Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s Road and Cross Country squad were certainly
the toast of the North Eastern Counties region on Saturday 31st October,
when for the seventh time, they won the Saucony sponsored
English Cross Country 4 Stage Relay Championship,
held as usual at its ancestral home, at Berry Hill Park in Mansfield.
It would be very true to say that there was perhaps no one prouder
on the occasion than new English Cross Country President Bill McGuirk,
when he was given the honour of presenting the well deserved Gold Medals,
and winner’s trophy to a club from his own region.
Morpeth fought a superb battle over the 4 x 5k event, to eventually take the title in a total time of 61m38.25s, winning by a mere second from London club Highgate Harriers,
with Kent challengers Tonbridge AC, who had been first time winners in the 6 Stage Road Relays, at Sutton Park earlier in the month, and had been very much fancied for further glory, a further forty eight seconds adrift in third place.
Lewis Timmins began the Morpeth quest for medals on a very competitive leg one,
when he came home in 15m39.70s in 21st place. Morpeth’s second leg runner Jonny Taylor, who has raced very sparingly in recent times, certainly made up for any lost time and ground,
by clawing back a mammoth seventeen places, as he got round the two lap 5k circuit in an excellent 15m09.35s, which eventually emerged as the fourth fastest of the day.
Although Morpeth’s third leg runner Ian Hudspith lost a place,
he didn’t lose much ground in terms of time on those around him,
with his individual clocking of 15m42.50s, as the lead changed
for the third time in the contest, when Bristol and West took up
the leaders mantle, after early leaders Derby had slipped back quite dramatically,
and second leg leaders Reading, courtesy of the fastest time of the day of 14m53.05s,
by Jonathan Davies, also slipped further back to eighth place.
It was now Bristol and West as leaders out in front, then Liverpool Harriers,
Highgate Harriers, Tonbridge, and Morpeth Harriers locked together
in a close battle for the minor medals, as Nick Swinburn embarked on the final 5k leg.
Leaders Bristol and West were the first to succumb to the intense pressure,
as they surprisingly slipped back to sixth, although they only wilted
at the commencement of their second lap.
It was now Liverpool Harriers, Highgate Harriers, Tonbridge, Morpeth,
and 2014 Champions Stockport at the helm of affairs, with Leeds City,
always a danger, not far adrift.
Eventually it was Highgate’s new signing Andy Maud,
and Nick Swinburn who began to show prominence,
and going down the final hill on the second lap,
there was very little being given or indeed taken as
the pair scented Gold, as Tonbridge began to settle for Bronze.
Swinburn’s fell racing experience eventually told as he put slight daylight
between himself and Maud as the finish line beckoned, and he clearly showed his delight in claiming the much prized Gold medals,
by clocking the day’s second fastest individual time of 15m06.70s.
He was immediately joined by his club colleagues and supporters
in celebration of medals for the region, something which had been
elusive during the previous nine events on the day.
Whilst the clubs A team triumphed in Gold medal success,
well due praise could also be heaped on their B team,
who were third B team overall,
when they finished in 24th place in 66m07.70s,
and regionally tenth from the North of England.
They were also third from the North East,
behind their A team colleagues, and Gateshead Harriers,
who had performed well to finish 15th.
Fastest performer for the Morpeth B team
was their second leg runner Ady Whitwam.
Fresh from his excellent 24th place in the previous weeks
Morrisons Great South Run 10mile event,
Whitwam clocked 16m05.15s, which saw him claw back
an excellent twenty places, following Chris Smith’s first leg effort of 16m26.10s.
The final two legs saw Sam Hancox and Karl Taylor achieve times
of 16m49.15s and 16m47.30s respectively, which saw them claw
a further four places between them.
Morpeth’s Senior Men’s C team finished in 57th place in 71m03.75s,
which saw them as third C team home.
This meant that the club’s three Senior Men’s teams had each finished
in the top half of a total finishing field of 149 clubs out of 178 who had started.
Fastest in the Morpeth C team was second leg runner Ian Harding,
who posted an individual time of 16m36.05s,
which saw him manage to pull back a mammoth thirty places.
First leg runner Kevin Calvert was the second fastest
in the Morpeth C team, clocking 16m55.60s.
Third and fourth leg efforts were posted by Veteran athletes
Mick Thomsen and Rob Hancox, with respective
times of 18m14.85s and 19m17.25s.
As a footnote to the Senior Men’s performance, Ian Hudspith
is the only member of the current squad to have run in all
seven of the clubs Gold Medal wins, and prior to being in the first squad
who won, he had also featured in a winning Morpeth Harriers Junior Men’s squad,
that also included his brother Mark, and Terry West, back in the ninety’s.
Another excellent Morpeth Harriers team performance came earlier in the day from their
very consistent Under 13 Girls squad, who managed to finish seventh out of 65 finishing teams.
They were also second from the North of England behind fifth places Sale Harriers,
who were only 21 seconds ahead.
The Morpeth Girls posted a total time for their 3 x 2k event of 23m37.40s,
which was also only 42 seconds adrift of medals.
Lily Heaton got the squad off to a good start, when she came home
in seventeenth place, posting a finishing time of 7m44.35s.
Rhiannon Hedley on second leg, managed to pull back a further
three places on second leg with a time of 8m12.45s.
Holly Peck ran an absolutely superb final leg, which saw
her pull back seven places to finish in seventh place,
and her clocking of 7m40.60s was certainly amongst the top twenty times.
A truly excellent performance on an individual basis for Morpeth, was that of Under 17 Man Scott Beattie, who came home in first position on leg one, posting a finishing time of 8m55.65s, which eventually
emerged as the fastest time in their 3 x 3k event.
Morpeth’s second leg runner Jacob Hopkins did his level best
to maintain a respectable position as he got round in 10m47.85s, to finish 25th.
Final leg runner Kieran Hedley pulled back seven places to finish 18th, with a respective clocking of 9m43.10s.
They were also fourth from the North of England.
In the Under 15 Boys 3 x 2k event, Morpeth Harriers two squads finished
in respective places of 20th and 46th in a finishing field of 74 teams.
The Morpeth A team were fifth from the North of England in 20m27.95s,
thanks to the individual leg efforts of Rory Leonard (6m35.75s),
Taylor Glover (6m34.85s), and Connor Marshall (7m17.35s)
Jordan Hedgecock (7m08.65s), Daniel Melling (7m13.95s),
and Ross Charlton (7m09.55s) were the respective runners
in the Morpeth Under 15 Boys B team, who were seventh B team,
and eighteenth from team the North of England.
In a very hotly contested Senior Women’s 3 x 3k event,
Morpeth Harriers finished 28th out of 92 complete teams,
and were also twelfth home from the North of England.
They were also second home from the North East Counties,
with Gateshead Harriers slightly ahead of them in 25th place.
Fastest in the Morpeth team was first leg runner Emma Holt,
who came home in 20th place in 10m15.25s.
Second leg runner Josie Cram posted a time of 11m20.10s,
and third and final leg runner Vicky Gibbs clocked 11m55.15s.
Morpeth Harriers Junior Men finished 42nd in their 3 x 3k event,
in a total time of 30m02.45s courtesy of Elliot Kelly (9m32.80s),
Nathan Cox (9m33.60s), and Ryan Green (10m56.05s).
They were also seventeenth from the North of England,
and third from the North East Counties.
Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys finished 54th in their 3 x 2k event, and unfortunately their performance was blighted by final leg runner Bobby Stone
missing sight of his incoming second leg runner Dylan Davies
coming in to the changeover zone because of a melee of rival runners, resulting in losing several places being lost.
First leg runner Andrew Hudspith had run very well,
clocking 7m25.35s, when coming home in 32nd place.
Davies clocked 8m06.70s on leg two, and Stone’s time was given as 9m11.25s.
Morpeth were nineteenth from the North of England,
and fourth home from the North East Counties in this age group.
The club did not contest the Under 15 Girls,
and Under 17 and Junior Women’s events.