A well-deserved team Silver for the Under 17 Men’s team was the highlight for Morpeth Harriers of the Northern Cross Country Championships at Pontefract on a windswept Saturday afternoon.
With Storm Malik continuing to whip all day across the wide open fields of Pontefract Racecourse, all those running had a real struggle to compete not just against some of the best runners in the North of England, but also against the elements, with no real shelter anywhere on the course for either competitors or spectators. Indeed, such was the strength of the wind that organisers took an early decision not to allow any club tents to be pitched and at one point had themselves to take down one of their own large marquees when it was threatened with blowing away, something that could easily have led to serious injury if not the cancellation of the whole fixture. Meanwhile, athletes arriving told horror stories of lorries blown over on the A1 and diversions through country lanes – and even after finishing, the journey home was fraught with difficulty with sections of both the A1 and A19 closed.
Morpeth’s one medal of the day came courtesy of the Under 17 Men and was all the more to be celebrated since several of the squad’s most successful runners who had featured all season were missing on the day due to either injury or Covid-enforced isolation, which also badly affected a number of other teams.
Having been in fine form recently, the team were led home by Joe Dixon in 8th place, who finished in 21 minutes 27 seconds for the 6.4 kilometre course. He was followed by Bertie Marr, 24th in 22:35 and triathlete Ralph Robson, 45th in 23:05. Final counter was James Tilley, 59th in 24:04, whose initial disappointment at his performance was soon overtaken by wide smiles at the news of their medal.
Morpeth’s only other complete team on the day was the Senior Men’s squad, who also overcame the loss of several athletes who had had to withdraw to finish outside the medals but in a very respectable 5th place overall.
The biggest field of the day, some 500 plus runners, also ran the day’s longest distance, with a challenging three lap, 12.2 km circuit to negotiate (although many runners recorded 13k on their own devices.) At the sharp end, a keenly-contested team race between Salford Harriers, Leeds City AC and Hallamshire Harriers saw the North West outfit triumph by 141 points to 149 and 151, with Hugo Milner of Derby AC winning the individual prize in a time of 41:43 from Nigel Martin of Salford and early leader Daniel Haworth of Matlock AC.
In only his third outing since a long spell out with injury, 2018 North of England Cross Country Champion Carl Avery led Morpeth’s team home with an excellent 9th place in 43:25 with Alex Brown again finishing like a train behind him in 10th (43:28).
Sam Hancox was delighted to make the top 30 with a 29th placing (44:55) and, in his first Northern as a Senior, Connor Marshall was 75th in 47:26. The team count was completed by Leeds University student Alex Cunningham in his first race in blue and white colours for some time (122nd in 49:30) with Mark Snowball completing the team count not far behind in 29th (49:56).
Also running were veterans Alistair Macdonald, 377th in 59:11, and, at the ripe old age of 75 no less, Paul Bentley, 516th.
The team’s combined score was 374 for 5th place behind Sale Harriers on 281. There was at least the satisfaction of being once again first North East team home, well ahead of both Gateshead Harriers in 11th and Sunderland Harriers in 15th, with teams from Tyne Bridge, Elswick and Heaton also finishing.
First race of the day had seen a good run by triathlete Millie Breese, 10th in the Under 17 Women in 18:35 with the race won by Jess Bailey in 17:32. Like many others, Caitlin Flanagan found the going tough but still battled on to finish in 22:19 and 80th place.
Disappointingly there were only two Morpeth finishers in the 4.1km U15 Boys race, an age category where the team have been very dominant in the North East. The 132-strong race was won by Robert Price of Vale Royal in 13:56. Oliver Tomlinson was 23rd in 15:11 and Joe Close not far behind in 27th in a time of 15:23.
Emma Tomlinson was sadly Morpeth’s only representative in the U/13 girls 3.1k race, with Covid infections having run through the rest of what would have been a competitive squad. At the bottom end of the age range and in her first Northern, she was 62nd of some 117 runners in 13:20.
Similarly, Tabitha Robson, younger sister of Ralph, was on her own in the U/15 girls 4.1 k, finishing in 60th out of 120 finishers in 17:57 and Kate Gaffing 55th and the club’s only representative in the U/20 Women’s 5.7k.
The Senior Women’s two lap 8.1k race that preceded the Men’s saw an exciting battle at the front in which race favourite and British Olympian triathlete Georgia Taylor-Brown took an early lead which she was unable to hold on to with the race finally won by Eleanor Bolton of Ribble Valley Harriers in 31:13 with Taylor-Brown having to settle for 3rd behind Sophie Tarver.
North East Cross Country Champion Cat Macdonald came through for Morpeth on the second lap to finish comfortably inside the top twenty in 16th place in 34:27, and was first NE athlete home ahead of Elswick’s Amy Fuller. Sister Lindsey Quinn also ran well to finish in 84th in 38:57, with some 262 finishers.
The team race was won by Vale Royal with Hallamshire Harriers 2nd and Sale in third. Elswick Harriers were first NE team home in 9th place, with Jarrow and Hebburn, Tyne Bridge, Heaton and Sunderland all managing to field full teams.
A trying day for all concerned then, but massive congratulations to all who battled through. Special mention should go to Matthew Briggs who moved heaven and earth to try to get there from Lancaster after a succession of storm-related incidents, only to miss the start by just 10 minutes. Looking ahead to future events of this nature, the aim must be to field as many complete teams as possible.
Photos below courtesy of Stuart Whitman
Joe Dixon powered his way to an excellent victory in the Intermediate Boys event at the Northumberland Schools Cross Country Championships, held at Temple Park, South Shields, on Tuesday 18 January.
Dixon won by a comfortable margin of 25 seconds from fellow club colleague and KEVI pupil Bertie Marr, with Newcastle and Gosforth Harrier Ethan Bond securing the bronze medal and a further seven seconds adrift.
With both Dixon and Marr in first and second places, East Northumberland were certainly well placed to take the Intermediate’s Team title, as further team support came from Will Devere-Owen (5th), Ryan Davies (6th), and Liam Roche (10th), all also KEVI pupils.
Other Morpeth Harriers in action in the Intermediate Boys event were Joseph Close (13th, North Northumberland), and Adam Howliston (16th, Newcastle), Elliot Mavir (31st, East Northumberland) and Luke Robson (34th).
North East Under 15 Boys Champion Ollie Calvert continued his fine run of form when he secured a 10-second margin victory in the Junior Boys event ahead of his club colleague Ollie Tomlinson, both athletes running for East Northumberland.
Another Morpeth Harrier in action in this event was Ben Moll, who finished in 60th place, also donning the East Northumberland vest. East Northumberland were third team in this event.
Joe Anderson finished second in the Senior Boys event. Representing Tynedale, he secured the silver medal behind North Tyneside’s Josh Blevins, who runs for Gateshead Harriers. Blevins won by 40 seconds.
Four other Morpeth Harriers also ran in this event. James Tilley ran strongly to finish fifth in the East Northumberland colours, and Matthew Walton finished eleventh also in the East Northumberland colours.
Not far behind Matthew were Ralph Robson (12th) (Tynedale), and Sam Tate (13th) (East Northumberland).
Three Morpeth Harriers, all of them representing East Northumberland, faced the starter in the Minor Boys event.
Kyle Phillips was the first of the trio to finish, placing fourteenth. Thomas Roche, youngest member of the three of his family competing, finished in 26th place. Completing the trio was Indie Brandenburg, who finished in 52nd place.
Millie Breese secured a bronze medal in the Senior Girls event, finishing seven seconds behind Newcastle’s Ines Curran, who runs for Gateshead Harriers. Breese represented North Northumberland.
Other Morpeth Harriers in action here were Olivia Katory (7th), Abi Leiper (11th), and Laura Melling (21st), all representing Newcastle, who were team winners.
Emma Tomlinson, younger sister of Ollie finished just outside the medals in the Minor Girls event, in fourth place, representing East Northumberland. Fellow Morpeth Harrier Grace Cunningham finished 15th in this event.
No fewer than six athletes from Morpeth Harriers took part in the Junior Girls event, all of them were wearing the colours of East Northumberland. They were led home by Mollie Roche, younger sister of Liam, who finished 20th. The five other finishers were, Iris Dungait (30th), Megan Potrac (31st), Amelia Hamlin (48th), Tamara Bowen (49th), and Charlotte Marshall (51st).
In the Intermediate Girls event, Morpeth Harrier Tabitha Robson, wearing the Tynedale colours, ran well to finish 11th.
Three athletes from Morpeth Harriers were in competitive action at the Northern Athletics combined Under 17/Under20/ and Senior Indoor Track and Field Championships, held at the Sheffield Arena on 15 and 16 January.
Charlotte Earl secured a Silver medal in the triple jump with a very consistent series of jumps and her furthest jump of 11.09 which is an indoor PB and just missing her overall best.
Nisha Desai picked up a well-deserved Bronze in the Senior Women’s 800m, posting a season’s best time of 2m14.53s on the Sunday.
At Saturday’s competition, Nisha also clocked a season’s best of 59.09s, when finishing second in her 400m heat, which took her to a later run final, where she clocked 59.24s, finishing sixth against younger opponents.
Matthew Waterfield went out in the heats of a highly competitive Senior Men’s 400m, despite finishing third in 51.40s.
Over 60 Veteran Man Guy Bracken clocked a season’s best of 4m42.46s, when finishing tenth of twelve on the track, in the Senior Men’s 1500m Final.
Cross-country competition continued on Sunday with the annual Birtley Relays held at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy – and it was a day of rich pickings for the club with four wins, one second and a third place for Morpeth teams, plus no less than seven fastest age category legs.
An event which always used to be held at the Durham University sports ground beside the River Wear in the most scenic of settings (if you are of a certain age and ran there, you no doubt remember the aroma of those post-race bacon sandwiches), there was a brief couple of years at Maiden Castle Sports Centre, with the current home for the event having been in place now some years.
Still run over three stages with 3000m per leg, a twisty, turny. up-and-down course on the field above the school manages to incorporate several lung-bursting short climbs although the underfoot going was thankfully a lot easier than both Lambton and Thornley Farm.
With the event incorporating once again the North East Masters’ Athletics Association XC Championships, there were also medals in ten year Masters team categories from 35 upwards plus five year individual categories, with Race One featuring Masters Men, Race Two a combined Senior/ Masters Women and Race Three Senior Men, with all runners tackling the same course.
One of the best Morpeth male veteran turnouts in a while saw the club medalling in all four age categories, with two team Golds, one Silver and one Bronze, allied to no less than four fastest individual age categories.
There was a Bronze in the O/35, with Andrew Hebden on leg 1 (11:14), David Stabler (11:52) on leg 2 and Adam Pratt (10:39) on leg 3. The team finished behind teams from overall winners Tyne Bridge and Sunderland Harriers. With David running in a blue-and-white vest for the very first time and Adam back in only his second race in as many years, this was an unexpected but well-received medal.
A strong line up in the accompanying O/45s saw two teams in action, with the A team of Lee Bennett (11:03), Jason Dawson (11:54) and John Butters (10:40) much too strong for their rivals and finishing in fact in 3rd place in the race overall. Lee’s time was the fastest O/50 of the day and JB’s the 2nd fastest O/45. The B team of Eric Adams (11:16), Richard Kirby (12:55) and Jamie Johnson (11:48) also ran strongly to place 4th fastest O/40.
The O/55s lost out for Gold to the an NSP team that featured stalwarts Greg Penn, John Baty and Vaughan Hemy, but they did have the satisfaction of seeing both Rob Hancox on leg 1 (11:27) and Neil McAnany on leg 3 (12:37) run fastest O/55 and O/60 times, with Paul Bellingham completing the line-up on leg 2 (12:40).
The biggest team margin of victory of the day was undoubtedly the O/65s, with Dave Nicholson on leg 1 (12:12, another fastest of the day), Bill Tilley (13:11) and Gavin Bayne (12:16, second fastest) trouncing their nearest rivals by well over five minutes. While Dave and Gav are used to picking up these medals – often in competition individually with each other – it was nice to see Bill joining the party and reminding his son James how it’s done!
Second race of the day, the Senior and Masters Women’s combined, featured one Senior and two veteran teams.
With a number of the club’s leading Seniors out, it was down to Lizzie Rank, Tayla Murdy and Lindsey Quinn to pick up the baton, and they didn’t disappoint with a pleasing third place. Lizzie ran 12:47 on leg 1, Tayla, in her first race for a number of months, recording 13:47 and Lindsey anchoring the team on leg 3 in 12:20 for an overall time of 38:54. Home club Birtley Harriers were 1st home in 36:08 with Sunderland Harriers in 2nd in 37:44.
Another stand-out performance was by the Women’s Over 35 Masters, who actually finished in 3rd place overall on the day (37:53) and also recorded the fastest Masters time of the day as well as the fastest individual leg.
Helen King, in only her second race back, ran a very sensible 1st leg, working through much of the field on the second lap, with 12:57 and passed on to Julie Vermaas. Like Dave Stabler in her first ever Masters event, she too had a fine run with a time of 12:46 and passed on to Gemma Floyd.
Following a team Silver at the NECAA XC at Sedgefield in December and a great run in the mud of Thornley the previous week, Gemma was having her third cross country outing of the Winter and showed again that she is very much at home off-road, steadily picking off runners in front of her to record the day’s fastest Masters time and anchoring the team to a richly deserved Team Gold as well as picking up her own fastest leg time.
Morpeth’s Over 55 Women also had a good run, with Pam Woodcock clocking the day’s fastest O/70 time on leg 1 (16:53), Margaret Macdonald on leg 2 (17:11) and Sue Smith on leg 3 (15:15). The three were actually awarded a team Bronze at the presentation, although a later checking of results suggests they were actually, unfortunately, in 4th place.
Final race of the day featured the smallest field and the day’s fastest times but an exciting clash between Morpeth and Birtley.
With teenager Chris Perkins getting the home team off to a flying start in 9:10 (2nd fastest time of the day) and leaving other clubs trailing in his wake, initial signs were ominous for holders Morpeth, but Connor Marshall stuck very purposefully to the pursuit, getting away from the rest of the chasing group and reducing what had been a 40 second lead on lap one down to just over 20 seconds by the changeover.
That was more than enough of a carrot for Sam Hancox, who set about reeling in the unfortunate Birtley athlete ahead of him. Catching him before the end of the 1st lap, he went on to establish himself a lead of over 20 seconds, before Carl Avery took over to anchor the team home.
Although his only competitive outing had been at Valencia the previous week over 10k on the roads, Carl showed again what a class athlete he is especially over the country, with the day’s fastest clocking of 9:06 for a combined time of 28:21, the margin of victory over Birtley in 2nd, anchored by Adrian Bailes, over a minute by the end with Sunderland in 3rd.
An excellent morning’s work by all concerned then, and with both the Sherman Cup/Davison Shield and the Signals Relays in February – both of which require both Senior and Veteran athletes of course – also hopefully a portent of further success in the late winter and early spring. Congratulations to all concerned.
Images below courtesy of Stuart Whitman
The club committee has provided the following update on membership fees:
In 2021 the due date for membership fees to be paid was delayed from January to April as a result of the disruption caused to training and competition by the pandemic.
It has now been decided to continue with this due date, with the club membership year now effectively running from 1 April to 31 March. As a result membership renewals for the 2022/23 season will not become due until 1 April 2022.
Fee levels for the 2022/23 season will be confirmed at the February committee meeting and will be announced thereafter.
Those wishing to join the club as new members before 1 April 2022 may do so by paying last year’s fees as set out here. These fees will cover the individual from the date they are paid until 31 March 2023. New members are also required to complete the new members application form which is available here.
Thank you for your continued support.
Finn Brodie and Carl Avery travelled to Spain over the weekend to take part in the prestigious Valencia Ibercaja 10k.
A top international field was headed by Kenyan Daniel Simiu Ebenyo, who crossed the finish line in a personal best time of 26:58 to move up to seventh on the world all-time list. Meanwhile, Leeds City athlete Emile Cairess equalled Mo Farah’s official UK record of 27:44.
Challenging company then, but the Morpeth boys also had fine runs, with Finn clocking 29:51 and Carl, in his first race back for a good while, 30:26.