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North of England AA Indoor Championships 1999
Part II

Report by: Martin Cunnane

Saturday & Sunday 23/24 January 1999 at Don Valley

Wakefield Harriers were in the medals again at part two of the North of England Indoor Championships held in Sheffield.

Saturday saw the staging of the remainder of the field events, where the Harriers' talented all-rounder Ruth Laybourne stepped up on the previous Sunday's silver medal, to capture gold and the North of England title in the high jump.Laybourne won with a personal best clearance of 1.46m, beating Bingley's Susy Buckby by 6cm and Laybourne, last year's individual U/15 girls West Yorkshire League champion looks set to retain her title and challenge for county honours when the season starts in April.

In the senior women's high jump, U20 performer Judith Payne cleared 1.65m to gain silver and was very unlucky not to clear 1.70m achieved by Emily Jackson (unattached). After looking clear on both her second and third attempts at the winning height, the bar came off as Payne hit the podium.

Another Wakefield athlete who improved on her previous week's performance was U20 jumper Fiona Westwood, who had finished fourth in the long Jump at Wakefield.This time she moved up into the senior women's category and was rewarded with the bronze carried with her day's best leap of 5.31m, just one centimetre behind Elaine Donald of Thurrock, with sale's Margaret Velman winning gold with her best jump of 5.85m. Becky Foster, Wakefield's Yorkshire senior heptathlon champion finished a close fourth in 5.27m.

There was another silver for the Harriers in the U 17 women's triple jump, where Wakefield's defending chainpion Jenny Handley lost out to Morpeth's Julia Straker who produced a championship record breaking leap of 11.16m. Handley finished on 10.61 m with Gemma Sharples of Liverpool Harriers third on 10.37m. Handley had earlier finished a respectable fourth with a 1.60m clearance in the U17 girls high jump, which was won by Border's Stephanie Higham (1.68m).

In the men's section U 17 athlete James Wild kept tip the Harriers' good performances in the high jump competitions by collecting the bronze medal with his best clearance of 1.75m, five centimetres behind David Etheridge of Sale and Martin Aram of Western AC. They claimed gold and silver respectively with identical 1.80 clearances, Etheridge winning on the countback.

Sunday saw the appearance of the speed merchants with the holding of all the age groups 60m sprint and sprint hurdles competitions and once again Wakefield athletes acquitted themselves well. Stars of the show were the UK U20 ranked sprint duo of Emily Freeman and Emma Phillips who had finished second and third in last year's final to Rebecca White. After both had qualified comfortably for this year's final with runs of 7.82 (Freeman) and 7.87 (Phillips), they went to the line with team mate and specialist long jumper Fiona Westwood, who had clocked 8.11 secs to make the final after finishing third behind Freeman in the beats. The main danger to the Wakefield trio looked to be Rachael Kay of Wigan as Freeman took an early lead at the gun and held half a metre advantage at half way over Kay, with Phillips, missing her customary flying start, a similar distance away in third. But as the line closed both Kay and Phillips closed down on Freeman and in the end it was a very close thing, with Freeman picking up the title in 7.76 secs, just 8/1 00ths of a second behind the record set by White in last year's final. Kay finished second in 7.79 secs and Phillips right behind in 7.80. Westwood recorded a highly respectable 7.99 secs to take a commendable fifth.

In the U20 women's 60m hurdles final, Ruth Dales got a flying start and challenged for the lead throughout, hurdling fluently she finished a good second collecting the silver medal in 9.30 secs behind Rachael Kay who won in 9.09. Dales fluent performance bodes well for the coming outdoor season and she can look forward to another successful year's athletics.

In the U/15 girls' competitions, Emily Mason scored a narrow heat victory over Sale's Sharon Wall, clocking 9.95 secs to the Lancastrian youngsters 10 secs flat, but in the final, Walls turned the tables, getting close up home to win by 5/1 00ths of a second in 9.81, despite Mason clocking a personal best 9.86 secs in second.

In the U15 girls 60m semi-finals, both Victoria Lockwood and Katie Smith qualified for the final with respective runs of 8.27 and 8.48 secs, with team-mate Olivia Smith just missing out in 8.69 secs. In the final Lockwood made a good start and although she could not hang on to the first two places, she collected bronze in 8.25 secs. Wigan's Amy Spencer took the gold in a championship best 8.01 secs, with Yasmin Weite of Shildon the silver in 8.13 secs. Smith finished a highly respectable fourth in 8.43 secs.

In the U 17 women's 60m hurdles first year Amy Lloyd performed well in heat two, finishing third behind Wirral's Sian Pohill-Thomas clocking 9.83 secs to the winner's 8.92 and qualifying for the final. In heat one, Kirsty Hodson (9.99) finished fifth behind another Wirral athlete, Pam Cook (9.19). Lloyd went on to finish seventh in the final behind Pohill-Thomas while Hodson won the B final in 9.91.

In the senior women's 60m, Elaine Sutcliffe qualified for the final with a 7.94 second run to finish third behind Nicole Crosby, who won in 7.8 1, but decided to withdraw from the final after feeling a twinge in her hamstring.

In the U15 boys, Wakefield were two-handed in the 60m final with both John Fletcher and Lee Ruddock qualifying in times of 8.21 and 8.37 secs respectively. In the final, Bingley's Ben Manchester prevailed in 7.74 with Fletcher just out of the medals in fourth recording a personal best 8.10 secs with Ruddock sixth in a personal best 8.34 secs. Both youngsters are in their first year at U/15 level and another year in the age group are sure to be major players in next season's big competitions.

Finally in the U/17 men's section Jonathan Shearn qualified comfortably for the semi-final after finishing 8/100ths of a second behind Hull Springhead's Graham Danby, but was mighty unlucky not to progress to the final after finishing fourth in a blanket finish in the semifinal behind the same athlete. Shearn clocking 7.53 secs to the winner's 7.49.