Wintry conditions severely affected the 110th North Eastern Counties Athletics Association annual
Cross Country Championships, held at Sedgefield’s Eastfield Park on Saturday 12th December 2015.
Despite this, with the aid of excellent course marshalling by the local club Sedgefield Harriers,
and a willing band of UK Athletics Officials, the scheduled nine race programme
was fully completed without any major problems.
In the competition itself, Morpeth Harriers & AC once again proved to be a very dominant force,
claiming no less than four team titles, two in each gender, two individual gold medals,
One set of Silver, and one set of Bronze team medals, and six other individual medals.
The overall results in the Male competition, will probably show that the club
has also retained the Best Performance Trophy in that category.
With all results to be still fully scrutinised, it also remains to be seen whether Morpeth
will also add the overall Female trophy to their success list, which will ultimately lead
to them being the best overall performers in the championship,
which will also bring another trophy to the clubs cabinet.
In the second event of the day, the Under 13 Girls 3k Championship,
Holly Peck led Morpeth Harriers home to their first set of team medals,
when she won by twenty one seconds from Houghton’s Nicole Phillips,
to take the individual Gold Medal.
Holly was well supported in the excellent Morpeth team win by Lily Heaton,
who only just missed out on an individual Bronze by three seconds
behind Gateshead’s Ines Curran, and tenth placed Rhiannon Hedley.
Having her first experience of a championship, Morpeth’s Lauren Cummings
also produced an excellent run to finish in sixteenth place in the 58 strong field.
Morpeth took their second individual Gold in the final event of the day,
the Under 17 Men’s 5.6k Championship, which by comparison was run
during heavy snow showers, which had prevailed since the middle
of the competition, severely affecting much of the last five events.
The individual Gold Medal went to Scott Beattie, who after surviving
at least two mid race falls due to the increased slippery surfaces,
went on to superbly take his win by the margin of eight seconds
from the strongly challenging Hassan Ben-Tiba of New Marske Harriers.
Third place went to Tynedale’s Max Pearson, who had to work very hard
indeed to fend off the Bronze Medal chasing challenges from
Morpeth’s Kieran Hedley, who only just lost out by the slender
margin of three seconds at the finish line.
Morpeth also just lost out by one point in the Under 17
Men’s team race to Durham City Harriers for the Gold Medals.
The clubs third and closing counter Josh Burton competed well
in the testing conditions to finish nineteenth out of the thirty five
finishing competitors, that also included club colleague
Jacob Hopkins, who finished twenty fourth.
Despite not having leading athletes Jonny Taylor, who was competing
in the European Cross Country Championships in France,
and Nick Swinburn, who was a late absentee, having picked up a training injury,
and is scheduled to run for his country in Belgium next weekend,
and pulled out as a precaution, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men
totally dominated all of their opposition in their four lap 12k Championship,
which was run at the height of a very heavy snowfall.
Such was the clubs domination, that with six only to count,
they had no less than nine figuring in the top thirty of just over 400 on the course,
and another four inside the top hundred finishers.
First of those was World Duathlon Sprint Champion Carl Avery,
who is producing some superb performances of late.
Avery was very much involved in his own personal battle
with Stockport’s Patrick Martin, himself a former winner of the Championship,
who had won at Darlington when wearing the vest of Sunderland Harriers,
and his Morpeth club colleague Peter Newton, making a welcome return to action following injury.
Martin was not to be denied his victory however,
as he started to go away from Avery at the end
of the first of four laps on the testing surface,
which was now cutting up as the snow continued to fall.
In the end the Stockport man was happy to take victory,
and the Gold Medal by the margin of twenty seven seconds,
however Avery battled well alongside team-mate Newton throughout the final lap,
and was much relieved that he was eventually able to put a fourteen second
cushion between them at the finish line to claim the Silver Medal,
leaving Newton to hang on for the Bronze ahead of North Eastern 5,000 metre
Track Champion Greg Jayasuriya of Middlesbrough and Cleveland Harriers.
With Avery and Newton in medal winning positions, there was every likelihood
that Morpeth could manage to retain their hold on the Senior Men’s title,
and they did this superbly, courtesy of Lewis Timmins (5th), Ross Floyd (7th),
Sam Hancox (8th), and Kevin Calvert (9th) supplying the supporting scoring counts,
which saw them finish 94 points clear of second placed Gateshead Harriers,
with Tyne Bridge Harriers and Sunderland Harriers both tying
for the third placed spot, a result subject to further scrutiny.
Outside the scoring counts, other top Morpeth Harriers performances were produced
by Thomas Straughan (15th), Jordan Scott (21st), and English Masters representative Chris Smith (22nd).
In total Morpeth Harriers had a total of sixteen athletes in action in the Senior Men’s event,
with further performances coming from Fergus Bates (48th), Paul Waterston (70th), Mick Thomsen (75th),
Tim Miley (79th), Rob Hancox (113th), Michael Winter (152nd), and Peter Scaife (232nd).
Not to be outdone, the Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s
squad also achieved Team Gold in their 8.3k event.
They were led home by European and Commonwealth Track medallist Laura Weightman,
who certainly did herself and her Cross Country credibility proud by finishing second
to Durham City’s Rosie Smith, who retained her individual title for the third year in succession.
Weightman was very much up with Smith in the early stages of the three lap affair,
however was forced to succumb to Smith’s Cross Country experience
and finishing pace, as the conditions underfoot steadily worsened.
The Morpeth International could still feel well pleased with her individual Silver however,
and that pleasure was certainly added to, with Emma Holt (5th),
and Josie Cram (8th), daughter of Weightman’s Coach Steve,
giving excellent individual team support.
Other Morpeth Harriers performers in the 223 strong field of Senior Women finishers were
Vicky Gibbs (38th), and newcomer Jessica Swindells (127th), in her first ever Cross Country outing,
and her placing is to be commended considering the difficult conditions.
Morpeth Harriers took the Under 15 Boys title in their two lap 4.5k event,
and also had two individual medallists in the age group.
Having an excellent run to finish second, and for the Silver Medal,
Daniel Dixon led the squad home, just outpacing club colleague
Taylor Glover, who took the individual Bronze.
This event was run in a period where the temperatures were steadily falling,
and the early showers were now turning to sleet.
The clubs third and final count for Morpeth’s team victory was completed by
Rory Leonard, who finished fifth, and was only eleven seconds outside the individual medals himself.
Other Morpeth Harriers Under 15 Boys performances in the 59 strong field of finishers
came from, Ross Charlton, who ran well to finish tenth, Joe Dowd (14th), Daniel Melling (21st),
Connor Marshall (22nd), Matthew Waterfield (23rd), Jordan Hedgecock (37th),
Brad Brown (40th), and Sam Bradley (43rd).
Another set of team medals came Morpeth’s way in the Under 20 Men’s 8.3k event,
where they collected Bronze, courtesy of Joe Armstrong, who also won an individual
Bronze behind Gateshead’s James Cripwell, and Sunderland Harrier Michael Wilson.
Further team support came from Phil Winkler (9th), and James Young (14th).
A total of nineteen athletes contested this event.
Despite some good strong running from Morpeth Harriers athletes
in the Under 13 Boys one lap 3k event, which was the opening race,
and one of only two races on the day to be run in reasonable conditions,
the club narrowly missed out on Bronze Team Medals, when they finished fourth.
They were led home by the diminutive Ben Walker, who finished an
excellent ninth, and only twenty three seconds adrift of the medals.
Next home was Andrew Hudspith, who finished in 17th place,
and the Morpeth scoring count was completed by Jack Barrett,
who finished in 32nd place.
Other Morpeth Under 13 Boys in the 60 strong field of finishers were
Alex Porteous (39th), Dylan Davies (47th),
Bobby Stone (55th), and Reece Garrett (58th).
Morpeth’s Alison Brown had a superb run to finish an individual 13th
in the combined Under 17/ Under 20 Women’s event,
which was also a victim of the heavy snow showers.
Brown was also sixth Under 20 over the two lap 5.3k course,
and she led her club to sixth team place, with further team support
coming from Charlotte Jewell (21st) (8th Under 20), and Abby Sheldon (25th).
This event had 45 finishers.
The only event where Morpeth Harriers did not complete as a team was
the two lap Under 15 Girls 4.5k, where the club’s lone competitor was Gracie Hufton,
who finished 25th in a 54 strong field of finishers.
It was certainly a good day at the office for Morpeth Harriers,
and Team Managers David Swinburne and Mike Bateman
were rightly pleased with their charges,
who had battled throughout in tricky conditions.
Sedgefield Harriers are to be congratulated
on providing a very interesting and testing course.