The third North East Counties Athletics Association Track and Field Open Meeting took place at the KEVI track at Morpeth on Sunday 27th October with what again proved to be a very popular event, drawing athletes not just from the expected North East clubs but from also those as far away as Thames Valley, Team Bath and Ayr.
Held once more under strict UK Athletics Covid-19 secure guidance, the event featured graded races in which athletes from Under 13 upwards put forward an expected time and were placed in heats against athletes of similar abilities. This time there were opportunities for athletes looking to run a longer distance over 3000m, as well as some seventeen 800m and 100m races and also hurdles events, while in the field long and triple jumps, discus, shot and javelin were all offered.
For Morpeth, Under 17 girls Charlotte Earl (13.41 seconds) and Alice Geoghegan (13.04s) were both winners of their respective heats and recorded personal bests over 100m, as did fellow U/17 Josh Adams in his (12.22s). U/20 Kayleigh Wenn ran a 14.67s pb and was second in her category. Fastest run of the day in a Morpeth vest was by Senior David Storey, who clocked 11.72s behind Gateshead Harriers Matthew Lawson (11.28s) and Joel Brown-King (11.50s) who recorded the day’s fastest times. O/40 Phil Pitt recorded the day’s fastest veteran time of the day of 11.91s, fractionally off his best time of the year.
U/15 hurdler Hannah Lott was a winner over the 75 metre distance (12.36s) and later ran a pb of 13.82s for 100m despite a nasty fall over the line in the earlier race.
Senior athlete Lindsey Quinn won by a huge distance in her heat of the 800m, with a big pb of 2 minutes 34:84 seconds to show for it. Neil McAnany looked in great shape in his heat, running 2:25:54 and coming in second, with U/15 Caitlin Flanagan clocking 2:36:13 in the same race. In the fifteenth 800m, U/20 Connor Marshall was first in 2:08:03, taking a whole ten seconds off his previous time and looking both strong and comfortable. Liam Roche, third in the same heat, also ran a pb of 2:19:98. In the penultimate race, U/17 Joe Anderson, who had again taken the race out hard from the off, went seconds better than his previous effort over the distance with a time of 2:05:08, despite finally finishing fourth.
The final 800m of the day was a terrific race, with Luke Pickering of Houghton Harriers in a strong first place for nearly 700m with Morpeth’s Ali Douglas gamely hanging on just behind. With Douglas able to find some extra yards down the home straight, a win for the Warkworth based athlete in front of coach Jim Alder was on the cards till Alnwick’s U/20 Oliver Telfer - who had enjoyed a tow from Douglas for the first 700m - eased past him on the run in to win in the day’s fastest time of 1:59:04. Douglas had the consolation at least of clocking the day’s only other sub two minute time of 1:59:63.
There were fewer 3000m races, but once again there were many promising younger Morpeth athletes prominent. In their first ever attempts over the distance, U/17s James Tilley and Matthew Walton were both heat winners, with Walton especially looking comfortable when recording 9:53:96, having led from gun to tape. Millie Breeze, also in her first ever 3000m, recorded 10:25:59 and Cat Macdonald 10:52:80 in their heat.
Once again the final two races provided a great spectacle, with Morpeth’s U/15 Bertie Marr coming in second behind Ethan Bond of Gosforth Harriers but knocking a huge 30 seconds off his previous best for the distance, with club colleagues Ryan Davies and Will De Vere Owen also running new best times of 9:33:36 and 9:36:43 in 4th and 5th.
The best race was perhaps kept to last, however, with a lung-bursting battle between Sam Hancox and David Race of Gateshead taking place over the last 150 metres, Hancox having as expected made all the early pace. In the event the appropriately named Race, who has been victorious on the Morpeth track over both 800m and 1500m already this Summer and is second on Power of Ten for both distances this year, had too much speed in the run in and clocked the day’s best time of 8:27:66. (A time that puts him also second on Power of Ten) Hancox had the consolation of dipping under the 8m 30s barrier however, taking a whole 11 seconds off his previous best in front of his watching coach Tony Leonard and vociferous father Rob. Spare a thought in passing for poor Mark Snowball in the same heat, who suffered the curse of the shoe that was neither on nor off but gamely battled on to 9:46:57.
NEMAA, thanks to the efforts of the indefatigable Archie Jenkins, also used the opportunity to put on their 3000m Championships. The men’s 55s and Over saw a terrific battle between Morpeth’s O/65 class acts of Gavin Bayne and Dave Nicholson, with Nicholson sticking to Bayne like glue for the first seven laps and somehow finding a bit extra down the home straight to take the NEMAA gold in a time of 11:05:53, in the process knocking previous record holder Elswick’s Mark McNally out of the record books, with Bayne recording 11:06:61 on a day when he said he just never quite felt right. Ahead of them, the professorial David Oxland of Notts AC clocked 10:46:19, a time that puts him second in the national rankings for the O/65 cat this year. Although tenth in the race, Andrew Dippie picked up an 0/60 NEMAA silver in a time of 12:32:53. In the following race, O/45 John Butters, in his first track race for three years, was second to Alastair Johnson of Gosforth, recording 9:42:81. Perhaps disappointingly, there were no Morpeth Harriers in the earlier Women’s race, where Jarrow and Hebburn’s Alexis Dodd ran the day’s fastest time of 10:58:33. Fastest Veteran time overall was of course Conrad Franks, never a man to miss a race, with 8:56:03.
While there were less athletes participating in Jumps and Throws, there were nonetheless many respectable performances despite the inevitable rustiness from lack of competition. Under 17 Abbie Ross jumped 4.70 metres and U/15 Olivia Gent 3.98 in the Long Jump, with Ross’s the longest jump of the day. U/17 Charlotte Earl recorded 10.60m in the triple jump while Bobbie Griffiths had the day’s longest throw in the javelin of 36.28m ahead of U/17 Alice Geoghegan (30.37m) and U/15 Ed Gardiner (27.39m).
Finally - and quite remarkably - brother and sister Ed and Jess Gardiner managed to throw exactly the same distance in the discus of 29.85m, the day’s second longest distance behind Gateshead’s Thomas Mann (30.68m).
With respect, Jess was throwing a lighter weight of implement.
As competition concluded under pleasantly sunny skies, NECAA announced that they were so satisfied with how the day went overall that a further meeting for 18th October had been scheduled, a further compliment to how Morpeth Harriers have conducted themselves over the last couple of months.