Despite having to brave the very heavy muddy conditions, laced with intermittent wintry showers,
a combination of sleet and driving hailstones, there were some superb competitive performances
achieved by hundreds of athletes, who took part in the annual Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships, held at Blackburn’s Witton Country Park, on Saturday 30th January 2016
Amongst those excellent performers were members of Morpeth Harriers, who although only had one on the day medallist to show for their efforts, they also managed four top five team performances.
The medallist was Scott Beattie, who is the new Northern Athletics Under 17 Men’s champion,
after producing a near gun to tape front running performance, that saw him take a superb victory over Derby’s County Champion Hugo Milner,
himself a former Northern winner, when he was running in the Under 15 Boys age group.
Milner had been a very early leader, and Beattie ran a superb sensible race by running in a small group just behind him throughout the first of the two lap 5.5k event, however at the beginning of the second lap it was the Derby man and Beattie together,
who got away from the rest, with only Hallamshire’s Cameron Bell and Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton’s Daniel Slater
the only other athletes within touching distance.
By the time the bottom field was reached, it was only Beattie
and Milner who looked to have any chance of victory.
Eventually it was Beattie who got victory in his sights,
and started to move away steadily as the finish line beckoned,
however Milner was still not done,
and chased the Morpeth man home relentlessly.
Beattie was very relieved to reach the finish line in 19m15s to take the Gold medal,
winning by a margin of three seconds, with Hallamshire’s Bell a further
twenty four seconds behind in third place.
Whilst Beattie was delighted with his individual Gold,
Morpeth Harriers unfortunately missed out on team medals,
finishing fourth behind winners Vale Royal, with City of York
and Preston Harriers taking the Silver and Bronze.
Led by Beattie, Morpeth Harriers other performances came from
Kieran Hedley (24th), Adam Shewry (58th), and Josh Burton (95th).
North Eastern Counties Under 13 Girls Cross Country Champion Holly Peck
gave her absolute all in her one lap 3.1k event,
however could only manage to finish fourth,
just missing out on an individual medal by a mere seventeen seconds.
Morpeth Harriers also narrowly missed out on team medals in this event,
finishing fourth on count back, after amassing the same points total
as third placed Salford Harriers, with Hallamshire also
winning by a slender margin over Sale Harriers.
Whilst Peck led the squad home, good supporting counts came from
Lily Heaton (24th), Rhiannon Hedley (44th), and Lauren Cummings (89th).
If these three supporting runners had finished at least one place better than they actually did,
the club would have also had a set of Bronze team medals to show for their efforts,
and this squad can certainly count themselves very unlucky to be just missing out.
Superb individual running by Morpeth’s North Eastern Counties Cross Country
Silver medallist Carl Avery saw him finish sixth in the gruelling
four lap Senior Men’s event, run over a distance of 12k.
He was always up the leaders during the early stages,
and despite surviving two bursts of hailstones during the proceedings,
he eventually made it to the finish line just over a minute adrift of an individual podium place.
With a good percentage of some of the clubs leading runners unavailable,
the chances of Morpeth Harriers Senior Men retaining the Northern team title
that they narrowly won at Pontefract twelve months ago seemed remote,
however Avery had certainly run a determined race to finish sixth, and with a true sense of purpose.
Eventually it was revealed that Morpeth had finished a very respectable fifth
in the Senior Men’s team race, behind winners Salford, Leeds City 2nd,
Hallamshire (3rd), and Sale Harriers (4th).
Good supporting runs came from Ross Floyd (32nd),
Robert Balmbra (38th), Sam Hancox (68th), Kevin Calvert (78th),
Jordan Scott (162nd) and Mark Cockburn (170th),
running in his very first Northern Championship.
The Senior Men’s event had a total of 719 finishers,
and the fact that the seven who took part for Morpeth Harriers
all finished well in the top half of the field, speaks volumes
of the quality of the clubs performance on the day,
despite missing some key performers.
One key performer on the day for Morpeth Harriers who certainly stood out in terms
of the quality he showed, was that of Under 15 Boy Rory Leonard,
who finished an excellent seventh in a classy 4.2k event,
which incorporated a lap of the lower field plus a second larger lap,
and was eventually won by North Eastern Counties Cross Country Champion
Josh Cowperthwaite of Middlesbrough Mandale..
As the 150 plus runners went out onto their second larger lap,
Leonard was in a very prominent position, and he managed
to maintain this status throughout, producing a performance
that saw him only a mere sixteen seconds adrift of an individual podium place.
There was also good competition in the team race in this event,
only thirty eight points dividing second, third, fourth, and fifth places.
Led home by Leonard, Morpeth Harriers occupied that fifth team place,
and they were only twenty one points adrift of Team Bronze.
Supporting runs to Leonard in the Morpeth team came from
Taylor Glover (45th), Ross Charlton (64th),
and the ever improving Matthew Waterfield, who finished 78th.
Other Morpeth Harriers performances in the Under 15 Boys event came from
Connor Marshall (110th), Joe Dowd (112th), and Alex Cunningham (158th).
Emma Holt certainly produced a sterling top drawer performance
to finish a well earned seventh in the three large lap
Senior Women’s event, which had a distance of 7.7k.
She was actually only just over a minute adrift of event winner Claire Duck of Leeds City,
and only forty two seconds adrift of the Bronze medal, which was won by fellow
North Easterner Rosie Smith of Durham City, who only just lost out for Silver
to Kendal’s Sarah Tunstall in the final strides.
The Senior Women’s event also saw runners endure a horrendous hailstorm,
and Morpeth’s other competitor Josie Cram ran very well to finish 23rd in the total field of 358 finishers.
Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys were unfortunately let down
by the lack of a fourth counter in their 3.1k event.
First home for the club was Ben Walker, who competed well despite his size,
to come home in 38th place, in a total finishing field of 213,
which also included his club colleagues
Thomas Cunningham (61st), and Dylan Davies (150th).
Morpeth Harriers two competitors in the Under 20 Men’s three lap 7.7k event
Phillip Winkler and James Young finished in 49th and 50th places respectively.
In the 5.5k two lap Under 20 Women’s event,
Morpeth Harrier Alison Brown ran well to finish 22nd.
Club colleague Charlotte Jewell finished in 28th spot.
Morpeth’s Abby Sheldon and Lizzie Rank finished 74th and 79th
respectively in the opening event of the day, the Under 17 Women’s 4.7k event.
Gracie Hufton was Morpeth’s lone representative in the
Under 15 Girls 4.2k event, where she finished 105th in a field of 168.