Saints Santa season starts in a Stockport Sunset

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It was a cool, breezy Saturday that greeted St Helens Tri to begin the month of December as they made their way to Woodbank Park for the third round of the Manchester Cross Country League in Stockport. Diane Taktak had got the ball rolling earlier in the day with a nice run to 27:48 at the Sunflowers Halewood 5k hosted by Knowsley Harriers, providing a nice starter to the main course down the M62. In the U13 Boys race Charlie Murphy came home ahead of Joseph Duffy by eight seconds and Oliver Murphy was able to place in the top 35 at U15 level. After lunch the ladies were off at 1:40pm for their two laps of the fabled course including the infamous hill which takes so much out of the legs. Claire Murphy was the first club member home in a time of 42:47 finishing less than 45 seconds away from the top 100 and giving herself a real chance of catching Cheryl Pace for the club championship, as Cheryl nonetheless kept up her consistent scoring despite nearly being eliminated on a tree stump. She finished in 45:28 just over a minute clear of Myka Heard who always enjoys this tough, technical circuit. Bethany Forber finished ahead of her mum Christine on this occasion, as she looks forward to her first marathon a few weeks from now. Her time of 50:37 sealed the deal for sufficient counters over the line to ensure a league placing for the ladies, and Yvonne Tinsley was next having run team Forber very close indeed. Another club member who has improved immeasurably at XC is Sarah Taktak, who came close to breaking 55 minutes and also was fifth junior lady overall on the day, while no-one ever doubts the spirit of Liz Spensley who once again dug deep and finished the toughest course on the calendar.

The last few ladies were still finishing at 2:30 as the men were set on their way for three laps of the course and the first mini-lap had the desired effect of spreading the field out to stop the usual traffic jam on the descent towards the fields. Colin Dobbs obviously thought this through very well as he scampered off early doors and was never to be headed by another teammate, as he finished in under 44 minutes despite mysteriously not being picked up by the timers at the finish. Robert Chesters found his longer spikes much more to his liking and, after overtaking Michael Forber at the end of lap one, put in a late bid to catch Colin but ultimately ran out of time, nonetheless finishing in 44:07 over two and a half minutes quicker than last year as he put his new-found knowledge from taking a BTF coaching course to good use. For his part Michael Forber finished 35 seconds back from Robert just ahead of a thrilling battle between David Isaac, who challenged Robert in the early stages, and Kevin Dunbar who was happy to have beaten the 45 minute mark. Patrick Neill and Kevin Dudley also had quiet but strong runs keeping the duelling duo ahead very honest, and it was a good first outing of the season for Paul Booth who was unlucky not to join his teammates in the sub-50 club. Two close battles followed, with Alan McKeegan just getting the better of Lee Stinch by 21 seconds and it was even closer between Chris Murphy and Peter Rawlinson, Chris (in black) coming home just four seconds ahead of Peter (in white wearing the club cycling kit – in the mud no less). With the sun setting over Stockport the pair came home less than half a minute behind Andrew Bridge whose contributions to the club at run sessions are most valued and appreciated, particularly last Friday night when a hailstorm soaked the track!

Here are the top 4 in the ladies points standings after round three:

Cheryl Pace 58
Claire Murphy 50
Myka Heard 45
Bethany Forber 30

And for the men:

Colin Dobbs 68
Michael Forber 55
Robert Chesters 36
Kevin Dunbar 30

It was a track of a very different type on Sunday morning as Mark Eccleston made the trip to Oulton Park for the Running Grand Prix. Comprising ten laps of the fabled racetrack, it’s a marathon like no other as it involves ten ascents of the punishing Knickerbrook Corner. On the day the competitors were greeted by strong winds and driving rain but Mark was more than equal to the task and finished in under four hours 40 minutes to close out a terrific first weekend of December featuring many star performances. Plans are afoot for a club awards night similar to the 2018 edition in February or March next year; full details will appear here as and when they become available.

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