North of England Road Relays
Report by: Martin Cunnane
Wakefield Harriers' senior men's and senior women's teams acquitted themselves well at the recent North of England road relay championships at Sefton Park, Liverpool.
The teams qualified for the National road relay finals which will be held on Saturday, October 30, at Sutton Park, Birmingham.
Wakefield's women's team, the current Yorkshire champions, were without two members of the victorious county squad.
Shirley Griffiths was in New York for the Chase Corporate Challenge final and Sarah Beevers was out with a flu virus. But with improving junior Laura Sheard and team stalwart Eileen Twigg deputising, the Harriers were hopeful of engineering a top ten finish in the region's top team road race.
Wakefield were given the best possible start by Penny Thackray who took the race on from the start. And, running hard throughout, she opened up a 30-yard gap over her nearest pursuer Lisa Heyes of Wigan Phoenix by the halfway marker on the 4k circuit.
She gradually increased the margin and held an 18-second advantage at the changeover from Heyes, with Laura Carney of Liverpool Harriers handing over third another four seconds adrift.
Thackray's time of 11 mins 53 secs on the opening leg proved to be the second fastest of the day, with only Leeds City international Lucy Wright beating her time on stage two, with a super-fast 11 mins 27 secs leg.
Specialist 800m runner Alice Butler ran the second leg and, travelling well, held a 50-metre lead over Liverpool's C Murphy, who had moved into second spot.
But Leeds City's Lucy Wright was charging through the field and hag already made up 30 seconds on Butler.
There was no holding Wright and she passed the Wakefieid runner 800 metres from the changeover. And, running on strongly, handed over with a 22-second advantage from Butler, who in turn had eight seconds to spare over Murphy of Liverpool. Butler's time for stage two was a creditable 12 mins 57 secs.
Wakefield's junior track 1500m champ' Laura Sheard ran stage three. She tried hard but was reeled in first by Liverpool Harriers' international Jenny Clague and then by Jenny Heath of Sale Harriers. But the Wakefield youngster kept on bravely to eventually finish fourth in 13 mins 34 secs, behind Liverpool, Leeds City and Sale.
Club stalwart Eileen Twigg ran the anchor leg for Wakefield and she acquitted herself well. She ran with great determination to limit the, loss to just three places dropped, eventually crossing the line in seventh place having recorded a creditable 13 mins 32 secs.
Wakefield's combined total was 51 mins 50 secs. Liverpool, Leeds and Sale took gold, silver and bronze in that order with respective times of 49 mins 28 secs, 49 mins 43 secs and 50 mins 09 secs.
Wakefield's women will be hoping to be at full strength for the national road relay championship and are confident of pulling off their highest ever finish in the race.
Wakefield's men put their disappointing run in the Yorkshire road relay championships behind them with their A-team supporting well to finish 24th overall in a combined 2 hrs 04 mins 5 secs, and also qualify for their finals at Sutton Park - for the first time in three years.
Wakefield A were led off by Andy Johnson, who worked hard to hand over 26th after completing his 6.4k leg in 19 mins 53 secs. Robbie Gould had given Trafford an early lead, handing over first in 18 mins 47 secs.
David Needham picked up six places on the second stage, completing in 20 mins 09 secs, and Sahara Marathon hero Andy Rivett clocked 20 mins 31 secs on the third lap to drop back to 25th overall.
Steve Tibbs moved Wakefield back up into 23rd, recording 20 mins 53 secs, and penultimate stage runner Craig Heppenstall lost just one place, handing over to anchor man James Lloyd in 24th spot, finishing in 21 mins 19 secs.
Lloyd held his position well, maintaining 24th overall and clocking 21 mins 20 secs to help Wakefield into the all important qualifying place for the nationals.
Salford eventually ran out worthy winners in a combined time of 1 hr 54 mins 51 secs from Border Harriers 1 hr 56 mins 39 secs, and Bingley Harriers 1 hr 57 mins 44 secs.
Wakefield also fielded a B team which finished 64th overall with the best performances being provided by over-40 vet' Clive Grace who recorded 22 mins 23 secs on the first leg, and Steve Tibbs, who gained fourth place on leg two, clocking 22 mins 22 secs.
Other B team times were: Tony Martin 67th on leg 3 in 23 mins 12 secs; John Fitzmaurice 65th on leg 4 in 23 mins 36 secs; Pat McTigue 68th on leg 5 in 24 mins 05 secs; Derek Price 64th on leg 6 in 24 mins 18 secs.