A large team of Manx athletes enjoyed unprecedented success at the British National Race Walking Championships at Hillingdon cycle track in London on Saturday.
The junior walkers were first underway and Manx Harrier Stephen Waddington got the ball rolling with a superbly timed effort to win the under 15 boys category in 16.40, eight seconds ahead of Jack Childs from Medway & Maidstone. The stylish Alice Bellando (Manx H) was equally impressive in the under 15 girls event, she always competes well when the stakes are high and was one of the few athletes to manage a personal best on the day, her 17.15 improving her previous best set in Bedford at the English schools last year. Alice started sensibly and overhauling some of the faster starters moved up to second position in 15 seconds front of Cambridge’s Suki Lee and 27 seconds behind Lucy Lewis Ward also of Cambridge Harriers.
In the Under 17 women’s 5km Western A.C. athlete Lucy Webber was racing in her first National after taking up the event last summer and looked good throughout, while a little down on her personal best, she gave total commitment to finish 8th overall in the race and 6th in the English championships. She is improving steadily and should be pleased with her debut performance of 33.08.
Tom Partington (Manx H) finished second in the junior U20 10km race behind Cameron Corbishley of Medway and Maidstone, who is on the GB World Cup team in a fortnight. Tom is at the younger end of the age group and while the times were not near their personal bests for either athlete, Tom still posted a respectable 50.09.
Tom’s attention will now turn to getting ready for the British 10km championships in June and subject to being selected, the European Youths in July.
Rebecca Greatbatch (Manx H) was also racing in the junior U20 category and had her best race of the current season with positive move in the right direction and a performance of 62.20, earning her a second place behind Sophie Lewis Ward of Cambridge.
Tom Bosworth was top billing in the senior mens 20km championship and took an easy win despite using the event as a training spin as he prepares for the World Cup. Manx Harriers were well represented with four athletes racing. Adam Cowin started steady and was in 4th position initially but moving up to 3rd after the first couple of kilometres. It was not to be his day however, being disqualified after half way while holding second position in the championship. The rest of the Manx team packed well however, with Dale Farquhar on the comeback trail and looking fitter finishing in 5th place in 1.58.45 and Steve Taylor coming out of retirement to finish in 6th with 2.01.41. Matthew Haddock toughing it out for 7th in 2.06.10 meant that the Manx Harriers men retained the team trophy they won last year from Belgrave Harriers.
Though there was a few notable absentees in the womens event, no doubt also due to proximity with the World Cup, there was to be more success with Manx walkers making up the majority of the field. Hannah Hunter (Manx H) lead from pillar to post in only her second attempt at the distance, taking the National title in 1.55.39 despite feeling very nervous at lining up in her first National 20km Championships she looked composed throughout. Equally impressive was the fast improving Erika Kelly (Northern A.C) who was making her debut at 20km after only having moved up from 5km to 10km this winter, she raced really well to finish in second place in 2.01.44 and had she not lost a few minutes after suffering stomach problems in the mid stages, the race between the leading pair would have been a much closer affair. Both ladies are learning fast and will undoubtedly improve as they get to grips with the demands of the event. Marie Jackson (Manx H) had her customary strong finish and was just over a minute behind Erika and delighted with third in the Championships in 2.02.49. Jayne Farquhar (Manx H) was extremely nervous in her first National event and looked tense early on but looked more relaxed as she started to settle and finished in a personal best of 2.15.54 for 4th place. Louise Hollings (Isle of Man Vets) and Sharon Cain (Western A.C.) were also debuting, they walked together in the early stages, but Sharon suffered a bout of sickness in the mid race and was looking like a doubtful finisher and Louise pulled ahead. Always looking comfortable she set a personal best in 2.25.15 for 6th. Sharon managed to rally after a pit stop for a brave finish in 2.31.57.
Manx Harriers team of Hannah, Marie and Jayne had the bonus of winning the team gold and the club came home with the trophy for most improved club and Best club trophy, quite some haul and surely the most successful National ever for Manx athletes in terms of medals. It was subsequently also found that the course was some 22 metres long which amounted to over 400m over-distance in the 20km event, so times in these races would have been over 2 minutes quicker in most cases.
Thanks go to Elizabeth Corran who put the trip together and to all the Manx clubs for supporting the athletes travel as well as all those who traveled to help back up and support those walking.
Thanks to Bridget Kaneen for the report