Competition returned to the Track at Witton Park on Saturday December 19th – albeit only for Blackburn Harriers athletes. A window of opportunity was provided by ensuring that the races were conducted in a Covid-secure environment and concentrating on everyone’s safety. Covid Risk assessment, hand sanitising stations, social distancing, track & trace registers and NHS QR codes for scanning, no spectators etc. are not the things that you normally have to think about when organsing sompetition; However, our athletes, our Coaches and the Club as a whole is longing for the return of competition but we don’t want competiton at any cost, when the cost could be extremely serious. All of the comments from athletes, officials and coaches stressed how enjoyable it had been and how safely organised it was.
A big thankyou to Track Judges, Alison Hulme, Barbara Gillies and Lindsay Daves – Timekeepers John Chaplin and Noel Finucane, Starter Sean Procter and Starters assistant Andrew Knowles, Katie Buckingham for being in charge of race number distribution, Sharon Mercer, Louise Knowles and Jackie Haxton for taking the Registers and George Woodburn and Jean Hoyle for helping out on the day. Thanks also to Claire Wilkin, Lorna Sharp, Ann Osborne for the photos. Without all of these volunteering to help out, there would have been no chance of giving the athletes an opportunity to enjoy racing again. It is a powerful reminder of how the sport is indebted to its unpaid grassroots volunteers who give selflessly of themselves.
The two hour competition featured 600m for U11’s, 800m’s for U13’s and mixed age groups over 800m,1500m and 3000m with the first Race being U11 Girls starting at 11.00pm. Coach for the U11 Endurance group – Lorna Sharp could be seen taking the youngsters through their warm up and drills just before the start under a sky with a mixture of blue and grey and a sharp, noticeable wind which did have an impact on times during the day.
Race 1 covered U11 Girls over 600m and featured Hetty Green, Lily Green, Isabelle Pawson, Leila Pilkington, Lulu Sharp, Charlotte Smith and Aggie Taylor. It was Aggie who took the honours winning in a time of 1.59.3 followed by Lulu (2.14.7), Lily (2.14.8), Charlotte (2.16.0), Leila (2.26.8), Isabelle (2.33.9) and Hetty (2.39.3). On to the U11 Boys made up of 12 runners which saw Jacek Baranowska come home in 1st place clocking 1.53.6 with Harry Smith in 2nd spot (2.03.4) and Matthew Lowe in 3rd (2.06.4). Liam Benninson was next across the line in 2.13.1 followed by Alfie Sargeson (2.16.3), Alex McKinlay (2.17.1), Harry Pilkington (2.23.2), Marco Thompson (2.25.4), Frank Cooper (2.27.2), Seb Willacy (2.27.9), Harry Hogan (2.30.2) and Charlie Hartley (2.31.8).
L-R Harry Smith (96) – Harry Hogan (335) – Marco Thompson (81) – Seb Willacy (156) – Alfie Sargeson (86) – Liam Benninson (8) – Frank Cooper (327) – Alex McKinlay (157) – Matthew Lowe (10)
Harry Plikington (346) – Charlie Hartley (100) – Jacek Baranowska (347)
The Race distance moved up to 800 and this time for the U13 Boys. Matthew Haxton was not far outside his personal best of 2.32.98 as he won the race in a time of 2.34.9. Theo Robinson came home in 2nd spot, clocking 2.34.6 which was his first time over the distance after moving up from U11’s. In 3rd place was Callum Singleton who has just recently joined the Club and this was his first race over the 800m, running a time of 2.46.5. George Ramsden posted a time of 2.50.0 in 4th place and Loucas Lancashire (5th) was another youngster moving up from U11 and taking on the 800m for the very first time with his time of 3.02.6.
Seven athletes in the U13 Girls 800m with some of them taking on the 800m for the first time, moving up from U11. One of the downsides of the Covid situation has been the fact that most young athletes have effectively missed a full year in their development. Hannah Davies was one of those who had moved up and she won the race in a time of 2.51.4 with Imogen Robinson 2nd clocking 2.56.9. Isabela Thompson came home in 3rd with a time of 2.57.3 with Tamzin Osborne a fraction away from her in 4th spot (2.57.6). Isabella Pacelli was next home in 2.58.0 followed by Ellie Wilding in 2.58.5 and Emily Smith (3.20.1).
L-R Imogen Robinson (328) – Hannah Davies (158) – Tamzin Osborne (334) – Isabela Thompson (5) – Ellie Wilding (340) – Isabella Pacelli (336)
The Mixed Age Group 800m suffered three late withdrawals which left seven starters instead of the original ten. U17 Hayden Mercer didn’t allow the wind to get at him as he won comfortably in a time of 2.07.8 which is some four seconds outside his personal best. New member U15 Pawel Baranowska went well in the race and clocked a good time of 2.10.2 in 2nd place followed home by U17 George Whittaker in 3rd spot clocking 2.22.2 – just half a second outside his best. U15 Matthew Smith took 4th position after a battle with George with his time of 2.22.5 and just a tenth outside his PB. First year as an U17 for Codie Dewhurst as he ran a time of 2.30.6 followed by U17 Connor McAuley with 2.32.7 in his first ever track race for the Harriers and U15 Eva Knowles in 2.43.9, just a couple of seconds outside her best. With the disruption of training, non-existance of competition for most young athletes over the last nine months, it is a tribute to them that they have managed to keep in pretty good shape and still put in some very solid performances.
Originally nine in the mixed age group 1500m, this was reduced to seven by the start of the race which was bound to be impacted by the wind, as would be the the 3000m coming next. The race was won by U20 Harry Wood in a time of 4.40.8 with U15 Ben Stratton coming home in 2nd spot clocking 4.48.7. Two of the runs of the day came from the younger athletes in this race the first coming from 3rd placed Daniel Smith who smashed seven seconds off his personal best to set a new PB of 4.51.3. Next across the finish line was 1st year U20 Harry Wilkin and what a brave run after recovering from Covid recently as he was just a second and half outside his best with his finishing time of 4.53.1. The second run of the day came from 1st year U15 Oliver Gill as he placed 5th in a new PB time of 5.03.5 – ten seconds better than his his previous best. U15 Isobel Holt had never run a track race before, her previous competition experience being over cross country, having recently joined the Harriers. Her opening 5.12.2 was a very solid performance indeed. U15 Izzy Hartley came home in 7th place with a time of 8.00.
The final race of the day was over 3000m and was eagerly awaited. Very few opportunities for athletes to have been able to run these distances this year. Senior Ben Fish with an 8.39.53 in 2019 lined jup alongside U20 Matt Ramsden who clocked his 8.47.5 in winning the 2019 Lancashire County Championships, his last race over that distance, a year and a half ago. U20 Ben Makin was making his debut over the distance and has been in good form in training. Callum Davidson England & GB International on the Fells and Mountains, last ran a 3000m track race in 2015 and hasn’t run on the track since his 15.13.5 for 5000m in 2018. Abby Stratton, first year U17 chose the 3000m for the first time, the 1500m being her speciality to-date. Katie Buckingham hadn’t run a track race since 2018 and Maddie Elliott, studying medicine at Cardiff Uni, last ran on the track in 2019, a year in which she won both Lancashire Schools and Lancashire County Championships Gold in the 1500m. Joe Gebbie, also studying medicine at leeds Uni, clocked a sub 2 minute 800m and sub 4 minute 1500m earlier this year. New member – Senior woman Sara Baranowska was also entered as were senior men, Danny Maynard and Alan Hartley.
In the final outcome, it was Callum who won the day and comfortably in the end after a push on the final two laps, which brought him home first in a time of 8.44.0, commenting after post race that it was a “Very tactical race with nobody wanting to lead in the wind and rain, however i was very pleased to split the group apart with a 63 second 400m with 3 laps to go and a 2:47 km, Ben took the first 2km of work but thankfully my speed endurance took me through!’!. Matt came home in 2nd spot clocking 8.52.3 saying after the race that he “Really enjoyed getting back the feel of racing and it was good to see lots of familiar Harriers faces down as well”. U20 Ben Makin in his first 3000m effort placed 3rd, just inside nine minutes (8.59.6) and said afterwards that the “tough winds made it hard to run quick but happy to get my first 3k done, will look forward to running a lot quicker at that distance“. U20 Joe Gebbie and Senior Ben Fish battled it out right down the home straight with just one hundreth of a second separating the two of them as Joe placed 4th in 9.01.4 and Ben 5th in 9.01.5.Speaking to the Club afterwards, Joe told us that he was “Making my 3k debut and had hoped to get as close to 9 minutes as possible so pretty chuffed to be knocking on the door. Great battle at the top end with the other lads – nice to be welcomed back to Blackburn with such strong competition from them. So good to be back racing, here’s hoping to a 2021 track season. Well done to everyone involved and big thanks for getting this event organised”. Ben added ” It was great to be back on the track, the lads did great and I’m sure they’ll have a great season on the track when it returns”.
There was an impressive run from first year U17 Abby – who told us that she “was happy with how i did as I was on my own and it was very windy” – came home in 6th place posting a time in her first outing in this distance of 10.23.2 – looking at the National Rankings that would put her in at No.19 if it had been at a normal track & field fixture. In 7th was Danny who clocked a 9.55.5 3000m in 2010 – winning the Lancashire Schools Championships that year – but hasn’t raced on the track since then – ten years ago. Today he put in a pretty solid run with a time of 10.52.8 and he was followed in by Maddie 8th running 11.12.0, Sara in 9th place with 11.47.9, Katie in 10th (12.34.4) and Allan in 11th spot (12.57.3).