Northern League – West Premier Division – Saturday June 19th 2021

Well we finally got the season going and off the ground after having to cancel the first fixture (May 22nd) due to concerns about Covid. Such a relief and such a good feeling to see the Track at Witton Park Arena bathed in sunshine and the athletes doing battle against one another as each team set out to do well and compete for the Title at the end of the season. Blackburn Harriers went into the Match as current Title holders and were keen to get off to a good start in its defence. Just after 5.00pm the result of the match was announced which saw Blackburn Harriers winning with 450 Match Points, West Chesire in 2nd (356), Sale in 3rd (329), Preston in 4th (315) and Wigan in 5th (206).

On the day the team registered twenty three individual event wins and set twenty new personal bests

Before we report on the actual athletics of the day, we would like to mention those, who rarely get a mention. The Match had to be held in a Covid-19 secure environment, which meant Covid Risk Assessments, Covid Action Plans, Covid Risk Assessment checklist run by our nominated Covid-19 Director – Debbie Bleasdale – who spent the whole day monitoring all of the activities in every part of the ground. Then there were the Covid Marshals – Sharon Mercer, Michelle Nuttall, Jackie Haxton, Kiera Haxton who staffed the entrance gate ensuring adherence to Track & Trace by all those involved in the Match either as competitor, Coach, Official, Spectator or Parent. Thanks also to Codie Dewhurst and Hannah Davies who helped out with getting results from the Track to the Results room where, for the whole day, Susan Woodburn and Anne Davies were isolated in recording all of the Match results. A big thanks to John Cookson who spent the whole day on the microphone, keeping everyone up to-date with our Covid compliance responsibilities, event timetables and results as well as all the other information that needs communicating throughout the day. Huge thanks also to the Officials, who we cannot thank enough. Without them, and all of the other volunteers, there won’t be any athletics matches and we owe them a very big hand for sure. Thanks also to the Witton Park Staff, many of them doing the competition for the very first time and who did a fabulous job on the day. We should never underestimate the importance of good groundstaff who are critical to the successful running of any athletics fixture.

The day starts off with Field events – Long Jump, Pole Vault and Hammer. The Women’s Long Jump had Liberty Thompson and Abbey Riley in this event resulting in Liberty setting a new PB of 4.50m in the ‘A’ for 3rd place and Abbey taking 3rd spot as well with 4.35m, just one cm outsider her personal best. The men’s Long Jump featured Fawwaz Mustapha in the ‘A’ and Ben Branton in the ‘B’. Fawwaz smashed his personal best (5.62m) in coming 2nd with a new PB of 6.09m as Ben also placed 2nd with 5.45m. In the men’s Triple Jump it was the same two athletes representing the Harriers and again more personal bests – Fawwaz added a metre to his previous best (11.95m) as he leapt out to a new PB of 12.99m in 2nd place, with Ben backing that up, winning the ‘B’ – also with a new PB of 11.38m. The women’s Triple Jump had Eleesha Charnley and Aibigail Armas jumping for the Club with Eleesha coming 3rd in the ‘A’ (8.73m), a new PB by 42 cms and Abigail 3rd in the ‘B’ with 8.38m, having never done the event for the Harriers previously – great team spirit.

Liberty Thompson

Abbey Riley

Fawwaz Mustapha

Ben Branton

In the Pole Vault, the Harriers had Poppy Mae-Preece in the women’s with Hayden Mercer and George Whittaker in the men’s. Poppy went into the event with a personal best of 1.90m and went straight through that with successful clearances up to and including 2.30m, setting a new PB by 40cms in 2nd place. In the men’s Pole Vault, Hayden went into the competition with Sales’s George Spain who vaults in the 4.0m range, but that didn’t deter him, having a best of 2.65m, he smashed through that, setting a new PB by 35cms to place second height of 3.00m with George doing the same and setting a new PB, also by 35cms as he won the ‘B’ with a clearance of 2.90m – a great set of performances by the young athletes and a big return on points for the team.

Poppy Mae-Preece

The men’s High Jump produced two wins, maximum points and a personal best. Joe Pearse won the ‘A’ with a clearance of 1.83 from Preston George Lowe in 2nd (1.80m) and U17 Rory Teare put 10cms on his previous best as he won the ‘B’ with a new PB height of 1.75m. More good performnces in the women’s High Jump too with our pair being Poppy-Mae Preece and Liberty Thompson. Poppy came 2nd with a new PB by 5 cms with her clearance of 1.50 as Liberty came 3rd in the ‘B’ with a height of 1.45m – great points accumulation from the event for the team.

Joe Pearse

Rory Teare

Poppy Mae-Preece

Liberty Thompson

Anthony Kent and Nathan Billington were back together in the men’s Hammer which saw Anthony carry on where he left off in 2019 with a win in the ‘A’ throwing 46.69m and just 4cms outside his best. Nathan made it a double win with his throw of 39.52 – maximum points being added to the total. Great to see Charlotte Williams home from the US, competing with Ava Leigh in the women’s Hammer, the pair producing the same result as in the men’s Hammer with two wins and maximum points. Charlotte won the ‘A’ with 57.96m and Ava won the ‘B’ throwing 42.77m just a week after winning the Northern Athletics U20 Championships.

Anthony Kent

Nathan Billington

Charlotte Williams

Ava Leigh

Carrying on with the Throws events, Anthony Kent and Tony Balko paired up in the Shot Putt – Anthony winning the ‘A’ with a distance of 11.50m and Tony placing 2nd in the ‘B’ (9.69m) and in the Discus, the same pair saw Anthony come 2nd in the ‘A’ (38.37m) with Tony also 2nd in the ‘B’ (28.09m). In the men’s Javelin there was a new pairing of U20 George Whittaker and Senior Nathan Billlington. George finished in 5th place in the ‘A’ – where the first three in the field all threw over 50m – George only ever having thrown the 800g Javelin once before (25.34m) – shattered that distance with a new PB of 35.53m which augers well, whilst Nathan – who had never thrown the Javelin in competition previously – also placed 5th in the ‘B’ with 30.23m. Ava Leigh and Grace Bontoft was the pairing in the women’s Shot Putt which finished with Ava taking 5th in the ‘A’ (9.12m) as Grace placed 2nd in the ‘B’ (7.03m) having never done the event with the senior weight before.

Anthony Kent

Tony Balko

Ava Leigh

Grace Bontoft

George Whittaker

Nathan Billington

Grace then teamed up with Sarah Henton in the Discus – resulting in Sarah winning the ‘A’ with a distance of 38.68m and Grace setting a new PB by a metre in the ‘B’ of 17.35m in 2nd place. In the last Throws event of the day – women’s Javelin – Sarah stepped in to help the Team, and having last thrown a Javelin in 2014, came in 5th with 20.45. Liberty Thompson who had never thrown the senior Javelin previously, also steeped in to help the team, taking 3rd spot in the ‘B’ with 19.55m. The Throws and Jumps athletes made a huge contribution to the team winning on the day, amassing 186 points in total, alongside the 190 points totalled on the Track.

Sarah Henton

Grace Bontoft

Sarah Henton

Liberty Thompson

The Sprints Squad as with our other squads lost a number of athletes prior to the Match and on the day, but that didn’t weigh heavy as some great performances were produced by clearly motivated athletes. The men’s 100m got off to a flyer with a great battle between Fawaaz Mustapha and Preston’s Jack Mcloughlin, both given the same time of 11.40 with Fawwaz adjudged the winner and in the ‘B’ Kyle Mashiter made it two wins, taking the ‘B’ in 12.0. On to the 200m where we lost our ‘A’ athlete that morning, Kyle stepped up and took on the ‘A’ spot clocking 23.70 in 4th place, just three tenths outside his best and Dominic Bretherton also stepped up at the very last minute to take 3rd spot in 26.10 in the ‘B’. In the 400m Joe Gebbie and Hayden Mercer took on this event after some shuffling, following team changes needed on the day – and how they performed. Joe went in the ‘A’ race, starting with a best of 55.7 which he shattered, crossing the finishing line in 3rd with a new PB of 53.30, over two tenths faster. U17 Hayden went into the ‘B’ Race with a best of 55.02, winning it with a time of 53.90 for a new PB by over a second, which is the latest in a string of new personal bests for Hayden this year.

Kyle Mashiter

Dominic Bretherton in non-scoring 100 (236)

Joe Gebbie

Hayden Mercer

Similar situation in the Women’s Sprints with last minute changes. U17 Abbey Riley had a best of 13.08 for the 100m until a couple of weeks ago. She knocked that down to 12.80 last week and today took a further two tenths off, taking 3rd spot in the ‘A’ with a new PB of 12.06 as Amy Wiggans, carrying an injury clocked 13.90 (4th) in the ‘B’. The two athletes then reversed order in the 200m with Amy taking 4th place in the ‘A’ (29.40) and Abbey in 3rd in the ‘B’ (28.20). The 400m pairing was U20 Eleesha Charnley and U17 Isobel Holt who last week won Bronze in the Inter-Counties Fell Championships in her age group – ‘Izzy’ answering the call to fill in, literally the night before the Match. Eleesha placed 5th in the ‘A’ knocking a full second off her previous best to set a new PB of 60,40 whilst Isabel in her first competitive season on the Track and never having done a 400m before, clocked 66.90 in her debut – again, such an outstanding team oriented decision.

Amy Wiggans

Eleesha Charnley

Isabel Holt

Onto the middle distance and endurance events, where again we had lost a number of athletes, only seemed to motivate the athletes. Ben Makin was up against Preston’s Daniel Bebbington in the 800m ‘A’ race and what a battle they had, coming off the bend with just a metre between the two, finishing with them locked together, Ben being given the race in a new PB time of 1.57.2 – second place also getting the same time. The ‘B’ race was just as good with Joe Gebbie taking it on from Preston’s Andy Benson, both of them trying to get an edge in the home straight, finishing with Joe taking 2nd spot in 1.59.6, just a tenth behind. In the 1500m U17 David Holman in his first ever race in a senior competition and answering the call for the team at the very last minute, teamed up with Ben Makin. Ben placed 2nd in the ‘A’ in a time of 4.09.3 whilst David set himself a new PB by over a second, clocking 4.13.50 (2nd) in the ‘B’.

Ben Makin

Joe Gebbie

Ben Makin

David Holman

The 3000m Steeplechase featured four athletes, with Marc Hartley ‘A and Chris Davies ‘B’ pairing for the Club against one from Preston and one from West Cheshire resulted in comfortable wins and maximum points – Marc winning the ‘A’ and Chris the ‘B’ in 11..44.6 and 12.12.3 respectively. (The times in this race have been questioned as we believe Marc placed in the 10 minute bracket and Chris in the 11 minute bracket.) In the 5000m Mark Magee and Josh Holgate took on a final week request to step in and run this, which again, produced good results for the team with Mark taking 2nd spot in the ‘A’ with a very solid time 15.38.9 and Josh winning the ‘B’ in a new PB time of 16.09.20 – an improvement of over half a minute. Worth noting here that Mark had only ever run two 5000m track races previously and Josh only one.

Marc Hartley

Christopher Davies

Josh Holgate (11) — Marc Magee (1)

The women’s 800m pairing for the Club was U17 Abigail Stratton, running her first ever senior race and Sara Baranowska. Abigail had a best of 2.17.77 going into the race and set a new PB time of 2.17.40 in the ‘A’ race which was won by Aimee Pratt who has already run the qualifying time for the Steeplechase for the 2021 Olympics – so quite a race for Abigail to make her debut. Sara placed 3rd in the ‘B’ in 2.30.5, which was her first race on the track in the three years she has been with the Club – and – another great example of team spirit as she was asked to take this on in the week leading up to the Match. The 1500m saw Laura Hesketh and Ellen Sagar-Hesketh in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ respectively for the Harriers, with the ‘A’ race also featuring again – Aimee Pratt. Laura, having last run 1500m on the track in 2018, took 2nd spot in the ‘A’ in a time of 4.50.10 with Ellen, running her first track race since August 2019, winning the ‘B’ in 5.11.40. Katie Buckingham paired with Laura Hesketh in the 3000m, proving to be a successful combination with Laura breaking the 10 minute barrier as she won the ‘A’ in 9.56.00, which was just three seconds outsider her best from 2017. Katie last ran a track race back in July 2018 and had just one race under her belt in 2021 and a few Park Runs in 2021, so a pretty solid performance from her as she was just three tenths off winning the ‘B’ in 11.31.40, the winner clocking 11.31.10.

Abigail Stratton

Sara Baranowska

Ellen Sagar-Hesketh (11) — Laura Hesketh (1)

Laura Hesketh

Katie Buckingham

In the 400m Hurdles the race had just two athletes in – Blackburn’s Benjamin Whittaker and John iLunga who posted times of 65.10 and 75.10 respectively, Ben’s 65.10 equaling his personal best. Aysha Karolia was our only athlete in the women’s 400mHurdles – Aysha coming 3rd in the ‘A’ Race in 75.10 and a new PB by just over a second. The Sprint Hurdles produced a similar result in the men’s race with Benjamin winning the ‘A’ race in 17.10 and John winning the ‘B’ (21.90).

Ben Whiitaker

John iLunga

Aysha Karolia

Relays always provide a great end to the day and none more so than the men’s 4 x 100m. The Harriers team was Fawwaz Mustapha, Dominic Bretherton, Benjamin Whittaker and Kyle Mashiter who had a great battle with Sale who edged it at the end in a time of 44.50 with the Harriers clocking 44.90 in 2nd spot. Our Club record stands at 43.1 set way back in 1971 (Gibson, Lassey, Balderstone, Yardley) and given the strength of the squad, is there a realistic possibility that they could get closer to that during the season?

Men’s 4 x 100m Relay (Dominic Bretherton)

The 4 x 400 men’s relay team – (George Whittaker, Joe Gebbie, Ben Makin, Jamie Teare) – produced a great performance, seemingly winning the relay by something like 50m from Preston – given a time of 3.32.60 –  but were unfortunately disqualified because of a breach on the incoming blue line. A learning curve for sure, but what a great run by the lads.

Final Leg of Men’s 4 x 400 Realy – Jamie Teare

The 4 x 100 women’s team – Poppy Mae-Preece, Abigail Armas, Liberty Thompson, Abbey Riley – placed 3rd  with a time of 55.20 whilst the 4 x 400m team – Isabel Holt, Abigail Stratton, Ellen Sagar-Hesketh, Eleesha Charnley – also took 3rd spot with a time of 4.12.0.

Final Leg of Women’s 4 x 100m Relay – Abi Armas handing over to Abbey Riley

Women’s 4 x 400m Relay – Leg 2 with Abigail Stratton