THE BOFRA season opener at Sedbergh Gala Fell Race again proved its open armed welcome as current fell running greats toed the start line with seasoned and new runners to enjoy the challenge of running up Winder Fell.

The race sets off from the manicured Lupton Fields and then winds its way over varyingly rough terrain, round and up to the summit trig point on Winder Fell, before the “brain off, brake off” exhilarating “any route” descent back to the finish line.

This year, dry weather in the previous weeks, and on the day, provided near perfect conditions for this lung buster of a race.

Men’s legend, Mercia’s Simon Bailey, showed his skill and speed to win the senior race in 19.20 from the Calder Valley duo Darren Kay (19.46), second, and Charlie Ing (20.38), third.

The indomitable Victoria Wilkinson of Bingley Harriers won the ladies race in 22.04 setting a new race record and three minutes in front of second lady, Pudsey and Bramley’s Rachel Pilling (25.09). Third lady was Mercia’s Kirstin Bailey (29.02).

The under-17 race was a battle all the way with the leader changing during the race.

Last year’s winner, Keighley and Craven’s Eric Beaumont, was first to the turn point, half way to the summit of Winder Fell.

However, he was overtaken on the descent by Ambleside’s James Bowen, who won the race in 15.00, taking a full minute from Beaumont’s 2018 time.

Beaumont (15.05) finished second and Horwich’s Toby Middleton (15.46) was third boy.

The girls’ race was no less of a battle as Houghton Harriers’ Amy Leonard and seasoned fell runner, Emily Swarbrick of Cumberland Fell Runners competed all the way.

In the end Leonard (19.20) won, Swarbrick (20.25) was second and Clayton-le-Moors Hannah Eccles (21.53) was third.

In the under-14 race, the top three boys did not have complete dominance as some strong female runners snapped at their heels all the way.

Wirral’s William Sutcliffe (11.39) and Chorley’s Jack Lamb (11.43) were first and second, respectively, but third boy, Calder Valley's Charlie Pickens (12.38) came home in fifth place overall.

The winner of the girls race, Clayton’s Helana White (11.46), finished third overall with second girl, Wharfedale Harriers' Amelie Lane (11.53) in fourth place overall.

Both girls start the summer fell running season in a strong position after an excellent cross country and winter fell season.

Third girl was Leven Valley’s Olesia Winder (12.47), who also performed well over the winter.

Possibly the most fiercely fought race of the set is the under-12s. These young racers were over eager to get started and tussled all the way.

Keighley’s young cross country star, Archie Peaker (7.34), won the boys’ race from Ilkley Harriers’ Alexander Wolfenden (7.39), second, and Ambleside’s Rowan Ashworth (7.42), third.

The girls’ race came down to a sprint finish between two strong runners. By a whisker, Barlick’s Lucille Pickles (8.23) won the race, improving on her third place result in 2018, from Keighley’s Phoebe Midgley (8.24), second. Cumberland’s Zoe Brannon (9.08) finished third.

It can never be said that the under-9 race is not competitive. These tiny racers are raring to go and chase each other all the way to the finish line.

Boys’ race winner, Settle Harriers’ Carl Sanderson (4.52), romped home to win ahead of second placed Barlick’s Isaac Reeday (4.59). Third boy home was Ilkley’s Robert Carter (5.02).

Winner of the girls’ race was Wharfedale Harriers' Isobel Patefield (5.11), ahead of Barlick’s Bella McCredie (5.13). Third girl was Helm Hill’s Emmy Ranner (5.18).