Bad weather and challenging underfoot conditions were once again the order of the day at the weekend’s cross country fixtures in both Durham and Liverpool, in what is shaping up to be already one of the worst seasons in memory for off road running.
The continual rain certainly made for even more difficult conditions over the demanding, hilly course behind Durham Police HQ at Aykley Heads, the venue for the second North East Harrier League fixture.
On a disappointing day in many categories for the club, there were a handful of stand-out performances and some exemplary commitment shown by those who did wear the Morpeth vest.
It was a day noticeable also for some fine family turn-outs, with the husband and wife team of Pieter and Julie Vermaas both final counters for the Senior Men’s and Women’s teams respectively, all three Davies siblings turning-out to run despite being laid low all week with viruses, and no less than four members of the Macdonald family taking part.
One of the day’s best performances came from Robyn Bennett in the combined Under 20 women and Under 17 girls race. Running from fast pack and setting out in a determined fashion from the outset, Bennett posted the fastest time of the day (22 minutes 21 seconds) to finish in third place and lead the team to a good second place finish behind Birtley AC. She was supported by U/17 Holly Peck, 14th overall,
Kate Gaffing, 18th, and Kirsty Duffin, 26th.
The club’s Senior Women also put in a good performance, finishing 4th overall on the day but moving up to 2nd place in the table after two fixtures. They were lead home by Lindsey Quinn, 7th overall from slow pack,
whose progress since re-joining the club she had run for as a junior continues apace.
Sister Catriona Macdonald ran the 2nd fastest time of the day after
Jarrow’s Georgia Campbell to come home not far behind in 17th.
Veteran fell-runner Jane Briggs clearly found the course very much to her liking as she came home in 30th place, and Julie Vermaas, in only her 2nd cross country outing, made up the team count in 85th.
There were further supporting runs by Claire Calverley, 119th from medium pack, Sarah Routledge, 195th
and Catriona and Lindsay’s proud mother Margaret, 350th.
(Lorna meanwhile was swimming for the army at Sandhurst)
The club’s U/15 boys were once again the most successful year group among the junior athletes.
With Liam Roche finishing 7th, Bertie Marr 15th, Will de Vere-Owen 27th, Ryan Davies 33rd,
Matthew Walton 34th and Adam Howliston 39th, there was no shortage of numbers and
the scoring count placed them in 4th on the day but now 2nd in the overall table.
In many of the other junior age groups turnouts were disappointing, however. Abi Leiper was the club’s sole representative in the U/15, finishing in a decent 5th place and Conner Philips the only boy in the U/13s,
finishing in 33rd.
Dylan Davies had one of the club’s runs of the day to come home 2nd in the U/17
with Euan Duffin in 11th, but no final counter meant the team suffered penalty points.
There were numbers in the youngest age category, the U/11s, however, who had once again got the days action underway. Daniel Scott finished 5th, less than 20 seconds off the winner, and he was followed by Kyle Phillips (13th), Sam Davies (39th) and Toby Marr (61st).Emma Tomlinson was 18th in the matching U/11 girls race.
In contrast to the Senior Women, it was a bad day at the office for the Senior Men, with the poorest turn-out for a number of seasons. While there were a string of injuries in the days beforehand and one or two unavoidable late withdrawals that played havoc with the team, only mustering six runners from a club trying to defend a title won twice in the last two years sadly smacks of a lack of commitment to the cause.
However, the runs of all six who finished were exemplary, notably that of young Connor Marshall. Taking part in his first competitive outing since his return from hospitalisation with a serious back issue earlier in the year, Connor stuck to his task with great determination and lead the club’s count in 11th place.
Next to finish was Gary Jones, 35th from medium pack, clearly at home over the country and enjoying being back for his second spell at the club. Alistair Macdonald, another returning to competition after time out,
was third counter in 82nd place.
The biggest smile of the day was probably worn by kickboxer Ricky Stafford, however, who was able to shrug off both a fall and his first real experience of challenging cross country conditions since joining the club from Blyth, and was still smiling at the end. He admitted to actually enjoying the experience, finishing in 89th from slow pack, and Shaun Land overcame steamed up glasses to battle through to 190th.
The team’s final counter was Pieter Vermaas in 372nd, who, knowing he had to finish to make the scoring count, stuck to his task doggedly in what was only his second ever cross country race.
Fastest run of the day was by evergreen Conrad Franks with a strong Gateshead team
finishing 1st ahead of Elvet Striders, 2nd on home turf, and Tyne Bridge.
Morpeth’s team finished in 9th place in Division One and dropped to 6th place overall, although the margins to the teams ahead are not insurmountable. Clearly, however,a much better turn-out will be needed in the
remaining fixtures and perhaps the hope that the two cancelled fixtures are rearranged.
Morpeths Ollie Calvert competed at the British Biathlon National Championships in Nottingham at the weekend (23rd & 24th November) and claimed the U12 silver medal. His Father Phil said "We are all very grateful for the advice and training that you have given him. 8 seconds off his previous PB says it all really…thanks very much! "
At the start of the 800m they all set off very quickly and Ollie was at the back of the group. He didn’t panic however and gradually made his way through the field to which he put in a sprint at the last bend. He actually ran into the back of one boy when trying to undertake him but the door was shut on him making him have to change course and run round the outside. He crossed the line fourth with a time of 2.31.08, narrowly missing second place!
Report and photos by Phil Calvert
Two of Morpeth Harriers promising young track and field specialists travelled to Sheffield on Saturday 16th November 2019, to take part in the opening Northern Athletics Indoor Open Meeting.
Both took part in the Triple Jump, where Charlotte Earl finishing second overall with a best of 10.58m, which was around 30cm (12 inches in old money), adrift of her personal best.
Nevertheless, that performance by the Under 17 athlete, earned her second place overall in the competition, which also saw fellow club colleague Kayleigh Wenn, finish fifth overall, producing a personal best of 9.07m,
which was an improvement of around 52cm for the Under 20 athlete.
Sunday 17th November, saw the 62nd running of the annual Brampton to Carlisle 10 mile road race, now the oldest in the country, with nearly 700 finishing the course.
Run in near faultless conditions, the first race took place in 1952 and has been won in the past by many illustrious names from British athletics, including of course Morpeth Harriers’ own Jim Alder, MBE, on three consecutive occasions in the 1960s.
This year’s race turned into a battle between UK internationals Charlie Hulson of Liverpool Harriers
and Philip Sesemann of Leeds City, with Hulson finally winning out in a time of 47 minutes 45 seconds, ahead of Sesemann (47:45) and Marc Brown of Salford AC (49:41).
First woman home was Alison Lavender of Oswestry Olympians in 56:00, over two minutes ahead of her nearest rival Annabel Simpson of Fife AC (58:09) with Birtley’s Tracey Millmore third female and first Over 35 (59:25).
Morpeth’s Richard Johnson, meanwhile, ran his second big personal best of the Autumn after his performance in the Abbey Dash 10k, completing the 10 miles in a time of 53:48. For much of the race he had leading world Over 55 veteran Guy Bracken of North Shields Polytechnic Harriers for company, with Bracken only a few places behind at the end but setting a new world best for his age (53:58), subject to ratification.
Matthew Boyle was second home for the club, 63rd in 58:48.
Another athlete currently in very fine form is Gavin Bayne, who once again
was a category winner in the Over 60s, with a time of 62:35
Other finishers for the club were Paul Waterston, 114th and 7th O/50 in 1:03:33
and Norman Clark, 425th and 5th O/65 in 1:19:47.
Morpeth Harrier Scott Beattie, currently studying in Tulsa USA, finished eleventh out of 195 finishers in the Men’s 10k event at the NCAA Division 1 Mid-West Region Cross Country Championships,
held at Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Friday 15th November 2019.
Beattie was fifth counter for a winning Tulsa squad, who were led home by Preston Harrier Patrick Dever,
who placed third, who also included fellow Brits Isaac Akers of Corby (8th),
Cameron Field of Liverpool Harriers (9th), amongst their scorers.