Rossendale Free Press

Harriers kick off year in style at Witton

- ATHLETICS STEVE DUXBURY

THE Lancashire County Cross Country Championsh­ips, the first big cross country fixture of 2022 took place at Witton Park, Blackburn on Saturday and the event proved successful for some of the Harriers as they took home team and individual medals and won the chance to represent Lancashire in the Inter Counties Championsh­ips in March.

In terms of the weather it was a case of déjà vu with heavy rain almost matching what we experience­d at Marl Pits in December although it wasn’t quite as windy but the course soon cut up badly after the U11 boys had completed just one small lap of their 1.8K course.

The heavy conditions underfoot didn’t suit everyone but Charlie Dobson made light work of the mud and was the first Harrier to cross the finishing line after 7mins 13secs for fifth place and just over ten seconds shy of a bronze medal.

Disappoint­ingly the boys only fielded three runners, one short of a team, but Arthur Grenfell and Harry Walker ran well to finish in 22nd and 24th positions respective­ly.

The girls enjoyed the first success of the day with a well deserved team silver thanks to Alice Carr in fourth place, Holly Nicholls in ninth, Iona Bell in 21st and Aila Thompson 25th from 37 finishers.

Alice was unlucky not to finish in the medals, losing out on the bronze by just one second and silver by two seconds but she has steadily improved all season as has Holly who has impressed by her consistent progress.

The U13 boys fielded five runners, Isaac Snape in 13th place, Francis Vidler in 19th and Alfie Walker in 20th and finished in a great fourth place. Toby Steel also ran for the boys.

As the conditions worsened with torrential rain Matilda Duffy and Ruby Cleaver turned out for the girls and both secured top ten spots with ninth and tenth places respective­ly, good performanc­es in the circumstan­ces and an added bonus for both athletes is that they will probably be reserves in the Lancashire team.

The U17 men had to contend with two large laps of a sodden course involving two trips up to the famous Witton “Saucer”, 5.5K in total.

Joe Ormrod had to finish in the top six finishers in order to secure a place in the county side and he did just that by working his way through the field in the last lap to finish in fifth place after 19mins 24secs but well shy of Chorley athlete Jacob Deacon’s 18mins 05secs.

Deacon dominated the race from start to finish and ran out an easy winner.

Will Curry had a fine run to take eighth spot and will at least be a reserve for the county team and Ollie Webster, although out of sorts managed to finish the race to help the team to a well deserved bronze medal.

Ellie Richardson’s first cross country outing since a bad injury in October proved successful as she led the senior women’s team home, finishing in 21st position and securing a place in the U20 women’s team to represent Lancashire at Loughborou­gh in March.

Although the women finished out of the medals in sixth place they should be pleased that they fielded a team and all finished after enduring very testing conditions.

The rain, mud and three laps of an undulating Witton Park obviously suited Natalie Murphy as she was next home in 29th place followed by Joanne Cleaver in 32nd place and second LV35, and Christine Smith in 51st spot to complete the team.

The dependable Sara Steel also ran, finishing in 56th place.

A surprise but well deserved silver team medal was the reward for the senior men but it was a triumph of youth over experience as 17 year old Joe Hopley led the team home in 18th place from 123 finishers, just two places in front of Jon Cleaver who took the gold medal in the V40 category.

Andy Grenfell had been sidelined since the Bolton fixture at the end of October but did well on Saturday to finish in 28th place just one position in front of Joe Waller who was making his season’s cross country debut.

Michael Corbishley and Chris Snell completed the team in 43rd and 51st places respective­ly and they were well supported by Matthew Clawson, 57th, Ben Kirkman, 59th, Ian Duffy, 83rd and Steven Melling who also gained a bronze in his V65 category.

 ?? ?? ●●Holly Nicholls
●●Holly Nicholls
 ?? ?? ●●Joe Hopley
●●Joe Hopley

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