Morpeth Harriers Senior Men travelled to Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield on Saturday 16th April,
in defence of their English National 12 Stage Road Relay title that they very handsomely
won for the very first time, at the well established Midlands venue twelve months ago.
Being without key runners such as Jonny Taylor, Nick Swinburn and Carl Avery did not help their cause however,
and despite the inclusion of Peter Newton, who had run the fastest long stage time at the Northern Championships at Sunderland, plus Ian Hudspith and Ady Whitwam, they couldn’t quite match the dominance of winners Highgate Harriers, second placed Aldershot and Farnham and third placed Bristol and West,
nor fellow Northerner’s Liverpool Harriers, who after some very good later leg performances,
came through to finish fourth, and take the title as first Northern club.
However in finishing eighth, around six minutes adrift of the winners, and nearly four minutes adrift of the medals,
Morpeth fared better than the Northern Championships, in taking second spot behind Liverpool.
At Sunderland they had finished third behind Salford Harriers, who on this occasion could only finish fourteenth,
and just over five minutes adrift, and Northern Silver Medallists Leeds City,
a further two places and nearly a minute adrift.
Again it was Newton who shone, by clocking Morpeth’s fastest long stage time of 26m27s,
which saw them move into the top ten for the first time in the contest.
Newton won back three places on his leg, after Kevin Calvert had
lost a couple of places on Leg Six, with his clocking of 16m24s.
Ross Floyd had got them in to tenth place on Leg Five, with his clocking of 27m58s.
The first four legs by Sam Hancox (27m17s), Ian Harding (16m10s), Andy Wiles (27m08s),
and young 12 Stage debutant Adam Gibbs (16m51s) had seen Morpeth into a good eleventh place,
and not that far adrift of the leading clubs in terms of time.
After Newton’s excellent seventh leg, Thomas Straughan lifted Morpeth up a further place to eighth,
courtesy of a tenth fastest of the leg clocking of 16m34s.
Ian Hudspith’s excellent second fastest of the leg clocking of 26m46s on the ninth leg,
saw Morpeth hold on to eighth place, however Lewis Timmins’s superb 15m55s,
easily the clubs fastest short stage performance, also fourth fastest of the leg,
got them into what was to be their highest placing of the day of fifth, with two legs remaining.
Ady Whitwam on the penultimate eleventh leg aggravated a slight back injury that he had sustained
during a midweek training session in preparation for his forthcoming appearance in this weekend’s London Marathon, which unfortunately for both him and his club began to restrict his ability to keep up
a good pace on his close rivals, as he slipped to eighth with his clocking of 28m20s.
Morpeth were now two minutes away from fourth, and nearly four minutes adrift of the medal placings
as twelfth and final leg runner Chris Smith set off in hot pursuit of any particular glory he could chase down.
Despite clocking 16m38s on his short leg, he couldn’t quite get closer to the rivals in front of him,
and came home to a final placing of eighth out of 64 finishing clubs on the course,
that also included a Morpeth Harriers B team, which finished in 51st place overall, and were fifth B team overall.
Their fastest clocking on the Long Stage, came from John Butters,
who had not run at the venue since his days as a youngster.
John clocked 28m52s, which took the Morpeth B team up by six places
on the fifth leg to 49th, which was to be their highest placing of the day.
Morpeth B team’s fastest Short Stage clocking came on second leg, courtesy of Elliot Kelly,
who posted a time of 17m40s, to take the squad up five places to 51st,
following Jordan Scott’s 29m54s on the Long First Leg, which saw them in 56th place.
Other B team clockings came from, Leg Three Mark Snowball (50th) 29m40s,
Leg Four Jim Alder (55th) 21m00s, Leg Six Steve Haswell (51st) 20m04s,
Leg Seven Michael Thomsen (53rd) 32m09s, Leg Eight David Swinburne (51st) 17m45s,
Leg Nine, Rob Hancox (51st) 32m15s, Leg Ten Chris Waugh (51st) 20m02s,
Leg Eleven Paul Waterston (51st) 32m03s, and Mark Brown (51st) 18m25s.
Unfortunately an injury to Laura Weightman, and the unavailability of Emma Holt,
meant that Morpeth Harriers Senior Women did not line-up as hoped in their 6 Stage Road Relay,
which was won by Aldershot and Farnham.