Major events such as the English National Cross Country Championships
are an ideal meeting point for old competitive rivals, and also for grand reunions,
so the recent event held at Nottingham’s Wollaton Park proved to be no exception.
It not only marked the meeting up of two stalwarts of the sport,
it also reunited two of Britain’s Marathon Champions,
who also both deservedly hold a Presidential office,
by virtue of their respective achievements.
The Presentation area at the Championships was indeed honoured by presence
of former Olympic Marathon Silver Medallist Basil Heatley,
also one time British Marathon record holder,
and Morpeth legend, and former Commonwealth Games
Marathon Champion Jim Alder, who currently is
President of his hometown club.
Heatley, who finished second to the great Abebe Bikila in Tokyo in 1964,
is currently serving his term as President of the English Cross Country Association,
and was on hand to make the days presentations, which included
Morpeth Harriers Silver medal winning Senior Men’s squad.
Whilst Alder was very pleased to witness his clubs on the day success,
he was also elated to meet up with a great rival from his own era,
a holder of similar achievements, and someone for whom he has great mutual respect.
Heatley has another connection with Morpeth Harriers,
in that his beloved daughter Sarah competed briefly for the club
when she lived in the North East at the beginning of the current century.
Basil Heatley’s entire club career was spent with Coventry Godiva,
who were also blessed to have Alder’s other Marathon rival Bill Adcocks
and legendary International 5,000metre Champion Dave Moorcroft in their ranks.
Jim and Basil are both pictured above exchanging their greetings
at the Presentation area in Nottingham on Saturday 25th February.
Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Shot Putter Andrew Knight won a Bronze medal
at the England Athletics Age Group Indoor Championships in Sheffield on Sunday 26th February 2017,
when he putted a best of 13.91m, which was a brand new personal best,
which now ranks him fifth best in the country.
He finished third behind the current best in England and in Scotland in his age group.
Another Morpeth Harrier in action in Sheffield was first year Under 15 60m Hurdler Amy Lott.
Amy, who was competing in these high-profile championships for experience, certainly gained a great deal,
although she went out in her heat posting a time of 9.95s, well below her best,
but she was ranked 21st out of 31 competing, which certainly gives her more confidence as she progresses.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Men unfortunately just missed out by a mere four points
in their quest to retain their English Cross Country National team title,
won at Castle Donnington twelve months ago,
at the annual Championships, held at Wollaton Park in Nottingham,
on Saturday 25th February 2017, and once again sponsored by Saucony
who have been associated with the event for slightly more than a decade,
and possibly one of the longest running sponsorship links with sport entirely.
The club were also hoping to win the title for the third time, having first won it on local soil,
or snow, fair to speak, at Herrington Country Park, near Sunderland in 2013,
a year before the last time these championships were held in Nottingham.
Unfortunately, this time round, the squad were forced to go into battle without Nick Swinburn,
a bitter blow, who had withdrawn at the last-minute with a form of food poisoning,
rendering the North-East Silver medallist unable to travel.
Some remaining members of the Morpeth Senior Men’s team could well remember the mud-bath of 2013,
and on Saturday they were certainly not to be disappointed again, as parts of their 12k four lap course
very much resembled an absolute quagmire, following on from the previous nine races of ten.
First to sample those testing conditions quite literally was Morpeth Harriers leading finisher Jonny Taylor,
who at the end of his run, very much resembled a creature from the “Black Lagoon,” taking a tumble as early
as the first short lap, which meant him having to complete the final three laps of one medium, one large,
and one extra-large distances, spewing out chunks of mud in the process of making his way to an
excellent finishing place of eighth, and only around twenty plus seconds adrift of an individual medal.
Taylor is certainly to be warmly commended for his individual tenacity
in overcoming such difficult circumstances, as he led his club to a Silver medal
placing, losing out to first time winners Tonbridge AC by those mere four points.
Despite just losing out on another set of Gold medals, the Morpeth squad were still
in celebratory mood afterwards, as their counting six, including Taylor went up to
receive their hard-earned Silver medals from legendary British Olympian Basil Heatley,
the current President of the English Cross Country Association.
Joining a mud splattered Taylor on the podium were North East Bronze medallist Carl Avery,
who ran superbly to finish 18th, Peter Newton, Northern Bronze medallist,
who was thirteen seconds adrift of Avery in 25th place, Army Champion Ady Whitwam,
who finished seventh in the Yorkshire Championships ran a good steady race to finish 69th,
and Ian Harding and Ross Floyd, who finished four seconds apart respectively
in 86th and 87th places to complete the clubs scoring six.
In finishing second Morpeth Harriers were also the first club from the North,
and in addition to their scorer’s individual medals, they also shared in receiving
the Frank Christmas Memorial Trophy, which they retained from 2016.
The club also saw another seven good performers outside their scoring six, in Robert Balmbra (123rd),
Andrew Lawrence (148th), Thomas Straughan (167th), Sam Hancox (183rd), Mark Snowball (426th),
Rob Hancox (688th), and Steve Haswell (1045th).
Just under 1800 competitors completed the Senior Men’s 12k event.
Because of illness and injury, only Emma Holt featured in the hotly contested
Senior Women’s 8k Championship for Morpeth, run over two large laps.
The event had an outstanding yet surprising winner in Jessica Judd of Chelmsford,
who took victory over Aldershot’s Louise Small by a margin of three seconds,
with 2016 Silver medallist Claire Duck of Leeds City taking the Bronze.
For her part, Holt ran courageously to finish an excellent 24th, two places down on 2016,
however, over a minute faster over the same distance,
and sixth from the North, and first from the North East.
The Senior Women’s event had 788 finishers.
North Eastern Counties Bronze Medallist Holly Peck was also a lone
Morpeth runner in the Under 15 Girls 4k Championship, run over two small laps.
Peck ran superbly throughout against tough opposition, and she came through well
to finish 29th in a field of 426 finishers, and was second from the North East
behind Darlington’s regional Silver medallist India Pentland,
who finished 12th, and Peck was also thirteenth from the North,
behind race winner Olivia Mason of Border Harriers,
who won with an eleven second margin.
Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Men had hoped to collect a set of team medals in their two lap 6k event.
However, they were dealt a heavy blow by the late withdrawal of leading light Rory Leonard,
who had unfortunately gone down with an untimely chest infection,
added to this they had also lost Alex Cunningham through illness.
Despite these disappointments however, those who were able to line up and face the starter,
got on with the job in hand to ensure a very respectable seventh team placing,
and second from the North, behind fifth placed Sheffield and Dearne.
Morpeth’s leading finisher in this event was Kieran Hedley, who clearly
showed that he is returning to some better form,
following a tricky period of illness and injury worries.
Hedley finished a well accomplished 54th in a total field of just over 300,
and only four places and five seconds ahead of club colleague
Taylor Glover, the North-East Silver medallist.
The pair were also second and third regionally behind Middlesbrough’s Josh Cowperthwaite,
who finished just adrift of an individual medal in fourth place,
and fourteenth and sixteenth respectively from the North of England.
Completing the Morpeth Harriers scoring count were Joe Ramshaw and Matthew Waterfield,
who finished in 92nd and 95th places respectively.
Another Morpeth Harrier competing in the Under 17 Men’s event was Liam Marsh,
who despite feeling a little jaded, got around to finish in 171st place.
Only two Morpeth Harriers managed to make the start line in the
Under 15 Boys 4.5k Championship, run over one large lap.
Daniel Melling ran well to finish 76th in the field of 378 finishers,
however North East Champion Daniel Dixon, despite feeling unwell
in the days leading up to the event, bravely ran, but will be disappointed
that he could only muster sufficient strength to finish in 80th place,
when a more prominent placing would have been more desirable.
With a busy competitive period looming ahead of him, which includes the
Inter Counties Championships, English Schools, and a possibility of a place
in the Junior Men’s squad for the World Cross Country Championships,
scheduled to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in Africa on 26th March,
Morpeth Harriers Northern Champion Scott Beattie chose not to line up in his three lap 10k Championship.
As a result of this, only Phillip Winkler and Jake Masterman faced the starter.
212 finishers took part in this event, and Winkler got around to finish 95th,
whilst Masterman, (minus a shoe lost on the first lap),
bravely continued to eventually finish in 155th place.
Three Morpeth Harriers lined up in the Under 13 Boys 3k event, run over two laps,
one being extra small, the other being small.
There were a total of 459 finishers, and all three performed well.
First from the club was Ben Walker, who picked his way well through
the crowded field to finish a very respectable 112th.
Not far behind him in 128th place, and only three seconds adrift
of him was his diminutive club colleague Dylan Davies.
Ben Waterfield, younger brother of Matthew,
can also feel well pleased in his efforts to finish 332nd.
In the Under 13 Girls event, run over the same distance and course,
Morpeth’s Rhiannon Hedley finished 120th in a finishing field of 467.
Last but certainly not least competitively, Morpeth’s Gracie Hufton tested the
fresh conditions well in the first event of the day, when she placed 147th out of 252
finishers in the two lap Under 17 Women’s Championship,
and encountered the early muddy experiences with much determination and vigour.
Many thanks goes to the English Cross Country Association and their band of helpers,
including Nottingham City Council for the provision of the venue, Course Marshals from local clubs,
such as Notts AC, Redhill Road Runners, Long Eaton Running Club, Mansfield Harriers & AC,
Southwell Running Club, Newark Running Club, Worksop Harriers, Erewash Valley Running Club,
and Shelton Striders, without whose help on the day, and in the stormy days
leading up to the event, its success would not have been possible.
Running in the colours of her second claim Scottish Club Bellahouston,
Morpeth’s Catriona MacDonald finished 29th in the Senior Women’s event
at the Scottish National Cross Country Championships,
held at Callendar Park, Falkirk on Saturday 25th February 2017.
Catriona was first counter in a squad which finished tenth behind winners Central AC.
Another Morpeth Harrier in action in this event was Mhairi MacLennan,
who as just linked up with the club as English First Claim.
She finished an excellent 9th, running in the colours of
Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds,
who finished as second team,
and Mhairi was their second counter.
Morpeth Harriers are very pleased to announce that the
Linden Homes Athlete of the Month for January 2017 Award,
has gone to their Under 17 Man Matthew Waterfield.
Waterfield very much played an integral role in the success of his club during the month,
as firstly by closing their count in the fourth Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at Herrington Country Park,
by finishing eighth, and one place ahead of the rival Durham City runner,
which very much kept Morpeth in the club title race.
Having probably his best ever run in a Morpeth vest, he also emerged as the clubs surprise
second counter at the Northern Cross Country Championships in Knowsley,
where they finished a close fourth in the team race, only narrowly missing out for Bronze medals.
Matthew very much deserves this individual award, for his wholehearted
club commitment on a team front, which has been outstanding,
and at a time when he is also dedicating some of his time to
developing his talents as an assistant coach,
and helping other youngsters with their ambitions to achieve.
Well Done indeed.
Matthew is pictured above receiving his Certificate of Achievement
from Morpeth Harriers Press Officer George Patterson,
at the clubhouse on Mitford Road,
on the evening of Monday 20th February 2017.