Northern Athletics Road Relays

Sat 16 Sept 2017, Sports City, Manchester

This year’s Northern Athletics road relays returned to Manchester’s Sport City. Following on from the large turnouts at the North-West Counties last weekend, Preston Harriers’ senior teams sent another large contingent to Manchester. Three teams were entered in the four leg women’s relays and four teams were entered in the six stage men’s relays. Over the course of the afternoon the weather ranged from warm and sunny to breezy and rainy so the conditions on some later legs differed somewhat from the earlier stages. All races started on what was the warm up track for the 2002 Commonwealth Games before taking a lap of the outside of Manchester City’s Etihad stadium and then going out for varying distances in the surrounding land for two laps, returning for the handover on the track amid boisterous support from the clubs that set up camp in the stadium.

Preston women’s A team started with Marian Hesketh on the first leg followed by Lindsey Berends running the fastest time by a female Harrier on the day before handing over to Victoria Duckett and Vicki Sherrington to hold off the City of Hull AC and take 47th on the day. The C team of Sinead Sweeney, Maureen Kirkby, Tracy Young and Sue Wickham finished 66th. Unfortunately, a mix up in the B team meant that Jade Bebbington, Kelly Grainger, Linda Roberts and Susan Ashcroft were disqualified when one of the runners completed only one of the two laps. They were only one of seven teams disqualified on the day, including 6th placed Sheffield Hallamshire.

Preston’s four men’s teams included an A team consisting of Andy Benson, Chris Durney, Dan Bebbington and Paddy Dever, fresh off the back of their Lancashire title defence the previous weekend, plus Nathan Dunn and Matt Wigelsworth. Against very strong opposition, they never dropped lower than 13th out of the 114 teams. Four of the Harriers were in at least the top 11 fastest times on their respective legs as the team took a tremendous 9th despite illness hindering one of the runners. Their position was later revised upwards to 6th as several more teams, including two of the favourites for the title in Salford and Leeds City AC, fell foul of the authorities for entering runners who had not registered for the current season.

The B team, including some debutants at senior level, made up of Byron Sowerby, Adam Roberts, Matt Lloyd, Simon Collins, Alex Venables and Richard Smith brought the team round in 60th before being uplifted to 52nd after the disqualifications. The C team of Steve Hallas, making a sustained return to running after long term injuries, Lee Foley, Alex Waddelove, Alan Durney, Dougie Potter and Chris Miles made 65th. Ben Read, Darren Kinder, Andy Whaley, Stephen Bonsu, Mark Billington and Billy Johnstone finished strongly, climbing to 86th.

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