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Harriers give blood, sweat and tears for their Club

Sat 18 August 2018, Doncaster Northern League Division 2 Promotion Match Preston Harriers senior Track and field team competed in the Northern Premier league division one playoff match at Doncaster. The day started very early with a bus from UCLAN arena at 7.30am. Due to the time of year and other commitments of athletes, team managers David Rigby and Caroline Warden worked hard to put out an almost full although weakened team to challenge rivals Blackburn Harriers, Gateshead Harriers, Derby AC, and a combined Isle of Man team. The teams that finished first and second would take the precious spots in the top division, a place Preston has held for over 10 years.

Preparation for the match was not looking good when the day before athlete Lela Bendris had to pull out with sickness and then veteran team member Sy Woan called to say ‘Don’t worry coach, but I’ve dislocated three fingers whilst on Ninja Warrior UK!’ This didn’t bode well for the match.

Actually, the day started OK with our long jumpers and hammer throwers performing well. Amy Lupton jumped a season’s best of 5.26m as well as placing second in the B race of the 400m hurdles, jumping a season’s best in the triple jump of 11m 20 and placing well in the women’s javelin. Sophie Warden opened the track events with an amazing 400m hurdles win, knocking over 3 seconds off her personal best time, but as the track events continued with the 100m, disaster struck when athletes Josh Ingham and Sophie Warden collided at speed whilst warming up, sending starting blocks and both athletes flying. On closer inspection of both athletes, it was obvious all was not well. Josh had sustained a severe gash to his hand which meant his day of competition was over before it even got started, as he was taken to hospital for further treatment. Sophie appeared fine but shaken and subsequently competed in the 100m, 100m hurdles and the high jump, until the shock and adrenaline wore off and it then became apparent she was bruised and swollen in many areas and had sprained her shoulder. Chris Brown stepped up, as he has done all season, and not only competed in his usual event of the javelin but also standing in for Josh in the 100m alongside the long jump and triple jump. Tom Booth also competed in Josh’s absence in the 400m as well as his usual pole vault. Ben Read ran Josh’s leg of the 4x400m, even after he’d run the 3000m steeplechase and 400m hurdles.

Emma Fulton held her own in a high standard 800m race and ran a 400m, despite having to leave early due to family commitments. Eleanor Ward was an incredible asset to the team running both the 800m and 1500m. Annie Duffy also produced a competent run in the 1500m, with Darcey Lonsdale also completing an impressive 400m run. All of these girls deserve extra respect as they were not only competing in a very high-quality field but also against girls upwards of 4 years older and more experienced than themselves. But they were not intimidated and really showed themselves to be class athletes amongst some impressive competitors.

Lee Foley and Simon Robinson earned their post-race beers with a tough 5000m race against rather formidable Isle of Man and Blackburn teams. Our throwers turned up and did themselves proud with Tom Crowe and Tom O’Brien covering the shot, discus and hammer scoring valuable points in all. Byron Sowerby placed 2nd in a very competitive 3000m steeplechase, an excellent performance after volunteering for a 400m hurdles race at the start of the day to ensure we didn’t lose points by not fielding an athlete. Caitlin Preddy and Emily Worthington also stepped up for the team with Caitlin running the 3000m and Emily throwing impressively in the shot, discus and javelin.

However, further injury didn’t avoid the team and the already injured Sy Woan sustained an injury on the changeover of the 4x400m relay when team mate Ben Read stood on his foot and tore his spike. Not to miss out on the injury saga Leon Stubbs took a tumble and sustained a nasty track burn to the leg, having already given his sweat to the team in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and finally the 4x400m. Due to injuries both the girls relay teams had to be pulled and by that stage in the competition the points deficit was too great to salvage.

All of the athletes who competed at the match gave their all, especially Sharon Wilkinson who competed in the 100m, 3000m, 200m and discus, missing the funeral of a friend to support the club as we simply had no other athletes who could make themselves available – total dedication. Unfortunately, on this occasion the task was too big, finishing 4th and we, with a heavy heart, had to accept relegation to division 2. We may be done this year but we’ll be back fighting harder than ever next season. Thank you to all the athletes who have made themselves available to compete for the club and have made more sacrifices than should be expected of them. We as team managers as so grateful for all you have done.

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