Morpeth Harriers Senior Men won back the Royal Signals Relays trophy they had lost last year while their Senior Women were second in the North East Counties Road Relays Championships held at Hetton Lyons Country Park on a blustery Saturday afternoon.(15th February)
With none of the administrative haggling that had delayed the running of last year’s race to the Autumn,
the event was once again restored to its traditional early season spot in the timetable with the
main worry being the threat of the impending Storm Dennis from the West.
The opening race of the day incorporated both the Women’s and Men Over 50 Championships
and was run over four legs of the traditional 2.2 mile, undulating circuit of the lake.
An outstanding run by Gateshead Harrier teenager Chloe Wellings, who clocked the fastest women’s time of the day (12 minutes 25 seconds) put the outfit from South of the Tyne into an early lead on leg 1 which they never relinquished, although Robyn Bennett brought Morpeth Harriers home in 2nd place (13:03).
On leg 2, Rachelle Falloon ran an identical time to the Gateshead athlete (12:51),
although Michelle Thompson took a few seconds back on leg 3 with her clocking of 14:23.
In the end, the gap on leg 4 was too great for veteran Jane Hodgson (13:07) to win back against another teenage athlete, and the club settled for a strong second place and a set of greatly enjoyed silver medals.
Morpeth’s Veteran Women’s team, comprising Sue Smith (16:53), Pam Woodcock (17:45), Margaret Macdonald (19:06) and Lesley Chapman (17:57), were 17th VW team, with NSP’s Veterans clear winners in the competition.
Morpeth’s Over 50s Men’s team suffered from having lost two of its potentially fastest runners to the Over 40s during the week as injury and availability badly comprised selections, but put together a respectable 6th place performance.
Ironically, first club across the line – Tyne Bridge Harriers – were later disqualified due to last leg runner Steve Cairns being ineligible (although he has run and medalled for them here before). This meant North Shields Polytechnic’s O/50s, featuring of course World Masters Champion Guy Bracken (who clocked 11:49 here),
were awarded Gold medals, although by then a disgusted Vaughan Hemy had already sloped off in anger at his own last leg!
Morpeth’s A team of 0/65 Dave Nicholson (14:10), Paul Waterston (13:55), Alistair Macdonald (14:09)
and Neil MacAnany (14:01) clocked a total time of 56:24 behind NSP A and B, Sunderland A and B and Elswick.
Meanwhile an incomplete B team of Paul Brown (14:41),
Bill Tilley (15:13) and Paul Bellingham (15:19) also turned out.
In the Senior and Men’s O/40 six stage that followed, with so many of the club’s leading
Senior Men having run in Armagh on Thursday evening, team manager David Swinburne had no choice but to put his faith in no less than four of the club’s teenagers, and they all proved deserving of the trust placed in them,
the team winning by over a minute from their nearest rivals.
A keenly contested 1st leg saw local club Houghton Harriers take an early lead with what proved to be the fastest time of the day, 10 minutes 34 seconds, by outstanding youngster Henry Johnson. Morpeth’s Kieran Hedley hung on gamely to record 11:05 however, finishing in 4th position behind athletes from Sunderland and Darlington Harriers.
Taylor Glover ran an almost identical time of 11:06 on leg 2, and although Gateshead Harriers had moved up the field thanks to a sub 11 clocking by evergreen Conrad Franks, Morpeth took a lead of 14 seconds at the end of the leg that they were never thereafter to lose.
Dan Melling on leg 3 - the second Mike Bateman-coached athlete to figure - ran a very well-judged 11:14 that showed he was in no way overawed by the competition around him, and the club retained a 9 second lead over Gateshead Harriers at the end of the leg.
Rowan Bennett, the 4th Morpeth teenager to feature, clocked the club’s fastest time of the day (11:02),
with one of the club’s best runs, and with the margin to Gateshead having gone out to nearly 15 seconds,
victory was now very much on the cards.
It was useful for the club to be able to draw on the experience of a returning Sam Hancox on leg 5,
who showed he had missed the challenge of a good race as he ran a confident 11:04.
Behind Hancox, it was now Sunderland and Houghton locked in a tussle for the minor medals
with the gap to both having gone out to well over a minute.
Having run in Armagh less than 48 hours previously, last leg runner Adam Pratt was no doubt happy then to be able to run on cruise control, his clocking of 11:17 bringing Morpeth to a cumulative winning time of 1:06:48, a minute and 10 seconds ahead of Sunderland and Houghton Harriers in 2nd and 3rd, with Gateshead having been run out.
Meanwhile the club’s 0/40 veterans were unlucky to finish
in a respectable 4th place behind Tyne Bridge, Sunderland and NSP.
Jamie Johnson, currently in full London Marathon training, got the club off on leg 1
with a posting of 13:26 and evergreen Gavin Bayne – who had only been asked to step
down the night before and willingly obliged – ran 14:15 on leg 2.
In his first ever veteran relay for the club, Eric Adams ran 13:45 on leg 3
and Lee Bennett the club’s fastest veteran time of the day, 12:38 on leg 4.
Rob Hancox was another who willingly stepped down an age group, running 13:24 on leg 5,
and Jason Dawson finished the club’s account with 13:28 on leg 6,
the team finishing just over a minute outside the medals.