Despite icy and snowy underfoot conditions, the annual Northern Area Schools Inter Counties Cross Country still got underway on Saturday 2nd February 2019 at Temple Park Leisure Centre in South Shields.
On this occasion Northumberland were the hosts, with opposition in the eight-race programme, coming from Durham, Cleveland, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, who were the overall winners on the day.
Northumberland at the end of the day finished third overall behind the winners Cumbria,
with a strong North Yorkshire taking second place.
Durham finished fourth, fifty-three points adrift of Northumberland, whose main strength
came from the Boys, who were third in their contest, whilst the Girls were fourth.
Cleveland were very weak indeed and failed to score overall.
In the absence of Rory Leonard (Morpeth) and Sam Charlton (Wallsend),
both individual title winners at the previous weeks Northern Championships at Pontefract,
Morpeth Harrier Ross Charlton seized the opportunity of achieving an outstanding win for himself in the Senior Boys 6.3k event, getting round the tricky surfaces in a time of 22m46s, which saw him win by a margin of seven seconds over Cleveland’s Jake Creasey, who competes for Middlesbrough (Mandale), and had finished six places adrift of Charlton at Pontefract, when Charlton had led his Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Male colleagues home to an impressive club victory.
Other Morpeth Harriers featuring in the successful Northumberland Senior Boys squad were Daniel Melling (9th) (4th Counter), Matthew Briggs (14th) (7th Northumberland), and Alex Cunningham (17th) (8th Northumberland).
Undoubtably the best Boys performance for Northumberland, came from their Juniors,
who won by a margin of fifty points over Cumbria.
Ryan Davies of Morpeth Harriers was fifth counter home from Northumberland,
finishing an excellent sixth in the 4k event.
Other Morpeth Harriers in action in this event were Sam Tate (21st) (8th Northumberland),
Joe Dixon (25th) (9th Northumberland), and Matthew Walton (28th) (10th Northumberland).
Having missed last week’s Northern Championships because of a mystery virus, it was perhaps surprising to see Morpeth Harrier Ben Waterfield in the line-up of Intermediate Boys in their 5.3k event.
Nevertheless, he bravely mastered the tricky surfaces, and by now biting cold breeze,
to come home in 16th place overall, and was Northumberland’s second counter in a squad which finished fourth on the day behind a strong North Yorkshire, with Durham and Cumbria finishing second and third respectively.
Other Morpeth Harriers accompanying Waterfield in the Intermediate Boys squad were
Tom Balsdon (28th) (4th Northumberland), Rowan Bennett (30th) (5th Northumberland),
Dylan Davies (36th) (6th Northumberland), Ben Walker (43rd) (9th Northumberland),
and Thomas Cunningham (12th Northumberland).
In the Minor Boys 2.6k event, Morpeth’s Sam Dent was Northumberland’s twelfth finisher in 57th place overall.
The best Northumberland Girls result on the day belonged to their Intermediates in their 4k event,
who finished third behind Durham, with North Yorkshire finishing second.
Leading the Northumberland squad home was Morpeth Harrier Holly Peck,
who just lost out for an individual victory to North Yorkshire’s Lilli Carr by six seconds.
Peck posted a finishing time of 16m27s over the tricky surfaces.
Carr, who runs for Keighley and Craven, had finished twelfth in the Under 15 Girls event
at the previous weeks Northern Championships.
Another excellent Morpeth Harrier performer in the Intermediate Girls event was Rhiannon Hedley,
who has been seeking a return to Cross Country form of late.
Rhiannon missed all of last years winter season, but by finishing seventeenth overall here,
and as fourth home for Northumberland, it is clear that she is getting ever closer to her target,
which is not only pleasing for, but also her club, and coaches.
Around a minute adrift of Rhiannon, and in 31st place as seventh home for Northumberland,
was her club colleague Rebecca Bradley.
Northumberland’s Junior Girls finished fourth behind Cumbria in their 3k event,
with Morpeth’s Abi Leiper coming home as their second counter in 15th place overall.
In the Senior Girls 4k event, Northumberland again finished fourth,
however on this occasion to winners North Yorkshire.
Amongst the county’s scorers were three Morpeth Harriers in the form of Kirsty Duffin (30th) (3rd Northumberland), Kay Errington (33rd) (4th Northumberland), and Ella Duffield (35th) (5th Northumberland).
There were no Morpeth Harriers competing in the Minor Girls event.
Schools Cross Country competition now centres on the English National Championships,
which this year once again will be held at Temple Newsham, near Leeds, on Saturday 16th March.
Northumberland selectors will be sitting down over the next couple of weeks to finalise their squad choices,
with the exclusion of the Minor age groups, who do not compete at the Nationals.
Following Saturday’s performances, several Morpeth Harriers may well come into their reckoning for inclusion.
Squads should be known before early March.