Alistair Douglass missed out by a margin of just under two seconds in his attempt to retain his hold on the Jimmy Hedley Trophy, at the second meeting of the North Eastern Grand Prix, held at Jarrow’s Monkton Stadium last Wednesday.
In a ten strong field of runners in the main 800m event, Douglass ran very determinedly throughout the two laps, and from the bell, which was reached in under sixty seconds, chased eventual winner Chris Perkins of Birtley AC all the way. He only lost out in the final strides, as the Birtley man produced a new personal best of 1m54.88s, which sees him now ranked number three in the UK Under 17 Men’s rankings.
Douglass was a couple of seconds outside his personal best, with his clocking of 1m56.10s.
Ben Waterfield of Morpeth was also just adrift of his personal best when he finished tenth in 2m06.71s.
Whilst Douglass's run was notable, perhaps the best Morpeth run of the night, was Under 23 athlete Connor Marshall's excellent performance in a later run 3000m.
For the second North Eastern Grand Prix in succession Marshall won by putting the boot in at the bell and managed to run away to victory over club colleague Will De-Vere Owen, posting a new personal best time of 9m09.41s, taking a massive fifty-one seconds off his previous figures.
De-Vere Owen clocked 9m10.43s, taking seven seconds off his previous figures, and Joseph Anderson secured a superb Morpeth One-Two-Three, by finishing third in 9m13.11, another personal best by eight seconds.
The fastest 3000m of the evening was won by Northern and National Cross Country Champion Calum Johnson of Gateshead Harriers.
No fewer than five Morpeth Harriers lined up here, with Sam Hancox leading them home in fifth place in 8m36.84s.
Other Morpeth finishers were Ross Floyd (9th) 9m04.63s, Bertie Marr (10th) 9m09.91s, Ryan Davies (11th) 9m10.71s, and Andrew Lawrence (12th) 9m26.11s.
For Marr and Davies, the performances gave them time improvements of five and eleven seconds, respectively.
Back with 800m, where in the eighth event, Morpeth Under 17 athlete Ralph Robson finished second in 2m14.74s, ensuring him a fourteen second improvement.
Ralph’s younger sister Tabitha can also feel well pleased with her 800m run, clocking 2m37.65s for fifth place in race 4, which gave her a new personal best by five seconds.
In race seven of the 800m events, Morpeth’s Joe Dixon clocked 2m14.81s, taking six seconds off his previous figures, which saw him finish third.
Other Morpeth Harriers in this event were Oliver Tomlinson (9th) 2m19.98s, and Jason Dawson (10th) 2m20.44s.
Under 15 Boy Tomlinson’s effort, was an improvement of two seconds.
Oliver’s younger sister Emma (Under 13) also took two seconds off her previous figures for 800m, when she placed tenth in the third race in 2m48.14s.
Joseph Close saw an improvement of one second to his 800m time, when he finished sixth in the ninth and final race, posting a time of 2m12.26s.
In the opening 3000m, Morpeth Harrier Tayla Murdy saw a time improvement of twelve seconds when she crossed the finish line in tenth place, clocking 11m56.60s.
Millie Breese of Morpeth finished eighth in the third heat of the 3000m in a time of 10m30.66s, which was the second fastest time of the night for an Under 17 Woman.
It was good to see so many Morpeth Harriers Middle and Distance runners in action, but it was disappointing that the club was not represented in the sprints or field events.
Morpeth Harriers are sad to hear of the passing of Ron Hill MBE, who has died at the age of 82.
A former European and Commonwealth Marathon champion as well as being the first British runner to win the Boston Marathon, the Accrington-born athlete and proud Lancastrian also held at one time world records over 10 miles, 15 miles and 25 kilometres and competed in two Olympic Games.
Among his most memorable achievements was his time of 2 hours 9 minutes and 28 seconds set in Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Games in 1970, a race in which our own Jim Alder finished in 2nd place. Such was Hill’s performance that day that he went through 10k in 29:24 and was fully 8 minutes ahead of the world record at half way. He was the 2nd ever runner to break 2:10 for the distance and even today his time from over 50 years ago puts him in 12th place in the British all time performances.
Hill was also renowned for having run every single day for an astonishing total of 52 years and 39 days – till he was 78, in fact.
Holding a degree in textile chemistry, Hill would go on to found the sportswear company that still carries his name and whose logo is seen at races nationally.
His exploits are memorably captured in the two volumes of his autobiography The Long Hard Road, which meticulously record every race run and his mileage.
A team mate, room mate and often a fellow competitor, Jim Alder spoke generously and movingly of his great rival and friend: "He was a fabulous runner, and on his day, nobody could beat him – when he clicked, Bang! If he was fully right, he won. Although I raced him many times and sometimes beat him, he was the undisputed king of distance running in the 1960s."
Track and field action got underway for young athletes for the first time since 2019, with the hosting of first round NEYDL matches being held at Middlesbrough Sports Village, Monkton Stadium, Jarrow, and Churchill Playing Fields, Whitley Bay.
Morpeth Harriers & AC, who were the 2019 Division 1 Champions, were in action in the season opener at Middlesbrough. But it was clearly evident that a full year without competition had left its mark on the club, with very few of the championship squad still remaining, and a good number of athletes testing themselves in track and field for the very first time.
There is clearly a great deal of development needed to be put in place in the Morpeth squad, as they could only finish fifth of six competing teams, with a very strong Harrogate squad taking the match, securing just over 800 points, to win by around 112 points over North Shields Poly.
Those who did turn out for Morpeth on the day did their level best and only around a dozen points separated third placed Darlington/Allerton, fourth placed Gateshead Harriers, and fifth placed Morpeth, with Blyth/Alnwick sixth, just over 200 points further adrift.
Strongest results for the club, perhaps not unexpectedly, came from their section of Under 17 Men, with one excellent offering coming from the Under 17 Women.
William De Vere-Owen is to be very warmly congratulated for his first-time solo effort in the 400m Hurdles, where in a torrential rainstorm, he got round the single lap circuit, obstacles included, clearing every one, to post a time of 89.70s.
He was the first Morpeth Harriers young athlete to tackle this since Karl Taylor did so at Middlesbrough (Old Stadium) in July 2007, in what was then the National Junior League.
William also enjoyed a superb victory in the A String 800m, posting 2m06.20s, being very ably supported in the B String by Liam Roche, who won in 2m09.30s.
Another Under 17 Men Morpeth double victory came in the 1500m, where after an early rush of blood to the head by the two Harrogate runners, Bertie Marr and Ryan Davies carefully carved out double success, by posting times of 4m20.10s and 4m25.30s, respectively.
Morpeth’s other Under 17 Men’s victories came courtesy of specialist thrower Edward Gardiner, who won both the Hammer (29.52m) and Discus (27.53m).
Specialist sprinter Evan Logan made a very sound Morpeth debut, finishing third in both the 100m and 200m, posting respective times of 12.40s, and 24.00s.
Morpeth Harriers best Under 17 Women performers were Olivia Gent, who finished second in the A String Triple Jump (8.78m), and Emilia Grundy who won the B String (8.70m).
The Under 17 Women also had a B String winner with Martha Hiscock (2m57.50s), supporting Caitlin Flanagan’s fourth place in the A String (2m37.30s).
Best performance from the Morpeth Under 15 Boys came from Joseph Close (2m15.50s), and Finn Tilmouth (2m34.30s), who secured a club double victory.
Tilmouth showed much aptitude for hard work, as he went on to finish second in the A String Javelin (15.33m), supported by Sam Livingstone’s second in the B String (12.30m), and also second in the B String Long Jump (3.83m), supporting Owen Omoigui’s third place in the A String (4.48m).
There was good team pairing for Morpeth in the 100m and 200m events, courtesy of Omoguie and Conner Phillips.
Omoguie placed third in the A String 100m in 13.00s, and Phillips finished second in the B String in 13.30s.
Phillips finished third in the A String 200m in 27.80s, and Omoigui finished as second B String in 28.30s.
Back to the distance events, and Oliver Tomlinson finished third in the A String 1500m (4m55.40s), with Ollie Calvert finishing second in the B String (5m09.30s).
Morpeth Under 15 Boys achieved the clubs best 4 x 100m Relay performance of the day, when they finished second to North Shields Poly in 56.40s.
Best Morpeth Under 15 Girl performances came from sprinters Freya Caygill and Victoria Hodgson.
Caygill finished third in the A String 100m in 13.60s, with Hodgson taking second in the B String (13.70s).
It was a swap over in the 200m, where Hodgson was third A String (28.10s), and Caygill finished as second B String in 28.30s.
The club’s youngest performers, the Under 13’s, (all of them making League debuts), produced encouraging performances.
Most of their strengths lay in the Girls section, where Molly Roche and Megan Potrac, both enjoyed B String wins.
Potrac won the B String Shot Putt with a best of 4.26m, backing up Charlotte Marshall’s A String performance of 4.95m, which saw her finish third.
Molly Roche secured an excellent win in the B String 800m in 2m55.10s, and Emma Tomlinson and Charlotte Marshall teamed up well in the 1500m, where Tomlinson finished as third A String in 5m56.0s, and Marshall finished as second B String in 6m15.80s.
Despite not securing any wins, Morpeth’s small band of only four athletes fought hard for points, with Daniel Scott and Kyle Phillips in the 100m, securing their best result.
Scott finished as fifth A String in 15.40s, with Phillips finishing fourth in the B String in 16.00s.
With two matches remaining, again at Middlesbrough in June, and Morpeth in July, Morpeth certainly need to re-energise their strengths in order to ensure a respectable finishing position which team managers Mark Brown (Boys) and Vina Desai (Girls) will seek to do over the forthcoming weeks, but willing athletes and willing parents are what is undoubtedly required.
Final match totals are awaiting further confirmation.
Winning the Junior Male competition at the British Elite Triathlon at Sospan, Llanelli on Sunday morning, Daniel Dixon showed once again the tremendous progress he continues to make in this most demanding of sporting disciplines.
With entry only open to the Elite of British Triathlon and numbers kept to a minimum, the race was used as a trial for the European Junior Championships at Kitzbuhel in Austria in June, at which Dixon – who only turned 19 last Friday - has now emphatically booked a place.
Coming out of the water after the 750 metre swim in second place, Dixon formed part of a group of seven during the 30 kilometre cycle, knowing that, as a member of the club since a young age and with big new pbs over 5k this year, the speed he had over the run would be more than enough to hold off his rivals in the run phase.
In the event, he had extended his lead by 45 seconds at the end to win in fine style from his nearest rival Joe Sherman.
His overall time for the short course Sprint Triathlon event was 56 minutes 3 seconds, the ninth fastest time overall of the day when the Senior Men are included, with his swim time for the 750 metres the second fastest of the day.
The win sees him already reward the faith placed in him by Team England after their award of the Sir John Hanson Scholarship in February as he continues to build hopefully towards a place in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year.
Several athletes from Morpeth Harriers were in competitive action at Sunday’s second NECAA Open Track and Field Meeting, held at Middlesbrough Sports Village.
Thankfully, the dreadful rainstorms of Saturday had abated, however a strong cool wind was still in evidence as athletes battled their way through the lengthy programme of events.
Two athletes who certainly got on with the job in hand were siblings Edward and Jessica Gardiner, who both competed in the mixed-age group Discus competition, and for once both in the same pool.
It was good for both of them, with the older Jessica, giving younger brother Edward much encouragement throughout their individual competitions.
For Edward it was a particularly successful day, as throwing the heavier 1.5k disc as a first year Under 17 Man, he managed a new massive personal best distance of 31.15m, taking almost two metres off his previous figures, a distance that also saw him now sit as number one regionally, and for a brief time took him into the top twenty in the UK rankings for his age group.
It also provided Edward with an on-the-day victory over his fellow Under 17 rivals, the closest challenge, coming from Gateshead Harrier Cameron Marshall (17.56m).
Jessica also triumphed on the day, producing a best of 32.16m with the 1k disc, which was a season’s best.
Jessica, who had competed in monsoon conditions at Hull on the previous day in an England Athletics Invitational event, won her Under 20 Women’s competition from Jarrow and Hebburn’s Ellie O’Halloran, who managed a best of 18.11m.
Neil Ellerby, who coaches both Edward and Jessica, is very pleased with the way their respective training is going and is confident that Edward will continue to push his PB even further over the season as he competes for various titles.
Another Morpeth Harriers field eventer in fine competitive action was Under 20 Female Charlotte Earl.
The Vina Desai-coached athlete won the Triple Jump, by producing an on-the-day best of 10.72m, also winning her age group from New Marske Harrier Libby Currie, who managed a best of 9.92m.
Morpeth’s other field eventer in action was Abbie Ross, who produced an on-the-day best of 4.74m in the Long Jump, winning the Under 20 Female competition.
On the track, Morpeth Harriers saw two on the day winners in the form of Joseph Close and William De Vere-Owen in separate 1500m events.
Close, who is still partly coached by Borders coach Henry Gray, has come on leaps, and bounds since linking up with Morpeth Harriers, and their middle-distance coach Mike Bateman, and on Sunday, he very clearly showed his depth of progress, when he took a whole twelve seconds off his previous 1500m figures.
The former Tweed Striders athlete very clearly won his three- and three-quarter lap heat in 4m36.10s, winning by just over six seconds from Under 15 Girl Charlotte Dillon of Durham City.
Closest finisher to Close in his own Under 15 Boys age group was Darlington Harrier Harry Lyons, who clocked 4m47.88s in the following race.
Under 17 athlete De Vere-Owen won that race in 4m20.12s, taking victory from Allerton Under 20 athlete Holden Outhwaite by just under two seconds.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishing in this event were fellow Under 17 Men, Liam Roche, who placed fifth in 4m23.52s, taking a whole five seconds off his previous figures, and Ryan Davies, who was sixth in 4m23.76s, after leading the field for part of the way.
In another 1500m event, Senior Man Alistair Douglass finished fourth in 4m03.36s, almost breaking his personal best, and Under 17 athlete Bertie Marr finished twelfth, setting new figures of 4m19.94s, taking four seconds off his previous best.
Molly Roche, younger sister of Liam, clearly enjoyed her first outing over 1500m, finishing fifth in a strong field of twelve.
The Under 13 athlete posted a time of 6m04.45s.
Very clearly all the athletes taking part enjoyed their day of competition, even though still being subject to strict Covid Regulations, compared to 2020, which saw a virtual washout on activity, which was not only a great loss to the sport, but also saw the loss of some good athletes.