Despite being without the services of some of their leading athletes, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men still managed to win some well earned Bronze team medals at the Northern Athletics 12 Stage Road Relay Championships, held at Silksworth Sports Complex, near Sunderland on Saturday 2nd April.
It was actually a day of double glory for the club, as their Senior Women also medalled in their 6 Stage Championship for the second time in the clubs history, the last time being in 2009 at Stockport, when they had won Silver medals behind fellow North East club Chester Le Street, who just happened to include in their line-up that day, a certain Morag McDonnell, now Stead, who on Saturday ran first leg for Morpeth, and on this occasion helped them on their way to well earned Bronze team medals.
Back with the Morpeth Men, and they got off to an excellent start on the Long 6.5k two lap first leg, when Sam Hancox came home in fifth place, with a clocking of 19m53s, and was only twenty one seconds adrift of early leaders Lincoln Wellington, and only a mere ten seconds outside the medals.
Whilst Lincoln Wellington led throughout the first five legs, a terrific battle raged for the minor medals between Salford, reigning champions Leeds City, Liverpool Harriers and Morpeth.
Morpeth progressed into fourth place on the short one lap 3.5k second leg, courtesy of Ian Harding, whose clocking of 10m55s was fourth fastest of the leg, and left him only a second or so adrift of third place Salford, with second placed Leeds City now hunting down the now well established Lincolnshire leaders.
There was no change in the lead on the long third leg; however Lewis Timmins for Morpeth had managed to overtake Salford with his clocking of 19m53s, third fastest of the leg, taking him into third place, passing over onto the short fourth leg to Kevin Calvert.
Calvert maintained a decent pace throughout, to hold on to third place, clocking 11m00s, the fourth fastest time of the leg, however Salford were now beginning to home in further for a genuine medal challenge.
Salford’s fifth leg runner, managed to pass both Leeds City and Morpeth in quick succession, and Liverpool Harriers had also come with a strong challenge, and as a result of this, despite a valiant fight, Karl Taylor of Morpeth slipped back to fifth with his clocking of 21m12s, eighth fastest of the leg, however now nearly a minute adrift of the medals
Jordan Scott on the sixth leg for Morpeth, held on to fifth place throughout, as he clocked 11m16s over the short one lap, the seventh fastest of the leg, and ahead of him in order were now Salford in first place, but being hotly pursued by Leeds City, with early leaders Lincoln Wellington now dropping back into third, and Liverpool just fifteen seconds ahead in fourth place.
Things were to change dramatically on the Long seventh stage for Morpeth however, courtesy of Peter Newton, who ran what was to eventually emerge as the fastest Long Stage time of the day, and easily the fastest of the leg, when clocking 18m57s.
He pushed Morpeth back up into third place, and back in the medals, drawing forty one seconds clear of fourth placed Lincoln Wellington, only thirteen seconds adrift of Salford, who after taking a lead, had slipped back to second, with reigning champions Leeds City now at the front of affairs, albeit by a mere eight seconds.
As a tense battle developed between Leeds City and Salford at the front of the race on the short Stage eight,
Morpeth’s Mark Snowball, making his A team debut ran steadily to hold on to third team place, maintaining just under a thirty second margin over fourth placed Lincoln Wellington, with his clocking of 11m13s, the ninth fastest time of the leg.
Meanwhile Salford had restored their lead over Leeds City, by a margin of thirteen seconds.
Morpeth were now thirty seven seconds adrift in third place, going into the short ninth leg, with Matt Nicholson, who was running in his first Northern 12 Stage Relay for all of two years.
Nicholson succeeded in posting the seventh fastest time of the leg of 11m26s, putting his club now just under a minute adrift of second placed Leeds, who in turn were now thirty three seconds adrift of Salford, who were now firmly on a mission to go for gold.
Whilst Salford now drew well clear on the short Leg Ten, a new battle had developed behind them, as Leeds City just managed to hold on to second place, as Morpeth’s Andy Wiles chased them down.
By clocking the fastest time of the leg of 10m26s, he had reduced the deficit to a mere seven seconds, and was truly one of Morpeth’s performances of the day.
Another excellent performance by Morpeth’s Ross Floyd on the penultimate Leg Eleven, saw them finish only a mere two seconds adrift of Leeds City, with a fastest of the leg clocking of 10m29s.
Salford meanwhile had a good minute lead over Leeds City and Morpeth going into the final twelfth leg, which was again a short leg, and early leaders Lincoln Wellington were now nearly two minutes adrift in fourth place.
Chris Smith for Morpeth battled hard with Leeds City’s Michael Burrett, however just lost out for Silver at the finish line, despite posting a fourth fastest of the leg clocking of 10m59s, only a second slower than the Leeds man.
So Morpeth Harriers Senior Men had medalled in the Northern 12 Stage Championships for the seventh year in succession, albeit on this occasion it was Bronze as the order of the day.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s B team also produced an excellent performance by finishing 25th of 44 complete teams and were fourth B team in the competition.
They began the event in 42nd place, courtesy of Mark Cockburn, running in his first Northern 12 Stage Relay, who clocked 22m57s.
Further B team performances came from Adam Gibbs (11m11s), Paul Waterston (23m24s),
Fergus Bates (11m46s), Rob Hancox (23m49s), Steve Haswell (13m45s), Neil Gunstone (24m27s),
Thomas Straughan (11m10s), Chris Waugh (14m54s), Michael Thomsen (12m15s),
Tom Pattison (12m58s) and David Swinburne (11m51s), who pulled back four places on the final leg.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s 6 Stage squad also enjoyed their share of the day’s glory,
by winning a set of Bronze team medals.
Morag Stead ran well on the long Stage One, finishing tenth in 24m24s,
which put them seventy three seconds adrift of early leaders Rotherham,
who managed to hold the lead on the short Stage Two,
whilst Josie Cram moved the Morpeth Women’s A team up to eighth,
posting the eighth fastest time of the leg of 13m21s.
The short Third Stage saw big developments for the Morpeth Women’s A team however,
as Laura Weightman got round the course in 11m07s, easily the fastest short leg time of the day,
and one which saw her take her club up to third, and into the medals.
So at the halfway point in proceedings Morpeth were now only forty six seconds
adrift of the leaders Rotherham, who were nine seconds ahead of second placed Leeds City.
On the long Stage Four, Rotherham fell back to second while Leeds City took command,
courtesy of Northern Cross Country Champion and English National Cross Country Silver
medallist Claire Duck, who ran the fastest Women’s Long Stage time of 22m01s.
Whilst Morpeth’s Emma Holt remained in third place throughout the fourth Stage,
she had eaten well into Rotherham’s time difference, by finishing only a mere eight seconds adrift of them,
however Leeds City had now drawn well clear.
Emma clocked the second fastest time of the fourth leg, with a posting of 23m11s.
Morpeth’s fifth leg runner Gemma Floyd tried to make some impact on the Rotherham margin,
however despite clocking the Leg’s third fastest time of 13m18s, she couldn’t quite get to the Silver medal placing.
Whilst Leeds City drew clear on the sixth and final leg, Rotherham managed to maintain their hold on second place,
despite Sarah Wilkinson’s valiant last gasp Morpeth effort, which saw her clock the fourth fastest time of the leg,
which gave them the well deserved Bronze medals.
Meanwhile Morpeth Harriers Women’s B team did exceptionally well to finish in fourteenth place out of 32 complete teams, and were first B team, courtesy of Jane Hodgson, who began proceedings with a first leg clocking of 25m07s, which saw her finish fourteenth.
Other performances came from Alison Brown (14m17s), Catriona MacDonald (13m19s), Joanne Carruthers (27m09s), Hannah Rank (14m19s), and Jess Swindells (15m09s).
MacDonald’s run saw the squad reach their highest placing on the day which was twelfth,
where she had also managed to claw back three places.
All in all, a truly splendid day for Morpeth Harriers, which also sees their Men with an opportunity
of fielding two teams at the forthcoming English National 12 Stage Road Relays,
scheduled to be held at Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield in two weeks time.
It is also hoped that the Women will also feature in their 6 Stage Road Relay, fielding their strongest of squads.