Cross country action resumed at Druridge Bay Country Park on Sunday with the second NEHL fixture.
Though hosted by Blyth Running Club and Alnwick Harriers, the event has always been very much a ‘home’ fixture for Morpeth and there was a good number of both Young and Senior athletes in action.
The previous week’s rain had made little impact on the surface, with a terrain that is more of a trail race than a traditional cross country fixture – indeed, the most challenging aspect was not the relatively brief climbs but the many ruts and potholes on some difficult ground which had been previously heavily grazed by cattle.
Unfortunate Morpeth Under 13 James Harrison came a cropper in his race and had to be taken to hospital, where x-rays revealed a chipped ankle. Well done to colleague Irwin Wilby who sacrificed his own race to stay by him until help arrived. The club sends best wishes to both. Thankfully, there were no other serious accidents despite several fallers.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the day for Morpeth was again the performance of veteran Jane Hodgson in the penultimate Women’s race. Showing no after-effects from last week’s Kielder Marathon, Jane put all her younger rivals to shame when coming through from Fast Pack with a 5 minute handicap to get up to 11th place, and in the process clocked the fastest time of the day for the two lap course of 25 minutes 11 seconds.
She was supported by Tayla Murdy, 15th (30:26) and Sarah Lawson, 16th (30:36), both from Slow Pack, with debutant Savannah Kelley completing the team count in 114th.
A good turn out once again by the Senior Women, which featured two first timers in addition to Savannah, saw the club finish fifth on the day and move up the league table to a joint 5th place overall. However, they should continue to climb the standings as other clubs see their slower runners move up a pack, as long as they can maintain the same numbers.
Other Morpeth finishers were: Jane Briggs, 115th, 31:12 from Medium; Eleanor Blackburn, 116th from Slow in 33:34; Claire Calverley, 134th from Medium in 31:34; Sarah Routledge, 176th from Slow in 34:57; Sue Smith, 196th from Slow in 35:22 and Louise Burt, 272nd from Slow in 37:32. Some 428 finished.
Biggest field of the day was once again the final Senior Men’s race with some 500 plus finishers.
Won by Lewis Roberts of Heaton Harriers in 35:46, U/20 Joe Anderson put his disappointment at Wrekenton a fortnight ago – where he had struggled in the heat – behind him, and this time produced an excellent race to come home in 2nd place in a time of 36:12 from Slow Pack.
Andy Lawrence was another Harrier showing no ill effects from a marathon, this time Berlin, as he ran the club’s fastest time of the day from Medium Pack (34:43) to finish next form the club in 6th in front of two generations of Lawrences watching on.
Connor Marshall was 17th (36:27) from Medium Pack and Lee Bennett 45th (37:38), with Bennett ensuring his move to Fast Pack from successive races, some achievement for an Over 50 and belying his earlier claim, ‘I won’t do much from Medium’.
Fifth club counter was Ali Douglas from Fast, 48th in 37:38, with the final scorer the ever reliable Jordan Scott, 58th in 35:24 from Fast.
Morpeth narrowly missed out on the team win, however, losing to Tyne Bridge Harriers with Sunderland Harriers in third. The club remains at the top of the early league table nevertheless in what looks to be very much a three-horse race this season.
There were fine runs further down the field also, with a return to competition after several years out by Phil Walker, now an Over 55 vet, and the annual cross country outing by Paul Banks, this time only a week after London.
Other finishers were: Mark Snowball, 84th from Fast in 36:09; Phil Walker, 103rd from Slow in 41:32; Paul Banks, 111st from Slow in 41:45; Andrew Hebden, 175th from Medium in 40:41; Eric Adams, 177th from Slow in 43:19; Dave Nicholson, just making the start and running from Slow in 43:39 for 199th; debutant Richard Glennie, 227th from Slow in 44:45; Paul Brown, 238th from Slow in 45:07; Andrew Dippie, 36oth from Slow in 48:49; Peter Scaife, 408th from Very Slow in 50:50, and Marius Van Aswegen, 502nd in 65:43.
Earlier races for young athletes did see several team victories. The U/17 boys, led by Ralph Robson in 5th, with James Tilley 6th and Sam Tate 11th, were 1st on the day. There were further supporting runs from Bertie Marr, 19th in 16:42, Matt Walton, 24th also from Fast in 17:01, Liam Roche, 25th in 17:15, all from Fast, and Adam Howliston, 22nd in 19:53. They comfortably sit at the top of the early league tables.
The combined U/17 Girls and U/20 Senior Women team also finished 1st team. Abi Leiper had a good race to finish 3rd in 20:16 from Slow with Millie Breese 4th in 19:08 from Fast and Kate Gaffing 8th from Slow in 20:28. Caitlin Flanagan was 22nd (22:45) and Sophia Cunningham 29th (25:32). The team is also now top of their division.
The club’s U/13 girls were 4th on the day with Molly Roche (15:15) the club’s fastest, supported by Emma Tomlinson, 19th in 14:45 from Fast and Charlotte Marshall, 21st in 16:32 from Slow, Megan Potrac, 39th in 18:04 and Rosie Heaton, 54th in 19:41. The team occupy 3rd place in their division.
Meanwhile the U/15 boys went a couple of places better and placed 2nd to Blaydon Harriers. Not put out by the previous day’s exertions, Oli Calvert was 10th in 11:50 and Joe Close 12th in 11:59, both from Fast and not showing after effects from their runs at Sutton Park, with Stephen Craske in 20th making up the team count. Dan Burrow was 29th. Even better, they also now top their league table.
Tabby Robson was the club’s sole representative in the U/15 girls, 6th in 13:55 while Ewan Line was able to put his misdirection at Wrekenton behind him when finishing in a much better 6th in the U/11s.
The early season tables show Morpeth at the top of no less than four out of the seven team divisions, an excellent start to the season which will get tougher, however, with both more challenging courses and winter weather to come.