15 Boys rave Henry Lucas once again did the honours for Wigan with a strong 12:35 whilst in the equivalent girls race, Rachel Sidebotham can be proud of 13:42 for 78th spot. Representing the club in the U17 Girls category were Daniele Thompson and Natalie Thompson who distinguished themselves in 20:49 and 21:35 respectively.

The Senior Ladies were next out as they joined a bumper pack of quality runners for the 1:20 start. Standing on the first bend to support or lady runners, the mens’ team were mightily impressed with the sight of several hundred female athletes charging towards them like a mud spattered Lynx advert. First through for Harriers was Tracey Dutton testing her strength on her way back to full fitness. A determined looking Julie Platt came next, followed up by Jacqui Jones. For some reason, regular team member Jayne Taylor chose the attractions of the Benidorm Half Marathon and some International Glory, (podium place in the V50 category), over the delights of South Liverpool in November, so the ladies were short of their usual 4th member.

Sefton punishes fast starts as some of the men were to find later. After a very quick first mile or so at 6:40 pace, the ladies settled down to a steadier  speed that saw them running with little more than minute covering the three of them. Unlike the rest of the series, Sefton Park sees the women race over 8k rather than the usual 5k. The extra distance was never going to trouble our Endurance Group runners with Julie Platt crossing the line first for Harriers in 35:32, and Tracey hot on her heels in 35:41. Jacqui Jones was just a minute behind in 36:43.

A weeks worth of rain had deposited itself on the North West leading up to this years Sefton Park fixture, but the weather had thankfully abated long enough to run the 10 races that make up the event. The temperature may have been in single figures but the still air and the odd splash of sunshine meant no excuses when it came to vest and shorts “man-suit” attire. Tim Pilkington seemed to have forgotten a few of the standing regulations during his time away from cross country, and turned up with a brand new Helly Hensen base layer with price tags still attached. A concerted effort of group humiliation persuaded him not to bring shame on the club and he duly packed his extra layers away for another day.

Kauffman vest crime

Apparently immune to the ridicule of the pack was Andy Kauffman who opted for a white t-shirt beneath his new Harriers vest.  No amount of bullying disuade him from his fashion crime, although he did at least forgo the full length winter tights. “Its because he’s so scrawny”, claimed his loyal support crew, failing to note the collection of knock kneed and bony runners shivering around her in their vests!

480 Senior Men stampeded down the start straight at Sefton Park to the surreal sounds of Queen and “Don’t Stop Me Now” blasting over the tannoy. Although relatively flat in Mid Lancs terms, the course at Sefton seems particularly unforgiving of the enthusiastic fast start.. Stuart Holding and Graham Millington both went off like scalded cats for the first half mile and spent the rest of the race clawing back the oxygen debt! No such problems for Mike Harris who cruised away from the detonating duo to record in impressive 42:01 in his first cross country outing for the club.  Proof of the pudding was the more measured start of Richard Noone who ran deliberately within himself during the first mad cavalry charge, before gradually ramping up the pace for the rest of the race. He overhauled Millington and Holding with breath to spare for a word of encouragement, before inexorably pulling away for a 1min 30 gap by the end of the race.

He’s behind you Tim…

At the faster end of the field it was a blistering performance from Andy Kauffman who did the club proud with a fabulous 36:44 effort to earn 155th overall. We can only wonder how much better he could have done without that extra layer weighing him down. Tim Pilkington returned to cross country for the first time this season and had a battle on his hands with the in-form Chris Smullen. They chased each other around the park for most of the race, with Chris edging it to finish with a 15 second advantage in 37:53 against Tims’ 38:09. Mark Rodgers was breathing down his neck just 4 seconds behind in 38:13.

Stevie Nicholls marked his debut for Wigan Harriers by turning up earlier than his usual 5 minutes before race start and had a solid run to finish in 39.31. Completing the A-Team was 6th man Dave Waddington in 41:11.

Conditions underfoot varied throughout the looping course. In places it was surprisingly firm with good sections of run-able turf despite a week of rain. Elsewhere the soft ground had churned up into a fair impression of the  Somme, with the gloop thick enough to grab at tired ankles and make forward progress a quad sapping affair. Organisers had arranged for a peat mix to be dumped on the path crossings which was generally agreed to be an improvement on the bark chippings of previous years.

Taking all of this in his stride was Kev Edwards who led the Harriers B-Team home. In his usual unorthodox manner, Kev had begun his warm up with 7 miles around Wigan that morning before heading up the M62 for another 10k! It seems to have done him little harm as he charged home in 41:30. Mike Harris proved his recent 2nd place in the Ullswater 10k was no fluke with a great cross country debut. He was followed by team coach Andy Eccles coming back from a nasty calf pull to record a 42:57 just ahead of Barry Abram in 43:11. Richie Noone cruised home as fifth finisher in the B team and was pleased to plant no more than his feet in the mire this time out.

Graham denies growth steriod advantage over tiny Stuart

The battle for the final scoring position was well fought between Graham and Stuart, with Graham pulling away in the middle of the race, before Stuart came back to take the position with a mile to go. He then made it stick with a strong run in to the finish to round off the scoring for the B-Team in 45:27.  Graham  followed up in an OCD pleasing 46:00 dead, and mumbled something about a cough, coughed dramatically, made sure everyone had heard his cough and wandered off to think up excuses for the write up….. 

Rounding things off for Harriers was Michael Dutton who is racing himself to fitness with each cross country outing. Michael stormed up the finish straight in 54:10 for possibly his strongest run in the series to date. Sub 3 marathon man Mark Glynn stepped off the course with a hamstring pull which we all hope will prove to be a minor glitch in a fabulous year of running for Mark.

It isn’t yet clear how these overall results translate into terms of the Mid Lancs League as organisers pick their way through the listings to sort out championship placings. Given the performances of some of our runners last weekend though, we can expect to have built on the good work at Burnley in October. With such a large contingent making their way to Liverpool the atmosphere and team spirit were outstanding this weekend, and everyone who turned out to run or support can be proud to be part of the club.  Next up is Crooklands in Kendal on the 8thof December where we hope to match, if not improve on our fabulous turn out last weekend.

Harriers Mens Team: currently taking bookings for hen nights

Cross Country 2012

The clocks will be going back soon, the nights drawing in, shorts put away in exchange for full length running tights and before you know it the Cross Country season will be upon us again! Mud, frozen sweat and tears await us as we dig out our spikes for our second season in the local leagues.

After a succesful campaign last year saw both men and womens Wigan Harriers teams promoted, the Senior Men will be competing in Div 3 this year, with the Ladies in Division 2. It is a sign of how much the club has expanded over the last 12 months that we hope to have enough runners to field a Senior Mens B Team as well as a full strength A Team in as many fixtures as possible. The list of dates can be found here: Mid Lancs Cross Country Fixtures 2012

Please pencil them in to your diaries right now and lets see if we can build on our glorious start last year with what promises to be a closely fought season.The fist Mid Lancs fixture is at Townley Park in Burnley on the 7th of November. With several of our runners taking part in marathons around this time, it is more important than ever to get a good turn out!

Given the greater numbers in the club this year we are also hoping to put out full strength teams in as many of the Red Rose Cross Country fixtures as possible this year too. Whilst we did contest many of these events last season, we didnt manage to muster a full scoring team home for either the mens or ladies squads. Lets aim to put that right with a good showing at the initial outing at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday 9th September.

Every paid up member of Wigan Harriers is eligible to compete in the Cross Country Leagues with just a nominal £5 entry fee covering all races in the series. If you take part in the Tuesday and Thursday training sessions you capable of taking part no matter what level of ability. The more red and black vests that turn out the better!

Leyland Cross Country Report

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!

Wigan Harriers Ladies

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.

Dave Collins

Dave Collins in action

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.

Thats Champion!

Wigan Harriers finished the cross country season off at Worden Park, Leyland yesterday by securing promotion for both the womens and mens senior teams. The Ladies Team finished a fine 2nd in a packed Divison 3, just one point behind winners Liverpool, Pembroke & Sefton. Their performance also earned them 2nd plce in the V35 category.

The Senior Mens team are celebrating their gold standard performances that gained promotion as the champions of Division 4. In a nail biting end to the season, Wigan pipped Preston Harriers B Team by a single point thanks to a closely fought race at Leyland.

The men also secured 2nd place in Division 3 vet 40 category to round off a highly sucessful return to cross country competition for Wigan Harriers AC.

A full Race Report to follow…….

Mid Lancs Cross country Division Results

winners!

Wigan Harriers Cross Country celebrations

Barrow Mid Lancs Cross Country

Despite the long trek up the M6 on a chilly Saturday morning, Wigan Harriers still managed to muster full strength senior mens and ladies teams to contest the Mid Lancs Barrow fixture. A convoy of vehicles took runners from the relatively balmy condions in Wigan towards the frozen playing fields at Thorncliffe road. The major preocupation on the journey north was with the rising and falling digits on the car temperature sensors, along with the increasing depth of snow visible through the freezing mists of South Lakes.

Wigan runners are made of stern stuff though, and discussion soon centred around how many would reach for the “mardy” base layers, and how many would “man up” and opt for vests and frostbite. Conditions at the venue itself were not as bad as first feared with mean temperatures hovering somewhere just above freezing. A recce of the course confirmed that the ground was sufficiently thawed to offer stretches of traditonal cross country mud and a tough racing challenge.

Tracey Dutton and Jaqui Jones at Barrow
1st lap: Tracey and Jaqui

The Ladies Team were first to test the route under racing conditions with Tracey Dutton, Jaqui Jones and Julie Platt all making a good start. By the end of the first lap the Harriers ladies were running strongly towards the front of the pack, close enough together to form and impressive formation of red and black vests.

The Wigan ladies were still within shouting distance of eachother as they entered the field for the final time, with Tracey Dutton putting behind her the cold that had troubled her in the week to lead the group home. Jaqui Jones and Julie Platt both turned into the finishing straight carrying an impressive turn of speed, with Julie accelerating all the way to the line to round off a great team performance.

Julie running well on lap 2

Julie in good form

Barrow seemd to have suffered for its place on the calendar this year, with fewer clubs making the effort to attend this fixture than several others in this seasons Mid Lancs competition. That’s a shame, and a loss to the clubs that couldn’t manage a showing as both the welcome and the organisation at Barrow made the journey more than worth while. Cheery marshalls ran a tight ship and offered welcome encouragement throughout: a credit to the host club.

With a stiffening breeze picking up from the Irish Sea in time for the mens race, the majority of runners had opted for the “mardy” baselayer choice; only a couple of heroes from Wigan had gone for the vest and hypothermia look. After a fast start, your author suspected himself to be a little higher up the field than ability warranted. A suspicion that was confirmed by a polite comment from behind in the shape of Dave Collins: “You’re in my place Graham – shift!” With the soft ground proving to be heavy going, I can confirm that I wasn’t in his way for long!

Andy Ratcliffe proved he is quickly returning to form by leading the way for the Harriers team, with Dave Collins battling it out with a resurgent Andy Eccles for most of the race. Kevin Edwards and Dave Waddington were followed by Darren Jackson completing the scoring as 6th man. Graham Millington acted as first reserve, with Michael Dutton putting in a great effort on his first cross country of the season.

Brambles Bite Eccles

3 large laps of the Barrow course after a leg sapping circuit of the supposed, “small lap” left little in the tank at the end of this race. Andy Ratcliffe finished first for the Harriers after a fine run, and Dave Collins managed to find something left to win his battle with Andy Eccles with a sprint to the line. Mr Eccles had also come second in a battle with a thorn bush somewhere on the route and shed a little blood for the team.

Dave Waddington, Kevin Edwards and Darren Jackson completed the scoring. Graham Millington finished in 7th for the Team, with Michael Dutton valiantly battling a stitch in the later stages of the race to come home in style.

The collective efforts of the squad raised both the Senior Ladies and Senior Mens teams to first place in their respective divisions. Both vets teams are also sitting pretty in second place too.

There may have been a couple of fine individual efforts, but the day was a triumph for the Wigan Harriers Team as a whole. Great cameraderie, some good laughs and whole-hearted support for every runner made this toughest of the fixtures into one of the most memorable.

Wigan Harriers - Barrow

Wigan Harriers Corss Country Team at Barrow