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UK Womens League

Report by: Martin Cunnane

6th June 1999 - Robin Park Stadium, Wigan

Wakefield Harriers' senior women's squad opened their UK Women's League second division campaign at Robin Park, Wigan, with a solid allround team performance which saw them finish an excellent third.

Wakefield, were without first choice team members Lindsay Jones, Ruth Dales, Becky Foster, Emma Phillips, Victoria Shepherd, Tara Wilson and Natalie Jackson for a variety of reasons.

But the Harriers still managed a top three position on 180 points behind City of Glasgow (202) and Liverpool Harriers (191). In fourth it was Ashford (156), followed by Peterborough (152), Coventry Godiva (134), Wigan (112) and Medway who finished last with just 105 points.

Wakefield's placing means if they can finish in the top two in the next fixtures at Coventry in three weeks time and Liverpool in August, they will be the first ever Yorkshire team to earn promotion to the top flight of the UK women's league athletics.

International 1500m runner Shirley Griffiths was Wakefield's only A string winner, coming from what looked like a hopeless position to take maximum points from her favoured event.

Griffiths got boxed in at the start and after travelling 300m hopelessly trapped on the kerb in the pack, Glasgow's Sheila Fairweather made a long run for home and quickly pulled 20m clear of the chasing pack, which was' headed by Liverpools Catherine Murphy, with Griffiths still trapped 50m behind.

Griffiths had to drop back on the kerb to almost last position in the field of 16 to extricate herself and after finding daylight, pulled out and accelerated quickly up to fourth, still 40m behind Fairweather. Griffiths made relentless progress over the penultimate lap, moving into second 600m out and finally getting on terms with the Scottish athlete along the top straight 500m from home.

After a short battle for the lead Griffiths forged ahead and quickly pulled clear of the tiring Fairweather and keeping on well had extended her lead by 30m at the line winning in 4 mins 32.2 secs. Murphy was second in 4mins 41.5s and Fairweather third a further 3/10ths of a second behind.

First year junior Laura Sheard finished seventh in the B 1500m clocking 4m 06.3 secs behind Colette Fagan (Glasgow) who won in 4m 44.4s.

International heptathlete Kerry Jury was hard at work throughout the day and as usual provided a clutch of valuable points starting with second in the A high jump on countback to Gillian Black (Glasgow) with both making identical clearances of 1.70m. Jury went straight to the 100m hurdles and competed well to take second in the A race in 14 secs behind U23 international Diane Allahgreen of Liverpool (13.5s).

Jury ended her individual contribution to the A 200m where she again finished behind Allahgreen who won in 24.0s from Glasgow's Malgorzata Rostek, 24.2 secs with Jury third in a respectable 24.4 secs.

In the B 200m newly crowned North of England U20 100m and 200m champion Emily Freeman ran tremendously well and continued to show great promise. Flying from the blocks she was soon ahead of affairs and running on powerfully down the finishing straight was not extended to hold a 4m advantage over Wigan's Jennifer Meadows.

Freeman also put in a good effort in the A 100m finishing strongly to snatch third spot in 12.1s behind Allahgreen who won in 11.6 secs. Another of Wakefield U20s top perform admirably was Fiona Westwood who finished a deserved third in the A long jump behind Coventry international Jo Wise who won with a massive 6.25m leap. Westwood clocked her fastest 100m of the season, 12.7s in finishing fifth in the B 100m behind Helen Roscoe of Liverpool (12.1). Westwood also stepped into the unfamiliar triple jump, finishing seventh in the A competition to bolster the overall points total.

Judith Payne made the long trip up from Oxford University to provide a clutch of valuable points, finishing fifth in the B long jump, seventh in the B triple jump and third in the B high jump where she was beaten for first on countback.

Amanda Sheppard sustained an achilles injury but still managed third in the A discus with her best throw of 37.78 behind Ashford's Jenny Bradley (45.18m) and she also competed in the shot, finishing second in the B event.

Continuing with the field, super vet Jenny Cunnane once again demonstrated her worth, finishing third in the A pole vault with a 3.00m clearance behind Ashford's Maria Newton who won with a 3.40m vault. Unfortunately for the Wakefield woman she had to shuttle between the pole vault and A hammer competition because they started at the same time, but she still managed to finish third in the latter event, 7m behind Marie Walters (Glasgow). Cunnane finished her busy day with third in the B discus, 4m behind Glasgow's H Owen.

Northern U20 hammer silver medallist Helen Taylor had her first outing in the senior team, marking it with a fine victory in the B hammer. Taylor had an 8m margin over runner-up J Whittle of Wigan, winning with her day's best 38.12m.

Vikki Mills supplied valuable points by finishing second in the B pole vault and looks sure to progress as the season continues.

Eileen Twigg and Shelly Tomlins finished fifth and fourth respectively in the A and B 3000m.

Team skipper Elaine Sutcliffe turned out despite the flu and she did well in her favoured event the 400m, holding second place until the last 50m where she faded back to fifth clocking a respectable 57.6 secs behind winner R Scotcher (54.3).

Sutcliffe also anchored the sprint relay team of Westwood, Jury and Freeman to notable victory over Glasgow's more handy relay quartet, with Wakefield clocking a speedy 47.2 secs to win by 2m. Sutcliffe was back in action ten minutes later to help Jury, Alice Beecroft and Sarah Beevers to a hard earned second place in the 4x400m relay, beaten by just over two seconds by host club Wigan in 3 mins 52.9 secs.

Split times for the quartet were Beecroft 60.4s; Beevers 58.6; Sutcliffe 57.3 and Jury 56.8. Earlier Beecroft had finished fifth in the A 800m in 2mins 13.8 secs as well as finishing a good second in the B 400m having clocked 58.8. Beecroft is sure to strip a lot fitter over the next six weeks so her recent form is best ignored.

Yorkshire U20 javelin champ Michelle Lonsdale was up against last year's English Schools gold medallist Goldie Sayers of Peterborough, and she did well finishing just 2.5m behind Sayers the top ranked U17 thrower last year, with a respectable 41.50m.

New signing from Hallamshire Harriers Julia Sykes turned out for Wakefield despite returning from holiday just 12 hours before and suffering from an ankle injury. Sykes scored points in the A 400m hurdles, as well as finishing sixth in the A shot and fifth in the B javelin.

Other points came from Sarah Beevers, seventh in the B 800m, Amy Ridsdale who turned out at late notice to contest the B 800m hurdles where she finished sixth and Becky Leach, another late call-up, who justified her place with seventh in the B 100m hurdles and more valuable points.