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North of England AA Junior Championships 1999
Part I

Report by: Martin Cunnane

29th May 1999 - Robin Park Stadium, Wigan

Some of Wakefield's super crop of U20 stars were in championship winning action at part one of the North of England Track and Field Championships held at Robin Park, Wigan.

Sprint starlet Emily Freeman qualified for the 100m along with club mate Emma Phillips. Freeman got a good start and finishing well just got the better of Sale's Maria Bolsover, breaking the 12 second barrier for the first time in her career to win in a personal best 11.98 seconds.

Bolsover was 4/100ths of a second behind her, with Clare Russell of Oldham and Royston just holding off the challenge of Phillips to finish third in 12.31, with just 5/100ths of a second separating third and fourth on the line.

Freeman went on to notch a notable sprint double by taking the 200m crown at the expense of Barnsley's Fiona Harrison, the daughter of former Wakefield, Yorkshire and England RUFC skipper Mike Harrison. Freeman clocked another personal best time recording 24.24s to score a clear victory over Harrison (25.03s).

Victoria Shepherd picked up Wakefield's third title of the championship, after seeing off Burnley's Emma Morris to take the shot crown. Her winning putt measured at 11.87m, 60cms clear of the runner-up.

Michelle Lonsdale just failed to add the North of England U20s javelin title to the Yorkshire gold she won at Cleckheaton, finishing second with 38.43m just 30cm behind the winner, S Lowe of Sale. At 17-years-of-age Lonsdale will be back again next year when she will be a clear favourite to improve on this year's second place.

Another 17-year-old, Helen Taylor, also picked up a silver medal in the hammer event, where she finished second with a day's best 38.72m behind Liverpool Harriers' Vicky Scott (43.75). Taylor will also be back next year and looks certain to continue on the upgrade.

Ruth Dales finished an unlucky fourth in the 100m clocking a season's best 15.24s behind gold medal winner R Gibb of Middlesbrough and Cleveland.

Aine Hoban also finished just outside the medals in the U17 3000m final, clocking 10mins 47.12secs behind Gemma Taylor (Morpeth) who won in 10mins 19.83secs. Hoban, who is her first year of the age group looks certain to improve and could develop into a class performer.

Robert Taylor The best performance provided by a Wakefield male athlete at the recent North of England Championships was that provided by Harriers' rising hammer star Robert Taylor. Taylor finished fourth in the competition final behind Gateshead's Ross Thompson who threw 60.04m compared to the Wakefield athlete's 52.51m effort and Taylor looks certain to continue giving a good account of himself.

He started his career with Leeds City AC, but has trained under the watchful eye of Wakefield's senior throws coach Mike Swain since 1997. The following year he joined the Thornes Park club alongside sister Helen, who was ranked sixth in the UK in the U17 hammer last year, after having trouble gaining cage training time at Leeds City's HQ, the South Leeds Stadium.

Leeds City's loss was certainly Wakefield's gain, as they picked up Robert, Helen and their mother Carol, who now manages Wakefield's junior men.

Robert is a true performer who has shown many times that not only is he big in stature, but big in heart too. This is borne out by a recent report in Express Sport, describing how after he had completed his throwing duties for the day he volunteered, not for the first time, to run the 2000m steeplechase, an event even hardened middle distance runners fear.

Taylor has already amassed an impressive athletics CV having won Yorkshire and West Yorkshire schools hammer titles as well as the North of England championships. He also represented Leeds City Swimming Club from 1988 to 1993 at county swimming championships and at meetings in Ireland and Scotland before quitting the pool to concentrate on the hammer.