Stephen Lisgo and Lauren Howarth anchor their teams to victory at Heaton Park

Commonwealth Games hopeful Stephen Lisgo anchored Leeds City AC to a fifth Northern 12-Stage Road Relay title in seven years, writes Trevor Baxter.

But there were first time winners in the women’s 6-stage race where GB international Lauren Howarth ensured Leigh Harriers, silver medallists at Catterick in 2011, took the honours.

Stockport Harriers finished runners-up in both races at Heaton Park on a dry but blustery day and 12 months after the 2013 Northerns were cancelled at Blackpool due to adverse weather.

Leeds, confident of adding another gold medal at next month’s Nationals at Sutton Park, never looked in danger of handing over their crown.

Beijing Olympian Tom Lancashire blasted Bolton AC into the lead after stage one, marathon specialist Tomas Abyu promoted 2012 runners-up Salford Harriers in front after leg two and Sale Harriers Manchester held pole position at quarter distance thanks to Gavin Hill.

However, Leeds stormed in front after stage four thanks to Dominic Easter and were never headed again.

The Northern ‘Kings of the Road’ clocked a cumulative time of 4:22:29 and finished 3:05 in front of Stockport with former Northern winners, Morpeth, a further 1:57 in arrears.

Leeds team manager, Simon Deakin, said: “It was good to win by a comfortable distance but we were pushed hard.

“Stockport are a good team and they have improved a lot. About halfway it was still in the balance but we had a good second half and the guys ran some really solid legs on their own which is never easy.”

Dionne Allen propelled Leigh in front on stage four after Leeds City led from gun to halfway. Laura Riches and Howarth, whose younger sister Abigail ran leg two, brought the Harriers home in 1:47:29, 61 seconds clear of Stockport for whom Eleanor Vernon ran the day’s fastest lap of 16:25.

“We knew we had a good chance because we had our strongest team out,” said medical student Howarth who clocked 16:41 in her first outing since last year’s European Cross Country Championships.

“It was tough because it was my first session back since mid December. But it was nice and relaxed because it is a team environment.

“It was just great to be able to do something like this.”

ยป Keep an eye on for Southern and Midland Road Relay coverage while in-depth reports, pictures and results from all three events will be in next week’s AW, out March 20