The first of two of the toughest endurance races in the calendar was held on Saturday and Stockport Harriers gold vests were to the fore at the first of them at this year’s Northern Cross Country Championships held at Pontefract Park Racecourse.
Round two will finish the cross country season in four weeks time with the ultimate test for any club athlete worth his salt at the National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill Fields in London.
Indeed most endurance runners would admit that you can’t consider yourself a true club athlete until you have competed in the gut-wrenching 7 mile gore test against the best club runners in the North of England and England National Cross Country championships.
At this year’s Northern senior men’s race reigning National Cross Country Champion Steve Vernon had only one thing on his mind - history!
Steve didn’t disappoint showing his joy by raising four fingers to signal his fourth title by equaling running Marathon legend Ron Hill's number of wins. Steve who like most aspiring athletes had read Ron’s inspirational books as a youngster about his climb from a young Lancashire club athlete to international stardom and marathon and cross country running legend and would never have thought that one day he would be following in his footsteps.
Pat Martin made it an extra special day for the club putting in a true grit performance to grab third spot and join Steve on the winner’s podium taking the bronze medal.
Pat's recent performances were rewarded with a call from England cross country team manager Eamon Martin to say he was picked to represent England in Hanult in two weeks time.
On top of the leading Harriers pair Andy Nixon made a big breakthrough in the senior ranks with a well earnt 11th place, following up was Alex O'Gorman in 28th, Jamie Loxam 70th and newcomer Mike Sawrey 82nd with Adrian Nutter, James Corden and Phil Burns in for a 5th team place the club's highest ever position.
In the senior women’s race Jessica Coulson ran well in her first ever senior women’s championships to take the bronze medal.
Jess battled hard leading the race out on the first lap with eventual winner Lizzi Adams coming through in the final stages and Susan Partridge second.
Carmen Byrne finished 67th, Sarah Aymler 118th and ladies' coach Maureen Wilkinson leading by example to take 163rd. The four ladies were 11th team, a best position for the club in recent years.
In the junior men's race Jack Morris ran solidly for 15th place with Jack Nixon 52nd.