The opening 2022 North East Grand Prix Track and Field Meeting held at Monkton Stadium, Jarrow on the evening of Wednesday April 20 saw eighteen athletes from Morpeth Harriers & AC in competitive action in both sprints and distance events, although the club didn’t manage to muster any Field competitors on this occasion.
One of the real stars on a successful track night was Joseph Close, who was making his seasonal debut in the Under 17 Men’s age group.
Competing in the second fastest of seven 1500m heats, Close went to the front in the early stages of his three and three quarter lap event. However, he only led for a short period before he eventually settled back into third or fourth place but then produced a superb turn up of pace on the final lap to oust early leaders Lee Dover of Houghton and Steve McMahon of Sunderland Harriers.
The Sunderland Veteran quickly succumbed to Close’s youth and determination, and the Morpeth youngster enjoyed a two second margin of victory, producing a new personal best time of 4m20.33s and taking around nine seconds off his previous figures.
Also running in this particular heat from Morpeth was Under 15 Boy Oliver Tomlinson, who finished twelfth but also produced a personal best of 4m 35.27s for the distance, taking eleven seconds off his previous figures.
Another Morpeth Harriers winner over 1500m was Senior Man Alex Brown, who had a close contest with Gosforth Harrier Ethan Bond, with Bond only dropped within the final 100m. Brown won in a time of 3m57.93s with Bond two seconds adrift, and Brown’s performance saw him later judged as the Track Athlete of the Meeting.
Six other Morpeth Harriers faced the starter in the fastest 1500m. Personal best performances were achieved by five Harriers in the race: George Rudman, who finished third in 4m02.26s, a forty two second improvement; Ross Charlton who placed fourth in 4m03.67s, a three second improvement; Connor Marshall, who finished fifth in 4m05.85s, which represented a seven second improvement; Joe Anderson, sixth in a time of 4m06.01s, an improvement of seven seconds, and Will De Vere-Owen, seventh in 4m06.55s, which saw the Under 17 athlete improve by eleven seconds. Under 17 Bertie Marr also finished twelfth in 4m20.61s to complete the club tally.
Staying with 1500m, Under 20 and Under 17 Women Abi Leiper and Caitlin Flanagan finished twelfth and thirteenth in the fourth fastest race, posting respective times of 5m09.55s, and 5m11.20s, both just outside their personal bests.
However, Under 13 and Under 15 Girls Emma Tomlinson and Molly Roche both improved on their bests in the sixth and seventh fastest races. In the sixth race, Tomlinson, younger sister of Oliver, took a whopping twenty-eight seconds off her time when finishing seventh in 5m 25.77s. Meanwhile in the seventh race, Roche also finished seventh in 5m35.13s, an improvement here of twenty-five seconds.
In the shorter sprint events, Under 15 Boy Connor Phillips produced a good win in the ninth heat of the 150m, a distance he was running for the first time, winning in 18.71s.
He had earlier finished third in the 300m, also running the distance for the first time, where he posted a time of 40.07s, a second adrift of Under 17 winner Noah Scott of Gateshead Harriers.
Another Morpeth first timer over 150m was Under 17 Woman Freya Caygill, who competed well to finish second in her heat in 20.43s.
Senior Man Alistair Douglas was also competing in the 300m for the first time. Douglas finished third in 39.10s, just over a second adrift of heat winner Makun Madar of Durham University.
Under 13 Boy Kyle Phillips, younger brother of Connor, posted a time of 11.43s in the 75m sprint, which he also ran for the first time.
Fellow Under 13 Boy Toby Marr, younger brother of Bertie, produced a marginal personal best of 16.33s in the 75m Hurdles.
Meanwhile, Rachelle Falloon took advantage of an Easter break in Spain to take part in the Magaluf 10k at the weekend. Coming home in 22nd place overall, she won the Women’s race in a time of 38 minutes 44 seconds.
The 1,691 finishers who tackled the scenic coastal course of the North Tyneside 10k on Sunday enjoyed excellent conditions as the event was held for the seventeenth occasion.
North Tyneside Labour MP Mary Glindon set the runners off on the route from North Shields Fish Quay via Tynemouth and Cullercoats to the finish line beside St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay.
And it was not long before two times winner David Green of North Shields Poly pulled well ahead; in fact by the time he had reached Cullercoats, having completed the first quarter of the course, he was some 100m clear of any opposition.
He eventually crossed the finish line in a time of 31m09s, notching up a hat-trick of victories in the event, as well as the fastest of his three performances. His record is impressive, as he had also finished a good second to Ethiopia’s Tadele Geremew in 2017 when wearing the colours of Tyne Bridge.
Second place on Sunday went to Gateshead Harrier Ali Bailey who posted a finishing time of 31m59s. In third place was Sunderland Harrier Liam Taylor, who finished in 32m16s.
The Women’s race title went to late entrant Danielle Hodgkinson who finished tenth overall, posting a new Women’s course record time of 33m29s and taking twenty-seven seconds off Justina Heslop’s ten-year title.
Second place spot in the Women’s race went to Elswick Harrier Amy Fuller, who has a;sp learnt of her recent selection for the North of England in the Cardiff 5k.
Fuller was chased in hard by club colleague Heslop, with both athletes posting the same time of 36m31s, in 39th and 40th positions respectively.
Eight athletes from Morpeth Harriers were amongst the 1691 finishers, the first of these being Mark Snowball, who was 13th in 33m49s.
Next home for the club was newcomer Richie Hughes, who finished 23rd in 35m00s.
Mark Banks, another Morpeth newcomer following his transfer from Heaton Harriers, finished in 26th place in 35m23s.
Ed Hillier, who finished 94th, was next home for the club, with a time of 39m51s, and was ninth in the Over 45 Veteran Men’s category.
Morpeth’s first Lady finisher was Anna Wright, who finished in 222nd place, and was sixth Over 40 Woman, posting a time of 44m10s.
Kate Gaffing finished in 450th place, and was 24th Senior Woman, in 49m03s.
Robyn Ferguson finished in 519th place, and was 30th Senior Women, in a time of 50m19s.
Completing the Morpeth tally was Laura Shaw, who posted a time of 55m01s when finishing in 782nd place.
Full credit to North Tyneside for their splendid organisation of the event, being run for the first time on its traditional Easter date since 2019 - it had of course been held last October when Green achieved his second win.
A new personal best performance was just the spur that Morpeth Harrier Scott Beattie (currently studying in Tulsa University in the United States) needed as he set out his summer track campaign when he finished an excellent seventh in the 10,000m at the Stanford Invitational Meet in Palo Alto, California on Friday 1 April.
Beattie’s time of 28m19.90s saw him take almost twenty-two seconds off his previous figures.
At the same meeting, fellow Morpeth Harrier Rory Leonard, also studying in America, at Oklahoma State, ran in the 5000m. Leonard finished 21st, posting a time of 13m59.71s, a little way off his best.
Three Morpeth Harriers had their first taste of local track action when they competed in the Kieran Maxwell Memorial Open Meeting at Middlesbrough Sports Village on Sunday 10 April.
Under 17 Men Bertie Marr and Will DeVere-Owen were far ahead of all their rivals when finishing first and second respectively in their 3000m event. Marr won in 9m05.42s, with DeVere-Owen posting a time of 9m08.77s.
In the seeded 200m events, Freya Caygill was second fastest Under 17 Woman, posting a time of 27.06s.
Margaret Macdonald completed an impressive 50k challenge recently in Perth. Running to raise money Alzheimers, she got round the course along the Perth Riverside course in 6 hours 35 minutes.
With the event being part of the Scottish 5k Championships, she was also 2nd Over 55. Congratulations!
Sunday saw the return of the Terry O’Gara 5k at West Allotment Country Park, Wallsend.
Named after the charismatic and sadly missed late Chairman of Wallsend Harriers, the fast and flat traffic free course was, like last week’s Port of Blyth 10k, sold out months previously, having been last hosted back in 2019.
Regrettably however, a keenly-contested start on the narrow old wagonways saw a number of runners falling at the start, with several unable to even get going again.
In the end it was local talent from the host club Wallsend that came through to win both Men’s and Women’s races, with Leeds-based athlete Sam Charlton (15:00) and Army champion Danielle Hodgkinson (16:17) both recording comfortable victories.
There were some thirteen Morpeth Harriers in action, with Andy Lawrence first back for the club in 10th place with 16:06 and Adam Pratt returning to competitive action in 19th (16:27), with new signing Mark Banks, in his first race in a blue and white vest, 21st in 16:31.
Anthony Janetta was 3rd Over 40 and 39th overall in 17:19, while Cat Macdonald narrowly missed out on a top three place, her 17:36 meaning she had to settle for 4th Senior Female behind Hodgkinson, Elswick’s Amy Fuller and Jarrow’s Alex Sneddon.
Older sisters Lorna and Lindsey also ran well, recording 19:07 (4th Senior Woman) and 19:47 (7th) respectively, while there were pbs for Lizzie Rank, 102nd overall and 6th Senior in 19:47, and Robyn Ferguson, 179th , 13th Senior, in 22:50. Tayla Douglas also recorded a pb with 22:16 for 8th Senior.
Graeme Thorpe was 65th and 7th O/45 in 18:14 and Mike Steven 4th O/60 and 172nd in 22:13. Having run at Sutton Park less than 24 hours beforehand, Tom Innes also ran round, accompanying Lizzie for 99th place in 19:46.
Many of the country’s leading runners were assembled at Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield to the north of Birmingham on Saturday for the English Road Running Association 12 Stage Relays, with Morpeth Harriers the sole representatives from the North East of England.
With six long legs of around 5.4 miles and six shorter ones of 3.2, the competition unfurls over a long 4-hour-plus timeframe, with the lead often changing hands several times in the course of an afternoon.
Saturday’s race was, perhaps unsurprisingly, dominated by clubs from the South of England, with Tonbridge AC winning out in an overall time of 4 hours 13 minutes 11 seconds over nearest rivals, Highgate AC (4:13:24). It must have been a bittersweet silver medal for the north London outfit however, who had led for much of the race and, going into the last leg, were actually nearly one minute ahead of the Kent club having been in front since leg 5 and only caught in the last mile. Bedford and County AC were 3rd in 4:14:25.
Similar misfortunes befell Leeds City AC, who had been expected to be in the thick of the action, with their first leg runner suffering a debilitating asthma attack on the start line and trailing in way down the field in 49th. Thereafter, the Yorkshire club did well to recover for 5th place.
Morpeth were themselves hit by an unfortunate late injury to George Lowry, who might have been expected to run one of the fastest legs for the club, with an ever-willing Graeme Cook drafted in at very short notice for his first-ever 12 stage.
Sam Hancox got the club off to a decent start on the 1st long leg, with a time of 26:43 for 15th place, with teenager Joe Anderson clocking 16:50 on the next, short leg for 24th. With long and short legs alternating thereafter, Finn Brodie ran Morpeth’s fastest long leg, 26:12, on leg 3 as the club moved into 14th, with Ali Douglas recording 16:25 for 15th on leg 4.
Carl Avery, himself nursing an injury, got the club into 11th and in sight of a top ten finish on leg 5 (26:43) with Tom Innes only slipping two places on leg 6 (16:30). Alex Brown’s 26:30 moved the club into the top ten as the race moved into its second half and Phil Winkler’s 15:53 got Morpeth up to 8th after eight legs, its highest position on the afternoon.
Despite being hit by a troublesome stitch during much of his run, George Rudman managed to maintain the position with 28:26 on the 9th leg, with Connor Marshall’s short leg of 16:16 and Matthew Briggs’s long leg of 28:10 keeping the club in 9th on legs 10 and 11.
With Graeme Cook recording 18:04 on leg 12, the club unfortunately slipped out of the top ten, finishing in 13th place overall out of some 53 complete teams, with a final combined time of 4:22:42. Once again, Morpeth were well placed however among Northern teams, with only big city outfits Leeds, Salford Harriers and Sheffield’s Hallamshire in front.
The day’s two fastest long and short leg times came courtesy of Belgrave Harrier Nick Goolab and Cambridge and Coleridge’s Tom Keen, who recorded times of 25:23 and 15:10 for the long and short legs respectively.
Another fully committed and strong performance from all of those who made the long journey South and, with a lot of teenage talent coming through behind them, the prospect of improving the position and even challenging for medals in the future. Congratulations to all.
There were thirteen Morpeth Harriers amongst the 428 finishers at the popular Port of Blyth 10k at the weekend.
Always a sell-out, largely due to its reputation as one of the fastest courses in the North East, the event was run for the sixteenth time this year on a bright and breezy Sunday morning after the inevitable two year Covid-enforced hiatus .
Starting from the staithes at the Port of Blyth, the route takes you out past Ridley Park and then onto the promenade before following the path through the dunes, turning round at Seaton Sluice and retracing its steps along the pavement, with only the tempting aroma of fish and chips from the Coastline cafe to distract any budding Alf Tuppers * en route.
The impressive existing course record of 30 minutes 33 seconds was in fact set just over ten years ago by Peter Newton (then a Claremont Road Runner) who himself took it off another Morpeth Harrier, Mark Brown, with Sunderland Stroller Aly Dixon also setting a new women’s record of 33:27 in 2019.
At the front of the race this year a leading group of four athletes headed by Tyne Bridge Harrier Michael Hedley quickly established itself, with Sunderland Harrier Liam Taylor, Alnwick’s Dave Richardson and Morpeth’s Tom Innes in close attendance. With Hedley able to up the pace slightly despite a troublesome crosswind on the return, he built a comfortable lead and won the race in a time of 32:30 with Taylor 2nd in 32:47 and Richardson 3rd (33:05). Tom was squeezed out of the top three and placed 4th in 33:37, but with Taylor and Richardson recorded as Over 35s, he was later awarded 2nd Senior Male, although later confessing to be a little disappointed in his run, particularly after some good performances in recent relays.
The women’s race was won by experienced Jarrow and Hebburn athlete Alex Sneddon, in 22nd place overall, who finished in 36:36 with the early leader Elswick’s talented youngster Imogen Bungay 2nd in 37:55 and her club colleague Robyn Naylor 3rd (41:07).
One of Morpeth’s best runs of the day came from seasoned vet Lee Bennett, now getting back to his racing best, who was 15th overall and 1st O/50 in 35:41. There was also another age category prize for the club, with Rob Hancox 2nd O/50 in 38:44 (‘this racing doesn’t get any easier as you get older!’).
The fast course did provide three Morpeth personal bests however, with Shaun Land 32nd in 37:42 (although his Dad won the family bragging rights with a category prize), Tayla Murdy 105th and 5th Senior Female in 42:28, and Robyn Ferguson taking over three minutes off her previous best time for the distance when coming home 227th in 49:49.
Other Morpeth finishers included: Graeme Thorpe, 40th and 6th O/45 in 38:15; Eric Adams, 50th in 39:07; Ed Hillier, 59th in 39:37; Andy Leeson, 75th in 40:38; Laura Mclean, 218th and 8th O/35 in 49:12 and last but not least, the return of two club stalwarts, Jim Alder ‘the younger’ (45:28) and the redoubtable ‘stormin’ Norman Clark, 5th Over 70 in 56:25.
There was a sad coda, however, with post-race presentation and final results all delayed as a result of some naughty individuals who had run in other people’s numbers. This must have been particularly disappointing for organisers Blyth Running Club, as they had made very clear for weeks that numbers could be transferred until a week beforehand.
The moral to all of us must be that, however tempting it might be to accept a place when someone who can’t run is offering you one, it can have very unfortunate consequences and cannot be something we or any other club could condone.
*For the younger ones amongst you: Alf Tupper, legendary long distance athlete from the weekly cartoon magazine for boys, the Victor, and a stable of the formative years for many of us d’un certain age. Represented Tristan da Cunha in the Olympics (or was it in the Commonwealths?). Welder by trade. Hated the athletics establishment. Partial to a fish and chips supper. No resemblance whatsoever to any members of Morpeth Harriers…