BOLTON United Harriers, the defending champions, raced into an early lead in the 2012 Central Lancashire Grand Prix rankings when they fielded 37 competitors in the opening 5K event at Leverhulme Park.

Stockport Harrier Michael Sawrey won the event in 15mins 42secs to break the course record by five seconds, with Tony Valentine finishing third in 16:01 to lead the Bolton team to the men’s team prize.

Jonothan Kay (16:25) underlined his potential by shaving more than half a minute off his time last year to finish sixth overall and second junior.

Third Bolton counter was Mark Swannell (16:49), winning his personal battle for eighth place with team-mate Shay Walker in the final 300m. Walker was nonetheless impressive, claiming another personal best (16:51) taking ninth place overall and second M40.

Ian Selby ran 17:07 to finish 15th overall and fourth M40 while Jack Garmory demonstrated that the Harriers have good youngsters coming through when he clocked 17:51 to finish 24th overall and fifth junior.

Steve Houghton (44th in 18:56), James Rideout (51st and fifth M40 in 19:07), Chris Povey (52nd in 19:07) and Nathan Lee (53rd in 19:08) made up the 10 counters for Bolton, who topped the CLGP A rankings with 185 points, ahead of Horwich RMI Harriers (322 pts).

Steven Watson (19:56, 72nd), Gary Jones (19:21, 55th), Andrew Doyle (19:24, 57th), Jon Gettinby (19:29, 63rd), Daniel Johnson (19:38, 66th), Kaan Rassad (20:25, 84th), Ken Fowler (20:29, 86th and second M55) and Ian Meeds (20:47, 92nd) helped Bolton’s second string to claim the lead in the B team rankings (483pts) over Burnden Road Runners (665pts).

Louisa Thompson (18:05), of CLGP debutant club Leigh Harriers, won the women’s race to the surprise of defending 5K and CLGP champion, Maria Lowe of Horwich RMI, who finished runner-up in 18:54.

The lack of representation in women’s endurance events has been Bolton’s weakness in recent years, but a group of new members have bonded well and created a good team ethic. The ever-improving Sarah Saxon (22:41, 15th) was the club’s first finisher, closely followed by Lindsay Warburton (23:03, 19th) and Laura Crawley (25:30) as Bolton finished sixth in the women’s team event.

With Emma Astbury (27:26), Liz Hopley (27:28) and Jane Lim (31:45) also finishing, Bolton ended the day fifth in the CLGP women’s ranking.

Other notable Bolton performances were: Alex Donnelly (23:50), Eric Ranicar (20:48), Phil Boardman (24:09), Nick Howarth (21:50), Dunc Rankin (21:20), Joshua Sabery (21:40), Shaun Lomax (22:19), Craig McKenzie (22:38), Adrian Costello (22:53), Paul Kearney (22:56), David Huddleston (25:05) and Jacob Kearney (26:43).

The next CLGP race will be a five-miler at Smithills on Sunday, March 4.