Morpeth Harriers were well to the fore amongst the honours in the
annual Elswick Harriers Good Friday Road Races,
held on the Newburn Riverside Business Park.
Despite a stiff breeze, runners efforts were blessed
with warm early spring sunshine,
which made conditions good for relatively fast times.
The club’s athletes excelled in achieving no less than three individual course records,
and two team victories, and two second team places on hotly contested day.
However Morpeth Harriers five year hold on the Senior Men’s
team trophy was finally broken by Gateshead Harriers,
who needed sterling team performance on the day to
break down a usual superb club effort by them.
Gateshead were no doubt boosted by Chris Parr’s course record breaking effort of 10m07s
over the 2.2mile course on leg three of four, which restored their earlier lead.
After a very steady first leg start by Kevin Calvert’s 10m45s, which had them in fifth place,
Morpeth took a second leg lead courtesy of Lewis Timmins’s 10m26s.
Ian Hudspith tried to maintain this lead on Leg Three as he got round in 10m13s,
which was the second fastest clocking of the day.
Third equal fastest of the day was Morpeth’s fourth and final leg runner Carl Avery,
who clocked 10m16s, only equalled by Gateshead’s final leg runner Callum Johnson,
who sealed a three second margin of victory over Morpeth at the finish line.
Morpeth Harriers really proved their dominance on the Senior Men’s event,
by having their B and C teams in fourth and fifth team places.
Sam Hancox ran the fastest leg time for their B team, posting
a clocking of 10m37s, which second fastest on the first leg.
Karl Taylor slipped to fourth on the second leg with his clocking of 10m54s,
and they remained in this position during the third and fourth legs,
courtesy of Jordan Scott (11m14s), and Robert Balmbra (11m25s)
The Morpeth C team were eleven seconds adrift of the B team,
courtesy of Chris Smith (10m57s), Mark Snowball (11m26s),
Matt Nicholson, making a competitive comeback after almost an 18 month layoff (11m13s),
and Ian Harding (10m45s).
After Elliot Kelly, making a welcome comeback after illness,
had the Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s D team in 20th place
with his clocking of 11m38s, they eventually finished in 23rd place,
with further efforts coming from Neil Gunstone (12m52s),
Steve Patterson (12m26s), and Mark Brown (12m27s),
who was making a fleeting competitive comeback,
midst his current coaching career with the club.
It certainly didn’t take long for the Senior Women’s course record to be broken.
European and Commonwealth medallist Laura Weightman soon saw to that,
as with her first leg posting of 11m08s, she was indeed thirteen seconds inside the old record,
previously set by Sunderland Stroller’s International Alyson Dixon three years ago.
Weightman was also the only Senior Woman to get below
12 minutes on the course, which definitely put her a class apart.
Josie Cram took over for Morpeth on second leg, and despite running hard during the first
mile of her 2.2mile leg, she was eventually caught by Birtley AC’s Tracy Millmore.
Cram battled again after being caught, and she bravely managed to keep the margin down
to eleven seconds as she handed over to third and final leg runner Gemma Floyd.
Floyd also battled hard, but couldn’t quite match the pace of the very much younger Sophie Burnett of Birtley,
who went on to take the title with just over a minute to spare, as Floyd got round in a very respectable 13m11s,
to maintain second place spot ahead of Gateshead.
Meanwhile the Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s B team finished a very respectable seventh,
courtesy of Abby Sheldon (14m25s), Catriona MacDonald (13m42s),
and another competitive comeback athlete Sarah Wilkinson,
who is also the Morpeth Women’s Team Manager (12m45s),
and who certainly led by example with this performance.
Morpeth Harriers also had a Women’s C team competing,
who finished 22nd out of the 52 teams, courtesy of Hannah Rank (14m12s),
Lizzie Rank (15m05s), and Jess Swindells (15m01s).
A very strong performance by Morpeth Harriers Veteran Men,
saw them take the winners title by a twenty six second margin,
ahead of second placed Tyne Bridge Harriers, who made an excellent start,
and led throughout the first two of four 2.2mile legs.
Fergus Bates had Morpeth well placed on leg one,
when he came home in third place in 11m18s,
only fourteen seconds adrift of the leaders.
Mick Thomsen battled hard to maintain a top three position on second leg,
but slipped back to fourth despite his clocking of 12m15s.
All was to change however on leg three, as Michael Morris,
another Morpeth Harrier making a competitive comeback,
moved his club into a five second lead with his clocking of 11m10s,
as he handed over to final leg runner John Butters.
Butters, the current Veteran Men’s course record holder
got round in an identical time to Morris,
to clinch an excellent team victory.
Morpeth Harriers Veteran Men’s B team
finished in seventh place out of 47 complete teams,
which also included a Morpeth C team,
who finished in 28th place overall.
The Morpeth B team consisted of Rob Hancox (12m15s),
Alistair MacDonald (12m36s), Tim Miley (12m31s),
and Paul Waterston (12m24s).
Meanwhile the Morpeth C team saw Jim Alder (13m39s),
Steve Garrett (16m51s), David Nicholson (13m30s),
and Michael Winter (13m25s) in competitive action.
Morpeth Harriers two Veteran Women’s squads finished in
15th and 24th places respectively in their 3 x 2.2mile event,
out of 36 complete teams on the course.
Their B team was their first of the two finishers, courtesy
of Jane Kirby (15m37s), Jacinta Wake (16m47s), and Shuna Rank (15m49s).
The A team squad was Carol Parry (16m03s),
Claire Walker (17m22s), and Susan Smith (16m48s).
Morpeth Harriers had two individual winners in the younger age group 1.6mile events,
plus an outstanding team victory in the Under 15 Boys event.
Led by Daniel Dixon, who broke the course record, when he clocked 7m56s,
for individual victory, excellent added team support by
Taylor Glover (2nd) 8m10s, and Ross Charlton (5th) 8m25s,
ensured a rampant success for Morpeth.
Also prominent for the club in this event was Matthew Waterfield,
who managed to finish tenth in 8m54s.
A superb individual run by Lily Heaton of Morpeth,
saw her win the Under 13 Girls event in 9m30s,
breaking the old course record by one second,
a time clocked by second placed Rebecca Wren of Gosforth Harriers.
Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys finished as fourth team,
courtesy of Andrew Hudspith (6th) 9m20s,
an excellent debut by young Alex Porteous,
who finished tenth in 9m47s, and Reece Garrett (30th) 11m49s.