Morpeth Harriers retained both their Women’s and Men’s titles at the Gordon Smith Relays on an otherwise pretty miserable, wet and windy Wednesday evening last week.
With the course comprising much of the Terry O’ Gara circuit in reverse, i.e. a two mile leg round the Cobalt Business Park, this year we had three women’s and no less than six men’s teams out.
In the women’s race, Gateshead Harriers made the early running with Brigid Dennehy recording the fastest senior female time of the night (11 minutes and 39 seconds), but Rachelle Falloon hung in gamely (despite a troublesome nose-bleed) to finish only 16 seconds behind her in third.
Second leg runner Gemma Floyd had soon caught up with Gateshead’s leader, and passed her in the run in to the change-over with a run of 11m 46s, leaving Jane Hodgson once again to close the victory. This she again did convincingly despite the absence of anyone to really challenge her, running what was not just the fastest veteran time of the night – 11m 35s – but the fastest overall women’s time. Morpeth’s clocking of 35m 16s meant the final margin of victory over Gateshead was nearly a minute, with Tyne Bridge in third.
Morpeth’s B team of Alison Brown (12m 43s), Claire Calverley (13m 44s) and Jane Briggs (13m 17s) also finished in a very respectable sixteenth position (out of sixty five complete teams) in a time of 39m 44s.
Disappointingly, poor Sue Smith was left without a full team due to on the day drop-outs, but came in gamely in 15m 4s on leg 1.
In the men’s race, there was again stiff competition but coming this time from Tyne Bridge Harriers, keen to take back a title Morpeth had taken off them last year.
A returning Sam Hancox, now getting closer to his best after a frustrating few months of injury, got the club off to a flying start with a fine 9m 51s, with Tyne Bridge’s lead runner only some seven seconds behind.
On leg two, it was down to Lee Bennett, currently in fine form, to stay ahead and this he did, clocking 10m 40s and maintaining the exact margin of lead over a Tyne Bridge runner he was giving nearly ten years to.
Adam Pratt went out on leg 3 with the advice and encouragement of one Jim Alder ringing in his ears (was there even a ‘pick your line’?) and clearly he must have listened, running a finely measured 10 minute dead last leg, despite all the best efforts of Marc Fenwick of Tyne Bridge to close him down. Fenwick had got to within ten yards at one point, but ‘I always had a bit left in the tank’, Adam himself said at the end.
The final overall time of 30m 31s was some nine seconds ahead of Tyne Bridge, with host club Wallsend in third. Of note also, however, was the extraordinary run of Wallsend youngster Sam Charlton, still at school, who broke the course record for a fastest leg by running 9m 23s and confirmed the great promise he has already shown over the cross country season this winter.
Morpeth’s dominance was reinforced with further top ten placings by their B and C teams. For the B team, Jordan Scott (10m 7s), Fergus Bates (11m 6s) and a returning but not fully fit Lewis Timmins (10m 20s) finished in fourth overall in 31m 33, and in the C, Tom Innes (10m 4s), Graeme Thorpe (11m 26s)
and Karl Taylor (10m 7s) came in seventh in 31m 37s.
Not far behind, the D of Matthew Boyle (11m 7s), Rob Hancox (11m 41s) and Richard Johnson (10m 28s) were 12th in 33m 16s and the E of young Matthew Briggs (10m 23s), Paul Waterston (12m 14s)
and Shaun Land (11m 50s) 17th in 34m 27s.
Meawhile the all veteran team of Dave Nicholson (12m 27s), Paul Bellingham (12m 52s)
and Jamie Johnson (11m 59s) were 38th in 37m 18s.
75 complete teams finished. A win, five teams in the top 20 and some newer members running these kinds of relays for the first time meant it was a very productive night, notwithstanding the lousy conditions.
The post race buffet wasn’t bad either, for those who stayed.