Despite missing a number of their leading performers, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men
still managed to pull off an excellent team victory for the second year in succession
at the annual Royal Signals North Eastern Road Relay Championships,
held at Hetton Lyons Park, in Hetton Le Hole, County Durham, on Saturday 20th February.
In fact it was an excellent red letter day for the club, as their Senior Women
also pulled of a very hard fought victory in their 4 Stage contest,
beating off reigning champions Birtley AC by a twenty six second margin.
The Senior Men’s contest comprising of 6 Stages, each of a 2.2mile distance,
saw the lead change no less than on four occasions, with Morpeth eventually
taking victory over Gateshead Harriers, after surrendering a lead to them momentarily midway in the contest.
It was Durham City who took an early lead on Leg One, courtesy of Dan Jenkin,
easily their fastest performer, and eventually second fastest on the day.
On first Leg, Morpeth Harriers A team came home in fourth place,
courtesy of Kevin Calvert’s 11m02s, which was tenth equal fastest of the day.
Second leg saw Morpeth grab the lead for the first time, thanks to Ross Floyd’s excellent 10m58s,
(second fastest of the leg, and eighth fastest of the day),
only a mere seven seconds ahead of Gateshead,
who were gradually beginning to impose themselves on proceedings.
Meanwhile Durham City had slipped back to third, and close to thirty seconds adrift of the leading two.
At this point Morpeth had Ian Hudspith in action for them, up against Marc Elliot of Gateshead.
Hudspith at the tender age of 46 managed to pull further clear with his superb clocking of 10m47s,
which was to eventually emerge as fifth fastest on the day, and at halfway Morpeth had now
built up a twenty two second lead over their closest rivals, who were still Gateshead,
however Durham City had now slipped back to fourth, and Tees-siders New Marske
had now pushed their way into third, courtesy of North Eastern Cross Country Under 17 Silver Medallist Hassan Ben-Tiba.
On fourth leg for Morpeth was Karl Taylor, who after a superb autumn
had gone through a very indifferent period fighting off niggling injuries.
Whilst Taylor managed to hold on to the lead throughout the majority of his leg,
he was eventually passed on his second lap by Gateshead’s Chris Parr,
who clocked the days fastest time of 10m40s, which saw him take his club
into a twelve second lead, as Taylor got round in 11m16s, which proved to be the fourth fastest of the leg.
This lead was quickly extinguished however by Morpeth’s Carl Avery
on the fifth and penultimate lap, as he turned the twelve second deficit
into a thirty four second lead, courtesy of a third equal fastest time of the day of 10m43s.
This was definitely the catalyst for an outstanding victory for Morpeth Harriers,
and final leg runner Lewis certainly wasted no time in firming up a last leg advantage,
as he got round I 11m04s, which eventually saw his club home with a total time over the six legs of 65m50s,
which gave them a seventy one second cushion over the still second placed Gateshead Harriers,
with Sunderland Harriers just eclipsing New Marske for the Bronze medals, a further 110 seconds adrift.
New Marske held onto fourth spot, however they very nearly lost out on that
placing to a very fast finishing Morpeth Harriers B team, who were fifth in 69m14s,
courtesy of Robert Balmbra (11m35s), Taylor Glover (11m50s),( tenth fastest of Leg Two),
Ryan Stephenson (11m18s), (fifth fastest of Leg Three), Sam Hancox (11m08s), (second fastest of Leg Four),
Kieran Hedley (11m48s),( fourth fastest of Leg Five), and Jordan Scott (11m35s), (fifth fastest of Leg Six).
Hancox’s fourth leg run was particularly excellent, when he put the squad into fourth place,
and after a week filled with nursing a very heavy cold.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s team eventually claimed a superb
team victory in their 4 Stage Relay after a steady start.
Alison Brown, who had been due to run for the B team got a last minute call-up to the A team,
and found it particularly tough on a fast first leg, as she came home in 17th place, with her clocking of 14m47.
All was not lost however, as Women’s course record holder Laura Weightman
elevated Morpeth into a Senior Women’s team lead, with her clocking of 11m48s,
easily the day’s fastest Senior Women’s time.
Josie Cram maintained the lead from 2015 champions Birtley AC, as she got round in 13m14s.
Morpeth’s Emma Holt sealed the Gold Medals on the final leg with her clocking of 12m25s,
which saw her club win by twenty six seconds from Birtley,
with Gateshead Harriers taking the Bronze medals a further 90 seconds adrift.
The club’s Senior Women’s B team, courtesy of Morag Stead (13m23s), Jane Hodgson (13m57s),
Lizzy Rank (15m57s) and Jessica Swindells (15m49s) on her relay debut for Morpeth, finished seventh.
In the Veteran Women’s 4 Stage event, Morpeth Harriers gallant band of competitive athletes,
comprising of Carol Parry (16m31s), Claire Walker (17m21s), Pam Woodcock (17m10s),
and Susan Smith (17m18s), finished 25th out of 30 complete teams.
Bronze Medals were gained in the Male Veteran Over 50’s section by Morpeth Harriers,
who finished third behind very strong squads from North Shield Poly, and Sunderland Harriers.
Competing in the 4 stage event for the club were Rob Hancox (13m19s), (fifth fastest on Leg One),
who has only just recovered from a hernia operation, Paul Bellingham (14m40s), (eighth fastest on Leg Two),
Alistair MacDonald (13m15s), (third fastest on Leg Three) and Paul Waterston (12m43s),
(second fastest on Leg Four).
The times of Waterston and MacDonald also proved to be
seventh and tenth overall in the Over 50 Men’s Relay.
Unfortunately lack of a fourth runner robbed Morpeth Harriers of
a prominent finish also by their B team in the Veteran Men’s Over 50 contest.
At the end of three legs they were lying in tenth place,
courtesy of Peter Scaife (14m36s), Kevin Bray (14m54s),
and Neil McAnaney (14m20s).
McAnaney was also seventh fastest on the third leg.