BAL Knockout Cup
Reports by: Martin Cunnane
Wakefield's women were up against fellow UK Women's League Division 2 performers Liverpool Harriers, who had finished 11 points in front of the Harriers in the first league fixture at Wigan two weeks previously, Rotherham, Warrington, Deeside and Wrexham.
But with almost a full team out Wakefield were favourites to reverse league form with promotion rivals Liverpool.
International heptathlete Kerry Jury spearheaded Wakefield's challenge, scoring a sparkling track and field treble. She started with a comfortable victory over Liverpool's Helen Roscoe in the 100m which she won by three metres in 12.3 Secs.
Jury continued by clearing a highly respectable 1.75m in the high jump, withdrawing from the competition at that height after ensuring maximum points were in the bag. She went straight into the 200m, again showing her class by galloping to another clear victory this time over Liverpool's Paula O'Connor in 25 secs flat. Jury ended her day by helping the sprint relay squad of Fiona Westwood, Becky Foster and Elaine Sutcliffe to a runaway win over Liverpool.
One of the most satisfying results of the match was Sarah Beevers' win in the 400m hurdles. Beevers, who has worked hard on her stamina in winter training to reduce her pb 800m time to a respectable 2 mins 14 secs, ran the 400m hurdles for the first time this season and surprised everybody by taking the lead at the fourth hurdle. She stayed on strongly to romp to a five-metre victory over Liverpool's Catherine Bacon in a speedy 65.4 secs.
Beevers was a little rusty over the hurdles and with a little attention to technique is certain to develop into a quality performer as the season progresses. She also ran a fine leg in the 4x400m relay to help Wakefield's squad of Shirley Griffiths, Elaine Sutcliffe and Alice Butler (nee Beecroft) to another win over Liverpool in a combined time of 3 mins 59.4 secs.
International 1500m performer Griffiths proved far too good for the opposition in her favoured event, leading from the gun to head Rotherham's Julie O'Mara and Warrington's Katie Brennan for 800m before pulling well clear of her pursuers to win by over 50 metres in 4 mins 30.6 secs. Brennan was second in 4 mins 48 secs flat with O'Mara third in 4 mins 49.5 secs.
Elaine Sutcliffe weighed in with a comfortable victory over Liverpool's Danielle Halsall in the 400m, winning easing down in 59.2 secs before going on to anchor both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay squads to effortless wins.
In the 800m, the newly married Butler looked all over a winner until running out of steam in the last 50 metres to finish two seconds runner up to Liverpool's Carolyn Smith, who prevailed in 2 mins 16.2 secs.
Eileen Twigg couldn't hold on to Rotherham's Julie O'Mara in the 3000m. She scored a runaway victory in 10 mins 7.1 secs, but the Wakefield woman stayed on stoutly to finish third in a season's best 10 mins 55.2 secs.
Wakefield's field eventers also produced the goods on the day with junior putter Victoria Shepherd giving them the best possible start to the proceedings by easily beating Liverpool's Mandy Laing with a season's best putt of 12.33m.
Shepherd's putt was her best performance since undergoing surgery last year to correct a troublesome knee problem and augers well for Wakefield's forthcoming league promotion battle.
Becky Foster made her first appearance of the season for the Harriers a winning one by beating Liverpool's Mandy Laing by a wide margin in her favoured event the javelin. Foster won by over eight metres with her longest throw of the day measured at 40.46m.
Foster was also involved in the closest finish of the day in the 100m hurdles where, after holding a slight lead at the last hurdle, she was beaten back into third place on the dip by Wrexham's Amanda Wade and Jackie Cooke of Rotherham. All three athletes were awarded identical times of 15.6 seconds.
Foster also provided fourth-place points in the triple jump before ending a productive day in the winning effort of the sprint relay quartet.
Junior jumper Fiona Westwood produced a season's best leap of 5.53m to win the long jump by almost 40cm from Liverpool's Lisa Holmes and rocketed from the blocks to give the sprint relay squad what turned out to be a winning lead in the 4x100m.
Jenny Cunnane made amends for a disastrous start to her competition day after finishing fourth in the hammer to Liverpool's Vicky Scott by scoring maximum points in the pole vault competition which she earned with her best clearance of 3.00m. She withdrew from the competition with the points safely in the bag after suffering a slight back strain.
Amanda Sheppard overcame a painful Achilles tendon problem to win the discus competition with her last throw of the day, beating Deeside's Kelly Ricketts by just 8cm with her last-gasp effort of 39.91m.
Wakefield's women won 13 of the 18 events and beat runners up Liverpool by a massive 21 point margin after totalling 146. Wakefield go into next month's final alongside Liverpool and third-placed Rotherham who amassed 101 points. Warrington, were fourth on 69 points, Deeside fifth on 63 and Wrexham sixth on 51.
But a fighting team display by the athletes on duty saw them finish a highly creditable second to match winners Liverpool, 127-159 with Deeside third on 125 points, East Cheshire fourth on 68 and Wrexham bringing up the rear once again on 56.
Decathlete Matthew Gillard was Wakefield's star performer on the day, showing his resilience by competing in five individual events and both relays to score a hatful of points.
He won the pole vault, was second in the 100m, 200m and shot, and took third in the discus.
Gillard's fine performances were produced off the back of a light training schedule due to his workload in the final year of his university studies.
Junior hammer thrower Robert Taylor stepped up to the senior men's heavier implement to register a super win with a personal best throw with the 7.25kg hammer of 49.19m. He is certain to continue on the upgrade.
Team manager lan Howey stepped in to fill up the gaps m the 100m and 400m hurdles and the triple jump competitions. He finished with a third and two fourths respectively to add valuable points to the Harriers' total.
Junior all-rounder Chris Hughff turned out despite a niggly hamstring problem and earned points with third in the javelin with a 51.05m effort, fifth place in the high jump and third in the long jump as well as running a respectable leg in the sprint relay.
Andy Johnson took on a punishing schedule, running both the 5000m and 1500m. He finished third in the 5000m in 32 mins 33.9 secs after cutting out the early running, and went on to provide fourth-place points in the 1500m behind Gareth Raven of East Cheshire, who won in 4 mins 06.7 secs.
Over-40 vet' Dave Bird received a last-minute call-up for the 800m and ran honestly to finish fourth in a creditable 2 mins 17.0 secs, and Pat McTigue stayed on bravely to hold onto second spot in the 3000m steeplechase to record 11 mins 42.4 secs.
International middle distance runner Darren Spawforth took his first step on the come-back trail in the 400m. He looked all over a winner until race fitness told on the final straight and he eventually had to settle for third place in 51.4 secs behind John Howell of Liverpool, who won in 51 secs flat, and runner up Andrew Davies of Deeside in 51.1 secs.
David Needham stayed on with grim and great determination in the 5000m to collect third-place points despite being far from race fitness due to his academic commitments.