IN a week where we are all counting down the days until organised grassroots sport can finally return, Ilkley Harriers are poised to be crowned champions of a virtual lockdown league.

From March 29, in line with the latest government and England Athletics guidelines, the Harriers will steadily reintroduce their club sessions in small groups with all participants strictly adhering to Covid-secure protocols.

But many of the club's runners have managed to stay competitive over the last couple of months, albeit at a safe distance from other people.

The EvenSplits Lockdown League has seen more than 30 clubs across Yorkshire compete virtually across various distances.

There have been eight 'stay local' challenges since the start of February, ranging from a 'Mad Mile' to 'Run as far as you can in 60 minutes'.

And with the best five results of the eight counting, the Harriers find themselves in what should be an unassailable position at the top of the overall standings.

Points are awarded for both the highest scorers and the number of club runners taking part - and the Harriers have excelled in both categories.

Leading the way have been the ladies, with Kate Archer and Sally Armitage guaranteed to finish first and second respectively.

With 100 points to the winner, down to one point for the 100th-placed finisher, Archer has triumphed in no fewer than four of her six events so far and finished second in another, giving her 499 points out of a maximum 500.

Among her wins was a 10km around Ilkley in a time of 38 minutes and 40 seconds and a 60-minute time trial distance of just a fraction under 15km.

Her closest challenger was club colleague Armitage, who herself has racked up an impressive total of 496 points and can't now be overtaken in second.

In the men's event, Dave Foyston leads the way for the Harriers in fourth with 473/500 and the potential for further gains in the final couple of 'races'.

But everyone who has taken part has contributed to the tally, and at least a couple more Harriers are in line to finish in front of their respective age groups.

It's been a welcome diversion and hopefully things continue to move in the right direction, allowing the possibility of actual rather than virtual races later in the year.

Plenty of other Harriers have also kept themselves busy with challenges of their own.

Not least Steve Turland, who set his sights on a fastest known time (FKT) for the 47.5-mile Millennium Way around some stunning West Yorkshire scenery.

The circuit was ideal in that he could start and finish from home, and the nature of the route means passing very few people.

And despite carrying a fairly full pack to be self-sufficient, he was still able to smash the previous record with his mark of 10 hours and 11 minutes.