West Yorkshire Cross Country League
Report by: Martin Cunnane
Wakefield Harriers' Cross Country squad was in action last Saturday taking on the best of West Yorkshire's country performers in the fourth and final fixture of the West Yorkshire Cross Country League at Low Moor, Bradford.
Wakefield were given the best possible start to the day's proceedings in the first of the age group races where Carly Wright ran splendidly to engineer a three second victory over Leeds City's B Townsend, with L Kirk representing Skyrac AC a further 14 seconds adrift.
Wright was up in the leading bunch from the off and had plenty left approaching the final 600m The Wakefield youngster kicked for home 200m out and had soon established a 15m gap which she held comfortably to the line to win her first ever West Yorkshire league race in 11 mins 35 secs.
Novice runner L Hall made an extremely encouraging debut in Wakefield colours, running with great determination to land a highly respectable fifth place, clocking 12 mins 59 secs and going on her first effort, is sure to have a promising future in middle distance athletics.
Wakefield were extremely unlucky not to be celebrating a double after the second event, the U15 girls' race, where last weekend's West Yorkshire Schools champion Aine Hoban was beaten on the final sprint to the line after failing to handle the tricky downhill descent to the line. Hoban had matched strides with Scunthorpe's D Daly for most of the race and running strongly the pair opened up a massive gap over third placed L Traynor of Bingley. Daly pushed on up the final punishing hill with Hoban matching her stride for stride. But the turn for home proved to be her undoing and Daly went on to win by three seconds in 14 mins 24 secs with Traynor trailing home more then a minute behind, testament to the hard work put in by the first two home.
Lisa Martin finished second Wakefield team counter in eight, recording 16 mins 15 secs and Samantha Colley's 10th place in 16 mins 35 secs just failed to land the team honours on the day for the Harriers, who finished in second, two points behind Bingley, with Scunthorpe third on 26 points.
Wakefield supporters were given another good run for their money in the U17 event where Laura Sheard put in a gutsy effort to split two county champions on the line, Nicola Curtis of North Yorkshire and Humberside victor Helen Garnham.
Sheard was always in the leading group along with Curtis (Scunthorpe), Garnham (Nestle Rowntree) and H Grinstead of Skyrac. But as the pace quickened Curtis and Sheard started to pull clear of Garnham who in turn moved ahead of the tiring Grinstead.
Curtis eventually went on to beat Sheard by nine seconds in 17 mins 11 secs with Garnham a further 15 seconds behind in third. Sheard's highest placing in the four strong league series was rewarded with fourth place in the final league standings.
There was another good effort from a female Wakefield athlete in the senior race where Eileen Twigg had her best run for some time putting in a splendid effort to finish in a highly commendable third place overall.
Twigg who is just returning to race fitness after almost nine months out with injury problems, ran stoutly throughout the race which was won by Pudsey and Bramley's Jane Clark in 20 mins 18 secs, beating off the challenge of veteran Kath Drake the Spenborough athlete by just one second finishing in 21 mins 44 secs.
Shelly Tomlins finished second Wakefield counter in 24 mins 14 secs with Linda Walker third counter, claiming 31st in 24 mins 53 secs. Final counter was specialist junior 400m track runner Kerry Dobson, who was the final Wakefield finisher building up her stamina for the forthcoming season with a respectable 35th place overall in 25 mins 31 sees.
The quartets exertions saw them finish fifth on the day with 96 points, behind Leeds City (51), Spenborough (61), Keighley and Craven (69), Halifax (70). Twigg's third place moved her up to third overall in the final league standings.
Wakefield's male athletes were sparse on the day with no competitors in the U13 and U15 boys' sections while their trio of competitors in the U17 competition, won by Holmfirth's Richard King in 17 mins 43 secs, again performed poorly.
Harriers' first runner home was Alex Senior who finished a distant ninth in 19 mins 11 secs, with Michael Walker two places further back in 20 mins 41 secs, with Richard Markey completing Wakefield's scoring with 13th place in 21 mins 10 secs.
The team accumulated 33 points which placed them third behind Spenborough (13) and Leeds City (16).
Wakefield's senior men were again without first team choices Steve Lowe and David Needham, both ruled out through illness. But their team, cobbled together with the help of three veterans, Clive Grace, Richard West and Dave Brailsford, performed above expectation on the day managing to finish second team on the day and overall in the League standings.
The race was won by Bradford's international fell runner Richard Findlow who beat Bingley international Mick Hawkins by 12 seconds in 29 mins 29 secs with lan Fisher (Otley) third in 29 mins 52 secs.
Wakefield's team were led home by the much improved 20-year-old Craig Heppenstall who ran gamely to finish a respectable 14th in 32 mins 23 secs. Team captain Andy Johnson finished second counter in 20th clocking 33 mins 4 secs and Nick Mannion's 38th place in 34 mins 18 secs gave hope to Wakefield supporters of a top three finish on the day.
The Harriers three veterans all gave in the hunt for team honours and with Clive Grace claiming 59th in 35 mins 34 secs and Richard West finishing 71 st in 37 mins and 5 secs.
Dave Brailsford's 37 min 57 secs run earned him 81 st overall and ensured Wakefield finished second on the day behind Keighley and Craven and second in the league behind Holmfirth Harriers.