TOM Carson was the Bolton Harriers star in the first round of the Red Rose Cross Country League at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday.

In a very close race, he was disappointed at finishing only three seconds behind Rochdale Harriers’ Dave Proctor and then missing out on second place in a sprint finish with Blackburn Harriers’ Karl Billington despite both being given the same time of 31 minutes 34 seconds.

Despite missing out by such narrow margins, it was a fine performance from Carson whose reunion with local running and coaching legend Mike Freary is already paying dividends.

Marc Tillotson (33.04) was next home for Bolton in fifth on a wet, windy and muddy course.

The trio of Ben Scott (38:30 – 61st), James Rideout (39:02 – 66th) and Graham Shaw (39:18 – 70th) ensured the team finished sixth overall.

Chris Povey (40:54), Dean Johnson (41:18), John Gettinby (41:21), Daniel Johnson (41:32), Andrew Doyle (41:59), Shaun Lomax (49:54) and Alex Donnelly (50:52) also competed well in the field of 202.

Bolton’s under-strength team was mirrored in the women’s race which was won by Leigh Harriers’ Laura Riches in 18mins 39secs.

Sarah Saxon (23:41) was 38th in her first cross country race, with Julie Lomax (27:13) and Jane Lim (34.37) helping Bolton to 13th position overall.

It was a different story in the junior races, with solid performances from Bolton’s girls in particular.

Leah Peploe (13:37) was fifth in the girls’ under- 15s race. She was joined by Emily Nicholson (15:06), Fiona Gande (15:07), Abigail Johnson (15:12) and Grace Holden (16:42) in the Bolton team that finished fifth.

Mathew Walker (13:34 – 18th) was the sole representative for the boys.

Bolton’s u13s girls finished fourth as Rachel Bailey (8:17) came sixth in a tight group.

She led home teammates Georgia Greenhalgh (8:32), Madeleine Littlewood and Olivia Kearney (both 8:48), Bethany Heaton (8:57) and Laura Hynes (9:28).

Not to be outdone, the u13s boys matched the girls by finishing fourth, with Liam Doherty (7:22 – seventh), Joe Gande (7:23 – eighth) and Mason Mellet (9:47) contributing.

Finishing on the podium just eight points behind Leigh Harriers, the large squad of u11s girls was led by Georgia Tansey (5:56 – eighth).

Lydia Mathews (6:04) followed soon after, with Leah Rushworth (6:14), Alice Tonge (6:22), Melita Griffin (6:24), Molly Philbin (6:49) and Alisha Hynes (7:17) also competing.

Nabeel Malji (7:09) was Bolton’s only boy in the same age category.

Bolton won the u17s men’s race in style as Jonothan Kay (17:35) finished fourth. He was followed by the ever-improving Jack Garmory (18:02 – seventh) and Andrew Keats (18:11 – 10th). With Simon Walker (18:27 – 12th) and Hywel Scourfield (20:44 – 20th), the group looks strong for the cross country season, and the abundant numbers of junior athletes competing at present points to a positive future for the club.