A week of heavy rain which had barely abated come Saturday morning made for some treacherous and challenging conditions which were the worst again could remember for a long time at the 33rd Saucony English Cross Country Relays at Berry Hill Park, Mansfield on 2nd November 2019.
With 10 events on the programme, from Under 13 girls and boys through to Senior Women and Men, over 1000 team entries were recorded for this year, with the younger age groups running laps of 2k and the Seniors up to 5k.
First up for Morpeth were the club’s two teams of Junior Men. A strong A team featuring modern pentathlon specialist Ross Charlton on leg 1, triathlete Daniel Dixon on leg 2 and GB international Rory Leonard on leg 3 finished in 9th position in a time of 28 minutes 13.75 seconds, less than a minute off a medal. (Although since one team ahead of them was actually a school, this was effectively an 8th place.) Charlton’s clocking of 9:31.55 on the slightly shorter first leg had the team in 31st place, with Dixon moving them up nine places to 22nd in 9:31.85 and Leonard’s 9:10.35, the 5th fastest of the leg, getting them into the top ten. The ‘B’ team of Dan Melling (9:46.10), Connor Marshall (10:44.45) and Alex Cunningham (10:22.85) gained valuable experience when finishing in 36th place.
The Under 15 Boys A team finished just outside the top ten – but again, less than a minute off a medal in a keenly contested race. Ryan Davies had the club in 29th on leg 1 (7:08.40) with Joe Dixon’s 7:17.60, 8th fastest of the leg, moving them up to 16th. Last leg runner Bertie Marr ran 7:34.50 to get the team to a very respectable 12th place. A young team with a great team spirit can only gain from the difficult day. The B team of Liam Roche (7:44.65), Will Devere Owen (7:53.30) and Matthew Walton (8:09.05) also did themselves great credit when finishing in 44th place.
Two teams again competed in the U/17 Men’s race. The A team of Tom Balsdon (10:04.85 for 39th place), Rohan Bennett (9:59.45 for 24th) and Euan Duffin (9:59.9 for 17th) placed in a respectable top twenty position out of over 80 clubs running, although some places were lost when Bennett unfortunately came a cropper in the treacherous mud. Thankfully he was able to pick himself up and continue. Meanwhile the B team had their own misfortunes, with Ben Waterfield on leg 1 unfortunately missing the start and losing over a minute. The team of Dylan Gooding (10:43.9) and Dylan Davies (10:42.2) did well to recover to 59th.
By the time the club’s Senior Women, competing in the event for the first time in a while, were ready to race the course had cut up badly for the 127 teams taking part. On the always crowded leg 1, Michelle Thompson came home in 12:44.4 with Josie Cram, back in competitive action after a long period of injury, having a good run in a time of 12:02.5, moving the team up to 50th. Last leg runner Rachelle Falloon, who had struggled all week with a debilitating virus and was as a result nowhere near the excellent form she has shown over the last few months, still managed to get round in 12:12.70 and the team therefore finished in a decent 36th position in a time of 36:59.60. Aldershot and Farnham won the race in 31:09.30 with Leeds City in 2nd and Cambridge and Coleridge 3rd.
Biggest field of the day was in the Senior Men’s race, with nearly 200 teams in all. At the front of the race, it was again an apparently unbeatable Leeds City – surely the strongest men’s team in the country at present – again winning, in a time of 1hour 5 minutes 14 seconds with Cambridge and Coleridge in 2nd
and Bedford and County 3rd.
Missing leading runner and cross country specialist Carl Avery, Morpeth’s A team should be justifiably proud to have made a top ten finish, however, like their Junior counterparts.
Chris Parr got the club off to a strong start, running 16:24.50 for 13th place and Sam Hancox moved them up to 7th with a super 17:01.25. George Lowry’s 17:23. 85 saw them drop just one place and youngster Alex Brown, fast becoming a veteran of national championships this year, again showed he was in no way overawed by the quality of the field around him, holding on to a top ten place with 17:30.90. The final time of 1 hour 8.20 minutes was less than two minutes off a medal and the team finished in a final position of 9th, second from the North of England behind Leeds City. Some 161 complete teams finished.
The B team of Joe Armstrong (17:37.70), Phil Winkler (18:06.40), Ali Douglas and Jordan Scott were most unfortunate in that Douglas’ chip failed to register when he finished his leg, and so the team’s final time was not recorded. They were somewhere around 38th position numerically, however.
This was a real shame for Douglas, who had operated his own taxi service across Northumberland
to get the team and Jim Alder there, and muddied his boot bringing the tent back.
Commiserations to Ali, but overall all those who made the journey and ran
in the difficult conditions should be proud of how they represented the club.