Rochdale Harriers and A.C.

National & South East Lancs Cross Country Championships

6th March 2019

The last weekend in February saw fourteen Harriers travel over the border to take part in the National Cross Country Championships, this year held at Harewood House in Leeds. The venue was new to the Nationals, having being run successfully last year for the Northern Cross Country Championships.

The ladies (Colette Cooke, Jan Needham, Joanne Walsh and Jill Barton) set off at 1:35pm for two laps (8k) of an undulating course, with excellent running underfoot due to the unseasonably dry and warm weather. First to cross the line was ladies captain Jill Barton, pleased with a course best of 39:13 (431stout if 1034 ladies) in spite of some on-going breathing issues. Jan Needham also ran a course best, finishing in a time of 44:43 (741st) – both athletes having previously run the course in the 2018 Northern Championships. Building on her good racing form in spite of some injury concerns, Colette Cooke finished in 47:08 (844th) with Joanne Walsh completing her first Nationals in a time of 53:42 (973rd).

Joanne Walsh, Colette Cooke & Jill Barton

Joanne Walsh, Colette Cooke & Jill Barton

Joanne Walsh

Joanne Walsh

The men’s race set off at 3pm, with three extended laps totalling 12k altogether. First Harrier over the line was Richard Stirzaker in 48:09 (849th out of 2008), a highly commendable, solid run considering the men’s captain wasn’t at full fitness. Ian Stainthorpe had a strong run finishing next in 51:57 (1244th), especially impressive with Ian having run Harrogate Parkrun that morning. Exactly a minute later saw Alex Frost cross the line in a time of 52:57 (1332nd), with Mark Walker having a strong run to finish less than three minutes later, in a time of 55:21 (1533rd). Nick Walsh was next Harrier home in 58:13 (1694th), with John Mayall continuing his comeback, finishing next in a time of 1:01:14 (1821st). Kristian Robinson crossed the line in 1:04:28 (1890th) just ahead of team-mate Matt Cox (1:04:40 – 1894th). Taking it right to the finish line on Matt’s heels was Ray Dalby, just two seconds behind Matt in a time of 1:04:42! (1895th).

The Nationals are a fantastic opportunity to represent your club at a national level, shoulder to shoulder with some of the best athletes in the country. Every club is allocated a ‘pen’ number at the start, elite runners line up with club runners of all abilities on the start line. A truly unique experience which is always awe-inspiring to be a part of. Please speak to your club captains/Colin if you’d like to take part in next years nationals (venue to be confirmed!).


The final race in the South East Lancs Cross Country League at the new venue of Yarrow Park, Chorley, saw competitors put in a final effort to gain points in the league tables. An exceptionally warm, pleasant day saw twenty two Harriers – including both Juniors and Seniors – race on the largely flat, fast new course. First Harrier to finish in the 8k ladies race was ladies captain Jill Barton (30:54), 15thoverall and 3rdLV45. Next was Diane Winterburn, completing another solid cross country season, finishing in a time of 33:52 (31st, 4thLV50). England International runner Jan Needham finished 1stLV65 in a time of 35:18 (40th overall), with Zara Hirst completing the multi-lap course just under a minute later, in a time of 36:11 (44th, 2ndL20). Joanne Walsh was next over the line in 39:23 (56th, 10thLV50), with Cath Unwin finishing next in 45:49 (77th, 14thLV50). Strong runs by the veteran ladies saw them finish as 2ndladies team for LV40, LV45 and also LV50.

Jill Barton

Jill Barton

The mens event saw competitors race 10k over the same loop as the ladies. Having a great finish to the SELCC season, Alex Frost was first Harrier home in 39:21 (42nd, 6thV50). Another characteristically strong race was run by Ian Stainthorpe who came in next in a time of 40:47 (54th,5thV55). Ian Aitchison ran a solid race to finish in 43:31 (84th, 5thV60), with Neil Hirst finishing less than a minute later in 44:09 (88th, 12thV45). ‘Stormin’ Norman Eames ran an impressive 45:59 to finish 1stV70 (99th overall), with Ray Dalby next to cross the line in 48:09 (114th, 10thV60). Matt Cox (49:44) was next to finish, in 120thposition (12thV60), followed by Craig Wellens in 51:18 (125th, 16thV45). Another great performance by the veterans saw them take 3rdteam for over 50s, and 1stmens team for over 60s!

Alex Frost

Alex Frost

Well done to everyone who took part in the league and managed to get the requisite 3 out of 4 races in.

The results for the Harriers who completed the league were:

Juniors – Joshua Clowes (30thUnder 1 Boys), Lottie Peacock, Sophie Squirrell and Isla Ashton (10th, 11thand 28thUnder 11 Girls), Harry Peacocke, Stanley Clough and Wilf Bramwell (5th7thand 15thUnder 13 Boys), Olivia Jackson and Anna Thomas (20thand 27thUnder 13 Girls), Adam Fern (10thUnder 15 Boys), Hannah Clough and Dervla Moore (4thand 19thUnder 15 Girls).

Well done to the Under 11 Girls who were 3rdTeam Overall, and also Under 13 Boys who were also 3rdTeam Overall!

Seniors Ladies – Zara Hirst (2ndUnder 20 Ladies), Jill Barton (22ndLady, 3rdLV45), Susie Hirst (31stLady, 5thLV45), Diane Winterburn (38thLady, 4thLV50), Jan Needham (41stLady, 1stLV65), Colette Cooke (59thLady, 5thLV35), Joanne Walsh (73rdLady, 11thLV50), Cath Unwin (85thLady, 13thLV50).

Well done to the veteran ladies, who finished as 3rdLadies Team overall for Over 40s, 2ndLadies team overall for Over 45s, and 2ndLadies team overall for over 50s!

Senior Men – Lewis Hinchcliffe (8th), Philip Hinchcliffe (14th), Alex Frost (44th, 4thV50), Ian Stainthorpe (59th, 4thV55), Neil Hirst (87th, 13thV45), Norman Eames (118th, 2ndV70), Ray Dalby (122nd, 7thV60), Matt Cox (124th, 8thV60), Dan Merlo (138th, 23rdV40).

Well done also to the veteran men, who won the Mens team prize for Over 50s, and were 3rdMens team for the Over 60s!

Congratulations to everyone who took part in this years league. Prize giving will be at North Chadderton Social & Bowling Club on Friday 15thMarch. Please speak to Colin as soon as possible to purchase a ticket!

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