Manx Harriers hosted their early season open meeting at the N.S.C. perimeter roadway last Saturday on a very cold, and very windy day, with even a freak hailstorm and squally shower near the conclusion of the 20km walk.
The day got underway with a solo 1km effort from Harrie Swales of Northern in the development event with a time of 8 minutes 30 secs.
The next two events were the 3km and 5km distances, which were also combined as the Junior international match (Nihill Shield) in which the Irish and English team battled for points to try and secure the win in the under 15 and under 17 age groups.
The 3km was won by Eddy Purser from City of Portsmouth with Aisling Lane of Ireland taking the top spot in the girls event both of these two recording very quick times for the age group and personal bests for both despite the weather conditions. The next three to finish also recorded personal bests with second girl Natasha Mitchell of Winchester leading Ellis Simmonds who was second boy. Lola-Mae Billingham took the third girls spot for England.
The U17 5km event was packed with quality. Irelands Jake O’Brien won the race overall with a very quick 24.39 from England’s Christian Hopper. One of the battles of the day came from the race for top female in this event. Northern A.C’s Mia Dunwell was competing as part of the England team and led for almost the entire distance, with team-mate Abby Hughes of Taunton, sitting in her slipstream for almost the entire race, however in the sprint for the line it was Hughes who just outpaced Dunwell to the finish line, pipping her by a solitary second. Both girls had recorded huge personal bests with Dunwell over 1.40 quicker than her best set as recently as December, with a sub 26 minute breakthrough performance 25.54. Andrew Glennon was third for Ireland and Ava Ross took third girls spot, also for Ireland.
Keira Heavey recorded a pb with 29.00 and such was the quality of the race that this was only good enough for 13th spot. While Rebecca Greatbatch and Sharon Cain also recording seasons bests for the host club.
Oisin Lane recorded a fabulous 44.26 to take a win in the 10km event. He was chased all the way by clubmate Matthew Glennon, both setting amazing times considering the worsening weather conditions.
Maria Flynn and Emily McHugh also club mates, but from Naas Harriers also performed well with 51.50 and 52.48 respectively. James Hanlon of Taghmon was third male and the only other sub hour time. Top local was Phill Swales and Northern clubmate Maura Kelly was delighted to take third lady. May Hooper was next to finish from the host club and Northern A.C. packed well, filling the last two finish spots with Denise Bridson and Carolanne Hanley.
The 20km event was also doubling up as the Northern Area championship and had a good entry. The weather was probably at its worst during the second half of the race. Joe Mooney of Ireland took the win, with a comfortable 10 minute margin from Manx Harrier Gianni Epifani. Richard Creer walked a well paced race to be second local and third overall. Natalie Myers looked strong throughout and somehow managed to record an 8 minute personal best to win the ladies event, which bodes well for the upcoming season. She was just 2 minutes ahead of Niamh O’Connor and they were both well clear of Penelope Cummings of Aldershot who took the final podium spot. Not far behind Cummings was Marie Jackson who was racing her first 20km since 2018, she looked really strong throughout and finished less than half a lap behind Cummings. Jayne Farquhar was next, nearly a minute up on visiting walker Diana Obermeyer of Germany with Angie Robinson delighted with a strong walk to record a great debut 20km performance. In the northern championships. Gianni Epifani took the mens title with Richard Creer second and Yorkshires Graham Jackson third. Natalie Myers of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire took the ladies title, Marie Jackson was second and Jayne Farquhar in bronze medal position. The Manx Harriers women of Marie Jackson, Jayne Farquhar and Angie Robinson took the team title.
The number of entries in the low 20s was disappointing, but this did not detract from the quality of the race and some really noteworthy performances, particularly as the wind was still gusting strong as the runners lined up to take the starters orders. Early on Christian Varley took on the pace, with Andrew Nash tucked in behind as the early laps ticked by. Andrew Isaac was just back from these and had a lonely race throughout, while the Sarah Webster had found the perfect race partner in Luke Phair. Paul Rodgers was hanging on to the back of these two in the early stages with Elissa Morris also making a strong start. Next was a pack of 4 runners who could hardly be separated including Irish visitor Pat O’Connor, Ciara Hardisty, Jonathan Pugh and Ashley Kneale. Next came Peter Callin, who also had a lonely race. Just a bit further back the trio of Dawn Atherton, Emma McMullan and Phil Littlejohns kept company.
Western’s Helen Taylor was another who had no company while brothers Neil and Stephen Crowe were stuck together from start to finish. Jason Parry and Susan Butterworth kept company for most of the race too.
In the final shake up, Nash showed he had enough in the tank to outpace Varley on the closing lap and take the win for the second year running. Varley however, managed to squeak a personal best by a second, despite the wind. Andrew Isaac took third and was in turn a minute ahead of Luke Phair who was fastest junior and also took around a half minute off his lifetime best which he is sure to revise in kinder conditions. He had managed to pull clear in the closing stages from Sarah Webster who took the top female spot and equalled her personal best, showing she is in fine form and with a very quick 36.43. Paul Rodgers was paying a little for his start and was being reigned in by Elissa Morris who was second female finisher, she managed to close Rodgers down to 5 seconds at the finish. Ciara Hardisty managed to edge away from the group in the closing laps to take third woman. Jonathan Pugh was 9th and the final runner to beat 40 minutes with a lifetime best of 39.47 while Ashley Kneale also set a personal best and just six seconds over the 40 minutes. Others to record personal bests were Peter Callin and Dawn Atherton who just drew slightly ahead of Emma McMullan in a strong finish.
Manx Harriers would like to thank the army of officials, volunteers and helpers who worked throughout the days events, for some of them, in quite uncomfortable conditions, as well as those working prior and after the event to look after the visiting guests.
Here are the full results
Photo: Rob Quine