Sat 28 July 2018 Preston Harriers faced a tough day on Saturday at the last Northern Premier League Senior Track and Field match. Following a mixed season for the team, the final match was the crunch. The club had started the season well in April finishing second, but the matches in May and July had been disappointing due to lack of support in some disciplines, leaving a win this weekend their only hope to avoid having to compete in a relegation match. The weekend was made easier by it being a home match.
The men and women fielded an almost complete team, only having gaps in the pole vault and male sprint hurdles. The athletes fought hard throughout the day.
The ladies’ team were pleased to have Amy Lupton and Sophie Warden out competing for them in this crucial match, both athletes willing to tackle multiple events, from long jump to javelin and hurdles to shot. Both were content with their performances, although as athletes they always want those personal bests, but team managers were happy on this occasion with their valuable points. Sharon Wilkinson showed her continued loyalty to the team running the 400m and the 4 x 400m relay despite being ill the night before. U20 athlete Charlotte Dayley followed their lead and once again covered a number of events. Katie Littlefair ran a season’s best in the 100m of 12.9 secs, Emma Hargreaves ran a personal best in the 3000m and Jenny Wren took to the track in the 3000m for the first time. Sophie Warden dominated the 400m hurdles with a win by over 40 meters, U17 athlete Lela Bendris accepted the invitation to step up from her normal distance of 300 hurdles to the 400m hurdles and did so in style. The girls in the middle distant events, Annie Duffy, Emma Fulton, Darcey Lonsdale and Caitlyn Preddy, showed great determination earning valuable points in their events. As points were so tight, team manager Caroline Warden ran the B string 100m hurdles and finished a creditable 2nd.
U17 sprinter Hollie Suffolk showed great team spirit with performances in the 100m, 200m, discus and relay. Lauren Tunstall was delighted with a personal best in the high jump of 1m 50 and teammate Evie Parkinson was tantalizingly close to hers, just 1 cm short.
Both ladies relay teams fought hard for their final positions and points, the 4 x 100m finishing 2nd and the 4 x 400m finishing 3rd.
The men fought a hard battle too with many great performances. Josh Leatherd took the win in his 100m race and Alex Marsden, Sy Woan and George Reed all ran strong races to finish 2nd in their respective events and gain those all-important points. In the 400m Josh Ingham and Leon Stubbs finished 1st and 2nd respectively. In the distance races, Tiaman Crorken, Matt Lloyd, Chris Durney, Dan Neal, Joe Monk, Simon Robinson and Ben Read all finished in the top 2 places. Byron Sowerby literally ran away with the 3000m steeplechase, leaving his fellow competitors almost a minute behind him, a dominant display of running.
In the field, Tom Crowe showed his dedication by competing in the discus and the hammer before finally taking part in the shot put prior to running off to change in time for a friend’s wedding. It was good to see some new faces in the team in Tom O’Brien and Brian Campbell in the shot and hammer respectively. Lewis Ormerod and Chris Brow delivered the points with their solid performances in the javelin. As always Ethan Tibbs was on hand to compete in the jumping events and as usual added to the points tally. Sprinter Declan Taylor showed his team spirit by high jumping for the team minutes before he ran in the guest 100m along with Andy Grundy.
The men’s 4x100m dominated the relay with an impressive win.
It all came down to the final few events; as we waited patiently on tenterhooks whilst the final results were added we knew it would come down to the final events and it did. Wakefield currently held the lead by 1 or 2 points, so it was all down to the 4x400m relays. The women did all they could and ran close to the immensely strong Wakefield ladies and brought us home in second place. Finally, it was the men’s turn – a hard decision had to be made; run a team that could possibly win the race, but was not guaranteed, or run a team of fresh legs knowing if we did have to go to the relegation match, we would need these athletes. We went for the fresh legged team of Kian Davis, Matt Fazackerley, Matias Grixti and Ben Preddy. They ran a hard race, but it wasn’t to be and finished in 5th place.
As the final results came it was gutting to hear we had finished second by 2 ½ points. A great result but not good enough to avoid the relegation match in two weeks’ time. When all the points from the four matches were added together Preston finished fifth in the league.
Team mangers David Rigby and Caroline Warden were immensely proud of the performances by everyone on Saturday and over the season and said‘we couldn’t have asked any more of the athletes this weekend, they all gave it their best shot, it was so close and second in this match is great, but it’s tinged with disappointment that we will have to compete once more to avoid relegation, a task that is made harder when we know a number of key athletes are unavailable for the match due to other competitions and holidays.’
A special thank you goes to Sarah Suffolk and her team of officials and volunteers who worked tirelessly all day to ensure the match ran smoothly.