The Northern Cross Country Championships came to Witton Park for the first time since 2010 and what a day it turned out to be. It had everything. Great Races, rain, hail, wind and miles of mud, the ‘Saucer’ plus the infamous ‘T-spoon’ and above all, the courage and real determination on the part of all the athletes to overcome the conditions and put the best possible Race in that they could. Inspiring to see.
(Going up the ‘Saucer’)
Chairman of Northern Athletics – Tony Wood – commented on the days events saying “Witton Park again proved its status as one of the best cross country venues in the country with the the Northern Championships 2016 providing an excellent and tough test for all the athletes. The race route was described by many as a true cross country course and the wintry conditions of mud, hail and rain gave the event some extra spice. Blackburn Harriers were proud to host the event and our officials and marshalls were up to the mark again. Credit to Graham Harris from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and in particular to Richard Taylor showing exactly what is needed to pull together a cross country course fit for a championship. Many thanks of course to Steve Gaines and Arwel Williams from Northern Athletics together with Judith Temperton and her team as well as the many Northern Athletic officials who braved the cold throughout the day. Of course final mention to the athletes with congratulations to the medallists including our very own Liz Greenwood. They all performed excellently and in turn enjoyed another taste of our very own Witton Park”.
Arwell Williams of Northern Athletics gave “a big thanks to all at Blackburn Harriers for all the work not just yesterday but also up to the event”.
Leo Carroll – President of Northern Athletics – sent this message “I would like to thank all of you who helped to make yesterday’s Cross Country Championships at Witton Park a success. It is a tribute to the preparation work before the day and your contribution on it that the event ran smoothly and to time in such trying conditions, amongst the worst I can recall in 60 years of attending the Northern Championships”.
A big thank you also from Blackburn Harriers to Rossendale & Pendle Mountain Rescue Team (RPMRT) who were kept busy on the day providing fantastic medical cover. This organisation delivers an enormously beneficial system of medical cover for events like this and deserves all the support that we can give from inside the sport.
Blackburn Harriers were delighted that the Town’s MP – Kate Hollern – and the Mayor of the Borough – Faryad Hussain – were able to accept the Clubs invitation to present Medals to the Winners on the day.
(Kate Hollern MP & U15 Girls Winners) (Mayor – Faryad Hussain & U13 Boys Winners)
Full Results with Team Standings HERE
The day kicked off with the U17 Women’s Race – featuring ninety nine runners – which saw the Harriers Liz Greenwood – who won the County Championships three weeks ago – attack from the off, sticking right in behind the eventual winner Kate Waugh. This probably cost her as she came into the last 4 – 500m of the Race finishing 3rd for the Bronze medal in 18.49 and just five seconds off the Silver Medal. A great run for Liz showing courage and commitment. Afterwards, Liz told the Club “I felt good from the start so tucked in behind the leader and tried to stay there for as long as possible. The hills were tough, especially the teaspoon but I worked hard all the way and despite being out sprinted into 3rd was really pleased with the result”.
One hundred and sixty eight girls were on the Start Line for the U15 Girls Race with Maddie Elliott, Hannah Cookson and Chloe Bleeks representing the Harriers. Maddie Elliott who finished second in the County Championships recently, ran really well to finish 20th in a time of 18.03 with just seconds separating her from the next six runners in front. After the Race she commented that “It was really hard conditions at the Northerns so I really struggled. It wasn’t my best race, but I’m happy with my position”. Hannah Cookson was the next in, placing 99th in 20.10, followed by Chloe Bleeks (125th) in 21.09. Chloe commented that “Yesterday was probably the most difficult cross country I have done but thanks to all the support of the Blackburn Harriers we all completed the course the weather was horrendous but we all didn’t stop and thanks to an amazing team Maddie and Hannah Its a pleasure to run for such and amazing Club”.
So it was on to the U13 Girls next and huge field of one hundred and ninety nine runners. There is no doubt that the younger end of the sport in cross country is seeing some big turn outs in the U13’s and also in the U11’s at local league level which is really good to see.
Amy Davies who won the Lancashire County Championships earlier in January, led the Team home to a very good 6th place – just one point behind 5th placed Keighley – out of the 21 Teams competing on the day saying that “It was a very tough run and well set out”. Amy came in 15th overall in a time of 14.32 and backed up by Eleesha Charnley in 55th (15.26) who quipped “I was proud to be involved in such a fantastic event. Thanks to all involved in organizing the event (I was glad to cross the finish line and hear that beep)”, Charlotte Corrigan – who said ” ‘It was incredibly muddy and cold! and was happy to help the team” – just two places and two seconds further back in 57th (15.28) and Jess Watson 116th in 16.28.
Two hundred and thirteen lads in the U13 Boys Race and 25 Teams. Lancashire U13 Boys Champion Matt Ramsden had a great Race finishing 6th overall in a time of 12.51 with just two seconds separating him from 4th place. The Team finished 11th overall with Jamie Teare taking 36th place in 13.37, Luke Ingleson (109th) in 14.44 and Jasper Smith (160th) in a time of 15.42). Daniel Brown placed 178th in 16.14, Kyle Pomfret (180th) in 16.16 and Ethan Barbarewicz completed the Boys team.
The U20 Men’s Race won by Patrick Dever in a really good contest between him and runner up Jonathan Shields saw Jack Hindle compete for the Harriers alongside the other sixty seven Junior Men. Jack came in 34th in a time of 30.19 and commented “Very tough race yesterday! I was very tired throughout the whole race! Just happy to finish. We all have those races, so looking forward to the next race!”
Eve Smith, Jan Buckingham and Lindsay Davies were competing in the Senior Women’s Race featuring 358 finishers and 40 teams. Eve Smith led the Harriers Women home in 118th spot with a time of 39.20 and came home screaming at herself as she strove to pick up more positions in the Finish. Next home was Jan Buckingham – 272nd in 48.08 – who said after the Race “Well done to everyone who ran at Witton. It was very well organised, marshalled and marked out, thanks to Richard and team. With true Northern grit everyone battled on and the skin piercing hailstones were a much cheaper option than a spa!! By the time the seniors ran there was no easy line, just had to go through the middle of the relentless mud, but despite all that and being near the back I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Blackburn Harriers have shown once again they can host a great event with the hard work and commitment of a dedicated few. Thank you”.
Lindsay Davies finished in 309th position with a time of 51.17 and said later that “Great experience running with such top class runners at the Northern championships, very well run race and the fact that it was home turf was an added bonus. Felt s lot better in this race than at the Lancs Champs, legs zapped and still a smile on my face. I have achieved so much in this cross country season and I am looking forward to the winter warmer which I can run without the ground moving.”.
In the Men’s Senior Race featuring 52 Teams and 719 finishers and won by Salford Harriers – the Club finished 11th Team. Unfortunately we had some absences on the day and Ben Fish had to pull out after experiencing more problems with his ankles on this kind of surface. However, 11th overall was a pretty good performance by the Senior Men. The Club Photographer managed not to be able to hold the camera steady at this point of the day, hence the bad quality of the photo’s he managed to take. It’s been rumoured that he will have ‘thawed out’ come Summer!!
Rob Warner was the highest placed finisher for the Harriers coming in 60th with a time of 48.50 and said that he was “a bit mixed about the race yesterday, would have liked to be in the top 50 beforehand but the conditions just made it so tough! Was happy to just finish in the end – is up there as one of the hardest cross races I’ve done!“
Andy Buttery was next in for the Club (98th) in 50.45 and told us “I was really happy with my run feeling strong throughout and I coped with the mud well and actually enjoyed it! Making the top 100 was a bonus as I haven’t done many xc races in the last few seasons. The great support all round the course and being on home turf made it a special day for Blackburn Harriers and one to remember with the mud and weather conditions”.
Andy was followed in by Tim Raynes in 116th place (51.18) and backed up by Shaun Livesey (123rd) in 51.42, Paul Bradshaw (160th) in 53.45 and Mark Chippendale in 163rd (53.55) who made up the six counters on the day.
Tim told the Club that “After losing a bit of ground in the Lancs XC on last couple of laps and knowing that the conditions would be very tough, I decided to set off a bit steadier and try and work my way up the field through the race. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do this as much as I would’ve liked, but happy enough with my race. A particular thanks to Richard and everyone else who helped put on such a brilliant event, it really is appreciated”.
Next home came Chris Davies (165th) in 53.59, Gary Pearse (304th) in 59.08, Warren Smith (404th) with a time of 62.57, Andy Heys (432nd) in 64.08, John Cookson (499th) in 67.11 and Michael Sharp in 650th spot with a time of 78.31.
Michael ‘warmed’ to the day, helping Marshal the earlier Races, as did Jan Buckingham and then ran. Michael said it was “A great day to be an Harrier at The Northern XC. After marshaling with Saul for the first 3 races (to which we both enjoyed), we watched the course gradually break down into a mud-fest. The weather was unreal at times, a bit of everything came our way. The marshals and officials need a special mention. It was a tough day for them; And Richard and Co did a fantastic job getting everything in place. The Men’s race came and it was a big turnout. My plan was to just try and keep a steady pace all the way around. Being a novice at the cross country, i now know i need to get a lot stronger to run hard in these conditions. It was tough under foot the Iast lap on the teaspoon, some guys were all over the place. I thoroughly enjoyed the race and big respect goes out to the fast Harrier lads at the front end, some great times. It was great to support, marshall and race, it was a good day. Bring on the next one”.