Morpeth Harriers two leading performers at the respective English and Scottish National Cross-Country Championships, were their Northern Champions Carl Avery and Mhairi MacLennan.
MacLennan proved to be a winner however, taking the Scottish Senior Women’s Championship by a margin of eleven seconds in Callendar Park, Falkirk, from Edinburgh University team-mate, Steph Pennycook.
Meanwhile at London’s Parliament Hill Fields, in the English equivalent, Carl Avery finished eighth,
in the Senior Men’s event, and nearly a minute behind Southend’s Adam Hickey,
who along won the Blue Riband contest for the very first time.
It was a relatively small party of Morpeth Harriers, along with a sprinkling of club officials who made the trip to the nations capital, and the best on the day team result came from their Under 17 Men, who finished fifth in their 6k event, and first from the North of England, one place ahead of fellow North East rivals Middlesbrough AC,
who had beaten them in January’s Northern Championships.
The club may have well figured amongst the team medals, had leading light, and Northern Champion Rory Leonard not taken an unfortunate tumble when up with the leaders, a fall which resulted in a blow to the head,
leaving him somewhat dazed, and concussed. Thankfully a short visit to a nearby hospital, saw him able to travel home with his supporting parents later in the evening, after recovering in the care of medical experts.
Leonard, if he had managed to complete the event unhurt, would almost certainly have won
an individual medal, to add to his excellent season. In Leonard’s unfortunate enforced absence,
it was North East Bronze medallist Daniel Dixon who led the Morpeth squad home to fifth team place.
Dixon, who himself had not been particularly well in recent weeks, following a virus which laid
him low throughout the Christmas period, produced a really excellent on the day performance,
by finishing 28th, and fourth overall from the North, and obviously first from the region.
Further Morpeth team support came from equally superb runs by Taylor Glover (42nd),
Daniel Melling (53rd), and Ross Charlton (101st).
Another Morpeth finisher but outside the scoring four was Matthew Waterfield,
who also competed well by placing 156th in a 356-strong field of finishing athletes.
The fact that all of the Morpeth squad were easily in the top half of the field,
is indeed true testimony to a superb club effort.
Back to the Senior Men’s event, run over the traditional Parliament Hill course covering the distance of 12k, and attracted a record field of over 2,300 finishers, and Morpeth, led by Avery, finished in a respectable eleventh team place, despite hard working Team Manager David Swinburne having to line up a much weakened team, compared to the one he had wish wished for, because of some very late unprecedented withdrawals, for varied reasons which certainly had not pleased him.
Speaking afterwards on his squads’ performance, Swinburne heaped praise on those who did turn out, and got around to ensure that the club finished a complete team, against the sternest of opposition.
In finishing eleventh behind winners Tonbridge, they were also third from the North of England behind Manchester clubs Salford Harriers and Sale Harriers, and leading regional club ahead of ten others who had travelled.
Avery certainly led by example by running tenaciously throughout the tough demanding event, and only faded a little near the end, but the fact that he was only a mere twenty-six seconds adrift of an individual medal himself, speaks volumes on the quality of his on the day performance.
The Morpeth Team Manager was also very praising of the efforts of second and third counters Nick Swinburn,
and Lewis Timmins, who both produced top drawer performances in finishing in 41st and 43rd places respectively.
For Nick, it was a welcome return to action following months of relative inactivity due to a nasty leg injury.
He has only recently returned to full training, and the fact that he managed to push himself into action so soon, and into such a tough event, is a testimony of his dedication to his clubs’ needs.
Although he was around 150 seconds slower than his last Bronze medal winning visit to the venue in 2015, he can feel well satisfied in getting the run under his belt.
Timmins meanwhile also could feel well pleased with his performance, in finishing two seconds adrift, and his club are very well pleased to see him back in their ranks following the short defection to his first club Gosforth Harriers, who were also amongst the travelling clubs from the region.
Next home from the club was Jordan Scott, who despite recently feeling a little off colour, turned out to produce a solid run, finishing 128th overall.
Ross Floyd came home as Morpeth’s fifth counter in 217th place, although would have wished for a slightly better run for himself, and closing the Morpeth scoring six was Andrew Lawrence, who battled round, to finish 284th.
Another Morpeth Senior Man to get around was Neil Gunstone, who finished 955th.
Unfortunately, the club did not feature in any other team counts on the day, however there were some very respectable individual performers on show, particularly Emma Holt (Senior Women), and Holly Peck (Under 15 Girls), who had both competed for Morpeth’s Silver Medal winning Women’s team at the previous weeks North Eastern Counties Road Relay Championships.
Running as a lone Morpeth entrant in the Senior Women’s 8k event, Holt finished in a respectable 42nd place, and was sixteenth from the North of England, but first from the region.
Peck meanwhile was even more courageous, as she battled to come home in 45th place after injuring an ankle when catching a tree root on the course in the middle of proceedings.
She battled on to finish fifteenth from the North of England, and third from the region, having made contact with the tree root when she was in twentieth place.
Ice pack treatment was required following her finish, and it is hopeful that she will recover in time to line-up for the North East at the Inter Counties in Loughborough in two weeks’ time, followed by the English Schools Championships a week later in Leeds.
In his very first “National,” Morpeth’s Euan Duffin did well to finish 93rd in the Under15 Boys 4.5k event, as did Ben Waterfield, who finished in 425th place.
Also, in his first “National,” Morpeth’s Sam Tate had a superb run to finish 104th
out of a total finishing field of 570 in the Under 13 Boys 3k event,
a race which also saw a young man called
Elliot Gladwell of Ipswich Harriers finish tenth.
Elliot is the son of former Morpeth Harrier Valerie Bothams, who was very much a prolific athlete with the club in the late eighty’s, early ninety’s, proof that good runner material can be in the genes, so to speak.