Yorkshire County Road Relays
Report by: Martin Cunnane
Wakefield Harriers' road athletes were in title winning form at the recent Yorkshire Road Relay Championships, hosted by the club and run around Thornes Park.
Wakefield's female section once again outshone their male counterparts, bringing home two outright team titles in the senior and U17 events, and a team bronze in the U15 girls' section.
The Harriers fielded only two teams in all the male races and had to be content with eighth overall in the senior men's competition.
Wakefield's senior women were given the best possible start to their bid to step up on their silver medal-winning performance in last year's competition by Penny Thackray.
She set the pace right from the gun. Pulling the field along, she soon had her opponents struggling and, keeping on strongly, she opened up a 23-second gap over Rotherham's Julie O'Mara at the change-over with Leeds City lying in the bronze medal position another 21 seconds further back. Thackray's leg time of 10 mins 13 secs proved to be the second fastest time of the day overall.
Alice Butler took over on leg two and, running steadily, she maintained the advantage over Rotherham, clocking 10 mins 54 secs for her leg. She lost just one second to Rotherham's S Marshall with Leeds falling another 31 seconds behind, but still hanging on to the bronze slot.
Sarah Beevers took over on the penultimate leg and though she has specialised in track 400m hurdling for the past three or four years, she showed she still has the stamina that brought her a Yorkshire team cross country medal as an U13 by keeping on gamely to hold a 22-second lead at the final leg changeover. She finished in 11 mins 24 secs with Leeds still in third, but now almost two minutes behind Wakefield.
With international 1500m runner Shirley Griffiths anchoring Wakefield's foursome, the result was never in danger. She stormed around the course, recording the day's fastest time of 10 mins 05 secs to lead the Harriers' to their first-ever women's county road relay title in a combined time of 42 mins 36 secs. Rotherham finished second in 44 mins 10 secs with Leeds City third, clocking 45 mins 23 secs.
Wakefield could not field a full B team, but the three athletes who competed all performed admirably.
Eileen Twigg ran 11 mins 39 secs on leg one to place Wakefield's B team seventh of the 20 starters at the change over.
Junior Laura Sheard set the second fastest time on leg two of 11 mins 14 secs, just 20 seconds behind her A team club-mate Alice Butler, and handed over to third stage runner Linda Walker in fifth place overall.
Yorkshire 035 5000m champ' Walker recorded 11 mins 52 secs on her stage to come home in sixth place, just two seconds behind fifth-placed Bingley A. But with no final leg runner, the Harriers lost the chance of a double top five finish.
Wakefield also picked up the team gold in the U17 women's race.
Enterprising running by Becky Fender, Aine Hoban and Helen Singleton saw them beat Skyrac by a minute-and-a-half with Nestle Rowntrees picking up the bronze medals another 78 seconds further back.
Hoban led off Wakefield's trio with a fourth-place finish in 11 mins 44 secs, a full 63 seconds behind Holmfirth's Natalie White. But a powerful second leg run of 11 mins 38 secs by Becky Fender, put Wakefield firmly in the driving seat as she handed an 80 second lead to anchor runner Singleton.
Singleton never looked like being caught and, running strongly, she increased her advantage at the finish by a further 11 seconds, clocking 12 mins 25 secs to beat Skyrac by over a minute-and-a-half in a combined time of 35 mins 47 secs, with Nestle Rowntrees taking bronze.
Wakefield's U15 A team was missing Zoe Gowland out through illness, but with Carly Wright leading them off with a super 11 mins 54 secs run to hand over second behind Holmfirth, the Harriers were always in the medal positions.
Samantha Colley ran hard throughout, collaring Holmfirth and taking the lead entering the final 800m. She kept on well to open up a 29 seconds lead over Holmfirth by the change over.
Lisa Hall tried hard to hold onto Wakefield's lead but was gradually overhauled by first Holmfirth then Nestle Rowntrees. But her 13 mins 18 secs run was rewarded with the team bronze medals as she crossed the line in third in a combined 36 mins 47 secs.
A tactical mistake by the Harriers' team manager prevented Wakefield finishing higher as Lucy Martin, who had been suffering from a flu virus, was overlooked for an A team place. She went on to complete her leg in the incomplete B team in 12 mins 24 secs. The other B team runner, Faith Grant, recorded a respectable 13 mins 27 secs in her road debut in Wakefield colours.
In the U13 girls' competition, which was run as a straight race and won by Leeds City's R Townsend in 9 mins 14 secs, Wakefield's trio of H Briscoe (10 mins 42 secs), Abby Gowland (10 mins 56 secs) and Katie Shepherd (11 mins 07 secs) finished sixth team behind Leeds City, Skyrac and Hallamshire.
In the male section, Wakefield failed to field a runner in the U17, U15 and U13 boys' races, but they did manage to put out an A and B team in the senior men's competition along with an incomplete C team.
Wakefield's A team finished eighth overall in a combined 122 mins 10 secs behind Bingley A, who took the honours in 112 mins 22 secs from Hallamshire (119 mins 25 secs), and Bingley Harriers B (119 mins 31 secs).
Best performances in the A team were by Andy Johnson, who finished seventh on leg one in 19 mins 35 secs, and David Needham, who picked up a place on the anchor leg to bring Wakefield home in eighth clocking 19 mins 51 secs.
Other A team times were Craig Heppenstall 20 mins 43 secs, Adam Cooper 20 mins 32 secs, Steve Tibbs 20 mins 26 secs, and Alan Slack 21 mins 03 secs.
Wakefield's B team finished 22nd overall in a combined 134 mins 43 secs. The six legs were completed by Ian Walker (22 mins 27 secs), Nick Mannion (22 mins 02 secs), Mike Logan (22 mins 39 secs), U17 Alex Senior (22 mins 06 secs), Steve Crossland (22 mins 21 secs) and John Fitzmaurice (23 mins 08 secs).
Wakefield had three runners in the incomplete C' team, Tony White, Keith Singleton and Tony Audsley. They completed their legs in 22 mins 28 secs, 23 mins 59 secs and 23 mins 58 secs respectively.