Tameside saw the inaugural Target Sprint National Series North West Qualifier and regional championship held in Ashton-under-Lyne at East Cheshire Harriers & Tameside Athletic Track.
Helped by 2012 Olympian Georgina “Gorgs” Geikie and Greater Manchester East Scouts County Commissioner Steve Holloway, the event was a resounding success introducing this new sporting discipline to the North West developing opportunities for young people in the North West.
The format of the race is run, shoot, run, shoot, run similar to winter biathlon and is run over 400 metre laps and using low powered target air rifles to hit 5 metal discs.
Entering the competition were three athletes who had competed before, including the 2017 National Youth Champion hailing from Ellesmere Port.
Timing, Registration and Results was provided by ‘Crazylegs Events’, a Cheshire based company focused on running and multi disciple events. This allowed the event to trial chip timing, which not only gave the running lap split times, but for the first time the range split times too. This enables coaches and athletes to understand where the most significant improvements can be made during training.
Despite the strong sun and heat, some excellent times were posted.
Doug Pepper, Regional Event North West Coordinator and Coach Educator, talked us through the event. “There were three main heats on the day, youth men, a mixed male and a mixed female heat. In the first heat, the youth men’s race was won by Harrison Pepper, a regular at Sedgemore club training days in Yate near Bristol, who posted a time of 05:57, beating his previous PB by 49 seconds and the clear winner, with a credible second place in the heat from Callum Fricker with a time of 7:44. Callum was a novice shooter but excelled on the track and it will be interesting to see him progress with some rifle training.
In the 2nd heat the key race was between the 2017 Champion, George Smith and John Trotman. John has had a difficult introduction to Target Sprint with snow and growth spurts preventing him from recording an official race time this spring so had a point to prove.
After the first lap and shoot it was clear where each athletes strengths lay, with John posting a 00:57 compared to Georges 01:09 1st split, but then George shooting in a magnificent 00:28 seconds compared to Johns 00:57. However George suffered mixed fortunes in the second shoot whilst John remained consistent in both laps and shoots, finishing in a day’s best time of 05:10 matching the best junior time posted at Yate a few weeks previously.
Andy Burnett from Glossop as our only senior male and oldest competitor posted a credible time of 09:58.
The final race was a ladies event, with a two late entrant youth males filling the gaps.
This was going to be an interesting race, with our oldest female against an East Cheshire Harrier senior female.
Again the shooting was the critical phase with
Beth McManus having a 1st lap split of 01:06, versus Patricia Rhodes 01:42, but Patricia gained ground on the shoot with a 01:55 versus a 03:07. Both remained incredibly competitive throughout the race, with Patricia posting a 09:18, and Beth posting a 09:49. If this was the first glimpse of North West senior women competing in Target Sprint then we look forward to seeing them with some practise behind them.
Doug went on to say, “I am really pleased with how the event has gone today. We have had great support from scouting, parents and Crazylegs Events on the day, incredible results on track and sportsman like behaviour off track with athletes play ballgames together between heats. It’s been a fantastic first event in the North West. I could not have wished for a better day”.
Doug added, “In addition to the great work by the volunteers, without the fantastic support from our sponsors, Graham Burns at Manchester Air Guns, Simon Hartley at Milliken Textiles and John Murphy at East Cheshire Harriers; the event would not have been possible in the first place. We now have a stake in the ground to run club, regional squad and national events, and I am now looking forward to working towards gaining Regional Hub status on behalf of the North West”.
Visiting Athletic and Multi-skills coach Jo Brown from Jo’s Sport Services said, “I t was great to come along and watch this event for the first time. I could see the athletes who take part in this could benefit from developing their running technique and fitness. I also feel it would be a good opportunity for athletes who attend Athletic clubs to train to compete in this event. A great opportunity to get youngsters involved in physical events.”
And in conclusion, Doug said, “… if that’s not enough, we had supporters expressing interest in taking up both shooting and target sprint disciplines for the first time having witnessed the event.”
The medals and certificates were given to the athletes by Greater Manchester East Scouts County Commissioner Steve Holloway and British Shootings 2012 Olympian Gorgs Geikie.
The athletes who finished in the top 5 in their category are looking forward to national final in October. Sunny days and warm nights of training lay ahead before that though.