There were certainly smiles well etched on the faces of Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s squad,
and their faithful supporters, after pulling off a handsome team victory
at the Saucony sponsored English National Cross Country Championships,
held for the first time at Donington Park, on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border,
close to East Midlands Airport on Saturday 27th February.
It was also Morpeth’s third National title success in less than twelve months,
a superb achievement in itself, which had begun with the English National
12 Stage Road Relay Championships last April,
then the English Cross Country Relays in November,
and now adding this title to the list is indeed a welcome reward
for all of the hard work put in by the clubs athletes and coaches alike.
As daylight faded, and temperatures began to drop, the sight of six blue and white vests
amongst the first 40 finishers in the final event of the day, the 129th Senior Men’s 12k Championship,
certainly warmed the hearts of the club, because it meant that they
had won the championship for the second time, the first being on relatively home soil,
at Herrington Country Park, near Sunderland in 2013, on by comparison a very snowy slushy course.
Conditions on Saturday at Donington were described as being fairly firm underfoot in most areas,
as the ground was mainly untested; however athletes described the course as tricky,
with tight bends and short steep climbs, ideal though for a National Championship of that magnitude.
.Leading Morpeth Harriers Senior Men home to team victory was Nick Swinburn,
currently in the middle of high mileage training in preparation for April’s London Marathon.
Swinburn showed however that he has good pace in his legs,
as he kept up with the leading protagonists during the three laps,
and only lost a little ground in the later stages,
as the eventual winner Jonny Hay of Aldershot and Farnham
and runner up Adam Hickey of Southend on Sea
locked themselves together in a relentless bid for ultimate glory.
The Morpeth man did hang on to take the individual Bronze medal,
just ahead of Highgate’s Andy Maud, whom he had also battled
closely with at the English Cross Country Relays at Mansfield in November,
and at the European Trials in Liverpool a few weeks later.
Swinburn was also emulating his effort at a very muddy Parliament Hill in London twelve months previously.
Another very prominent Morpeth performer was Jonny Taylor, who eventually finished sixth,
after losing touch with the front runners at the end of lap two.
Third home for Morpeth was North Eastern Silver medallist Carl Avery,
who although was not quite up with the leaders, had an excellent run,
which was well rewarded by a placing of sixteenth.
Next home for the club was North Eastern Bronze medallist Peter Newton,
who ran steadily throughout, to finish in an excellent 30th spot.
Not far behind Newton were his Morpeth Harriers club colleagues Lewis Timmins and Ady Whitwam,
who finished in 35th and 40th places respectively, to close their club’s winning count at 130 points,
which saw them a good 177 points clear of Midland Champions Notts AC,
who were second team, with Sale Harriers a further 26 points adrift in third team place.
Unfortunately once again, Morpeth Harriers longest serving competitive Senior Man Ian Hudspith
missed out on a National Cross Country Gold Medal, the only domestic one he is short of in his proud collection.
Again producing an excellent run, he was the club’s seventh man home in 58th place,
and only a few seconds adrift of being in their scoring six.
The club also had excellent runs coming from Ross Floyd and Robert Balmbra,
who finished in 86th and 106th places respectively.
Morpeth Harriers youngest Senior Man Sam Hancox was next home from the club, finishing in 177th place.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the 1,730 Senior Men’s field, were as follows
Jordan Scott (252nd), Mark Cockburn (425th), in his first ever National,
Rob Hancox (803rd), Neil Gunstone (853rd), and Peter Scaife (1,213th).
Morpeth Harriers other medallist on the day was Scott Beattie.
The Northern Under 17 Men’s champion did find Southern Champion
Isaac Akers of Corby AC a tough opponent, nevertheless he managed
to win the Silver medal, only eight seconds adrift in the two lap 6k event.
North East Champion Holly Peck produced an excellent run in her 3k event,
when finishing eighth after some good early pace, and was only
a mere fifteen seconds adrift of an individual podium place.
She led Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Girls home to 14th team placing,
with further good support coming from Rhiannon Hedley (84th),
Lily Heaton (88th), and Lauren Cummings (278th).
Another excellent individual Morpeth Harrier performance was that of Emma Holt,
who finished 22nd in a classy Senior Women’s 8k event.
Morpeth Harriers Under 15 Boy’s team finished as 14th team in their 4.5k event.
They were led home by North Eastern Silver medallist Daniel Dixon, who finished 48th.
Further team supporting runs came from Taylor Glover (73rd),
Ross Charlton (115th), and Matthew Waterfield (198th).
Another Morpeth Harrier in action in the Under 15 Boys event
was Connor Marshall, who finished in 238th place.
Unfortunately the club’s leading Under 15 Boy athlete at the
Northern Cross Country, at Blackburn, Rory Leonard,
was unable to take part due to injury.
The Junior Women’s 6k and Junior Men’s 10k events saw Morpeth Harriers
Alison Brown and Phillip Winkler finish in 71st and 73rd places respectively.
Morpeth Harriers two youngest competitors Dylan Davies and Andrew Hudspith finished
in 172nd and 188th places respectively in a field of 420 finishers in the Under 13 Boys 3k event.
Running over a distance of 4k, Morpeth Harrier Gracie Hufton
did well when finishing in 232nd place in the Under 15 Girls event.