A combative team performance from Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men’s squad saw them finish in the top ten at the National Six Stage Road Relays held at Sutton Park,
Birmingham on a blustery Sunday afternoon (6th October 2019)
Posting an overall time of 1 hour 48 minutes and 52 seconds, the team finished in 8th place overall,
their highest team placing in the competition for a number of years.
The relay, which draws together the leading running clubs from all over England and Wales, was won by a currently unstoppable Leeds City AC in a time of 1:44:46, although the lead at the front had changed hands between no less than five clubs during the race, including Newham and Essex Beagles, Aldershot Farnham and District, Cambridge and Coleridge AC and Cardiff, with Leeds only coming out on top on the very last leg.
Sam Hancox got Morpeth’s challenge under way on leg 1, always a fiercely contested one, and his clocking of 18:05 saw them in 27th place. The early lead was contested between Newham and Essex, Cambridge, Aldershot and Guildford, with only 4 seconds separating the clubs.
In his first outing in a Morpeth vest, new recruit Chris Parr moved the club up some 17 places to 10th with a posting of 17:46, the third fastest for the leg. Meanwhile the overall lead had passed to Aldershot and Farnham, although Michael Ward’s 17:22 for Cardiff, fastest of the leg, had now moved them up to 3rd place.
The team slipped slightly to 16th after Phil Winkler’s 18:55 third leg; Shaftesbury Barnet were now in the lead thanks to Liam Dee’s 17: 12 clocking (the 6th fastest overall of the day, in fact) with Aldershot and Cardiff 2nd and 3rd respectively. Leeds had now, however, ominously moved up to 4th thanks a flying 17:02 by Philip Sesemann, 4th fastest of the day overall.
George Lowry battled back to 12th with a strong run 18:06 on leg 4 to get the club again within sight of the top 10, with Aldershot back at the top thanks to Richard Allen’s 17:26, with Cardiff and Leeds behind.
Youngster Alex Brown moved the team up one more place on leg 5 to 11th with 18:38. Cardiff must have thought they had at least a medal at this point, in 1st place with a 44 second advantage over Cambridge and Coleridge’s 4th, with the silver and bronze medals looking like going to the same clubs. Marc Scott had,
however, ran the fastest time of the day for Cambridge with 16:46 to put them in sight of a medal,
while Emile Cairess for Leeds ran 17:02, 3rd fastest of the day overall.
So it was left again to Carl Avery to see what he could do on the final leg for Morpeth. As he had done in the Northern event, Avery once more pulled out all the stops for a flying last leg of 17:22, the second fastest clocking for leg 6 behind Graham Rush of Leeds and just outside the top ten fastest overall of the day, to move the team up a further three places into 8th, only some 3 minutes 15 seconds off a medal placing.
At the front of the race, last leg for Leeds Graham Rush ran 17:18 to hunt down those in front of him, the only time in the whole relay the club had actually lead! With Cardiff’s last leg runner only clocking 18:44, it was the Welsh club who missed out, with Aldershot Farnham and District picking up silver in 1:45:19 and Cambridge and Coleridge bronze in 1:45:37. Leeds recorded three of the fastest times of the day thanks to the runs of Cairess, Sesemann and Rush, and both Cambridge and Cardiff also had two runners each in that top ten.
There was pride for Morpeth, however, in being the second club overall from the North of England behind winners Leeds City AC, but ahead of strong North West outfits from Manchester (Sale and Salford Harriers) and Liverpool, and again clearly first from the North East. ( Tyne Bridge were 49th in 1:59:13
and Gateshead a distant 56th in 2:00:52)
The club’s Under 15 boys also competed earlier in the Junior three stage relay, won by Vale Royal AC in 38:20,
and after Ryan Davies unfortunately lost time after being knocked over at the start,
the team did really well to recover to 19th.
Davies picked himself up and dusted himself down to run 14:04 on leg 1, Bertie Marr went a couple of seconds faster on leg 2, and Joe Dixon clocked an excellent 12:50 to move the club into 19th position overall out of some 62 clubs.
With all three athletes gaining valuable experience by competing at this level and eligible to run
in this age group again next year, this is certainly another positive sign of progress.
Fellow North Easterners North Shields Polytechnic incidentally picked up bronze medals in this race,
with teenage speed merchant Josh Blevins in fact recording the fastest U/15 time of the day in 12:29.