Bolton Harriers Storm Icy Curtain-raiser!

CLGP Race 1 – Central Lancashire 5K (Bolton)
Sunday, 19th February 2012

Bolton United Harriers raced into an early lead in the 2012 Central Lancashire Grand Prix rankings, as the defending champions fielded an impressive 37 competitors. Icy Leverhulme Park was the setting for the season’s curtain-raising 5K event, and the 246 runners enjoyed perfect racing conditions – cold but sunny!

In winning, Stockport Harrier Michael Sawrey (15:42) broke the course record by 5 seconds, whilst Tony Valentine (16:01) was first home for the hosts in 3rd position. Jonothan Kay (16:25 – 2nd Junior) was 6th overall like 2011, but improved his time by over half a minute to underline his potential. Third counter as Bolton won the Men’s race Team Prize was Mark Swannell (16:49), winning the battle with teammate Shay Walker for 8th in the final 300m. Walker was nonetheless impressive, claiming another PB (16:51), top-10 finish (9th) and 2nd M40. Ian Selby (17:07 – 15th) was 4th M40, whilst Jack Garmory (17:51 – 24th) demonstrated Bolton indeed have a bright future (5th Junior). Steve Houghton (18:56 – 44th) showed good strength, powering through the last kilometre to lead home the trio of James Rideout (19:07 – 51st – 5th M50), Chris Povey (19:07 – 52nd) and Nathan Lee (19:08 – 53rd). Together, they formed the 10 counters that claimed the top spot in the CLGP ‘A’ rankings (185 points) over Horwich RMI Harriers (322 points).

Bolton debutant Steven Watson (19:56 – 72nd) joined Gary Jones (19:21 – 55th), Andrew Doyle (19:24 – 57th), Jon Gettinby (19:29 – 63rd), Daniel Johnson (19:38 – 66th), Kaan Rassad (20:25 – 84th), Ken Fowler (20:29 – 86th – 2nd M55) and Ian Meeds (20:47 – 92nd) to also claim the lead in the ‘B’ team rankings (483 points) over Burnden Road Runners (665 points), who themselves had good representation with 29 runners.

Other notable Bolton performances came from Alex Donnelly (23:50 – a PB improvement by over 2 minutes from 2011), Eric Ranicar (20:48) and Phil Boardman (24:09) as 3rd and 5th M60 respectively, and race organiser Nick Howarth (21.50), who made a steady return to competitive action. Also running for Bolton were Dunc Rankin (21:20), Joshua Sabery (21:40), Shaun Lomax (22:19), Craig McKenzie (22:38), Adrian Costello (22:53), Paul Kearney (22:56), David Huddleston (25:05) and Jacob Kearney (26:43), whilst Andy Parker was forced to retire injured after 1km.

Louisa Thompson (18:05), of CLGP debutant club Leigh Harriers & AC, was the winner of the women’s race. Defending 5K and CLGP champion, Maria Lowe (18.54), now running for Horwich RMI Harriers, was somewhat taken by surprise and finished runner-up. The lack of representation in women’s endurance events has perhaps been Bolton’s Achilles’ heel in recent years, but a group of new members have bonded well and created a good team ethic. The ever-improving Sarah Saxon (22:41 – 15th) was first for Bolton, closely followed by Lindsay Warburton (23:03 – 19th). Laura Crawley (25:30) made a fantastic debut and was third counter for the race Team that placed in 6th position. With Emma Astbury (27:26), Liz Hopley (27:28) and Jane Lim (31:45) also running, Bolton ended the day 5th in the CLGP Women’s ranking – a great achievement!

The prospects for Bolton United Harriers in the 2012 season are tantalising as, despite the strong turnout, they were missing a number of key personnel and good squad members. Whether this had anything to do with the fact that they were the hosting club, or that the Harriers’ Annual Awards Ceremony was the evening before, is anyone’s guess! Either way, the next CLGP race on 4th March, a 5 miler at Smithills, is sure to be a cracker!