It was certainly an excellent day competitively for the region’s clubs’, including Morpeth Harriers, at the annual Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships, once again sponsored by Start Fitness, which were held on Saturday27th January 2017. for the very first time at picturesque Harewood House, near Leeds, the ancestral home of the Lascelles Family, a Grade 1 listed building, designed by John Carr and Robert Adam, with Landscapes set by the legendary “Capability Brown.”
History lesson over partly, and back with what was indeed Grade 1 action, where amongst the superb North East performances, Morpeth Harriers won three individual titles, the first time in twenty-one years that they had achieved such a feat, the last being at Meadowfield, Co Durham in 1997.
On Saturday Carl Avery (Senior Men), Mhairi MacLennan (Senior Women), and Rory Leonard (Under 17 Men), could all collectively hold their heads high, as they won their respective Gold Medals and shiny winners Trophies.
Avery ran a superb race all throughout the longest event of the day, the Senior Men’s 12k.
He was always at the front of affairs, sharing the early exchanges with Lincolnshire Champion Matthew Bowser, with Hallamshire’s Steven Bayton, and Sale Harriers pair Jamie Roden and Nigel Martin always in close attendance, awaiting a chance to grab their particular moment of glory.
However, the second lap presented a very much different picture, as the sheer determination of both Bowser and Avery took them away from their rivals, with Bowser taking a lead on the uphill’s,
whilst Avery went to the front on any downhill stretches.
Eventually Avery used one of those rare downhills to break Bowser, and he managed to loosen the shackles to record a four second margin victory to take the Senior Men’s title, posting a finishing time of 39m50s.
According to available records, Avery is also the first Morpeth Harrier to take a Northern Cross-Country Senior Men’s title, and that is against the background of such names as the legendary Jim Alder, plus later achievers Mark and Ian Hudspith, Terry Wall, Nick Swinburn and Jonny Taylor, who all in their time claimed minor medals.
In on the day team affairs, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men finished fifth,
and were first from the region, with supporting counts coming from Lewis Timmins (26th),
Sam Hancox (40th), Chris Smith (56th), Thomas Straughan (85th), and Philip Winkler (85th).
Timmins was fourth overall from the North East Counties, and Hancox was fifth, with Smith sixth, and Straughan eighth. Other Morpeth Harriers Senior Men in action were Andrew Lawrence (105th), Alistair Douglass (170th), Rob Hancox (296th), David Nicholson (341st), and Peter Scaife (623rd).
Any hopes of Leeds AC’s Claire Duck pulling off a unique hat-trick of successive victories in the Senior Women’s 8k event, were well and truly flattened by the excellent performance produced by Morpeth’s Mhairi Maclennan,
who also became the first Woman from the club to take a Northern Senior title.
After running in a strong front running group of eight, that included Duck, her Leeds team-mate Georgia Malir, Leigh’s Lauren Howarth, Sale Harriers trio Georgia Taylor-Brown, Danielle Fagan, and Kate Hewison,
plus Lincoln’s Abbie Donnelly, MacLennan eventually broke clear in the final quarter, to record an eighteen
seconds marginal victory to take the title, posting a finishing time of 30m50s. Meanwhile Howarth resigned
herself to second place, whilst Taylor-Brown fended off closer opposition to take a much-prized Bronze.
MacLennan running on the back of a superb ninth place in December’s European Under 23 Women’s Cross Country Championship in Samorin, plus a more recent 6k Cross Country Run in the Great North event in Edinburgh, was well pleased with her achievement and performance, although as expected the Harewood
course had been tough, she felt that it was true to Cross Country running, and overall the experience had been enjoyable and quite amazing throughout.
Morpeth Women finished eighth overall, and were first from the North East, forty-nine points ahead of Jarrow and Hebburn who were tenth. MacLennan was supported in the team race by Emma Holt (16th), Jane Hodgson (17th), and Alison Brown (185th). Holt and Hodgson were also second and third from the North East Counties.
A total of 435 finishers took part in the Senior Women’s event.
The Cross-Country season continues well for Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Men’s
North East Counties Cross Country Champion Rory Leonard.
To add to his recent achievements, which included a Northumberland Schools Senior Boys title,
he certainly went one better on Saturday, when he won his first ever Northern Cross-Country title,
after a personal battle for supremacy with City of York’s 2017 Under 15 Boys Champion Josh Dickinson,
and Ilkley’s Euan Brennan also in close attendance.
Earlier in proceedings it had been Middlesbrough’s AC’s Josh Cowperthwaite taking command, however by the end of the first of two laps of the total 6k circuit, he had fallen away, eventually to finish fifth.
Leonard certainly played a waiting game, and only sufficiently dropped Dickinson in the final quarter,
to record a comfortable twelve second margin victory at the finish line, posting a time of 20m05s for his efforts.
Obviously delighted, and personally surprised with his win, Leonard described himself as “Positively Buzzing,”
and is eagerly looking forward to forthcoming challenges, which should include the English National in London
in February, plus the Inter Counties and English Schools competitions to follow in March.
In the Under 17 Men’s team race, Morpeth Harriers came very close to adding more Gold medals to their tally, however were just thwarted by the Cowperthwaite led Middlesbrough AC challenge,
just losing out by the slender margin of ten points.
Further support in the Morpeth team count came from Daniel Melling,
who produced a superb run to finish 26th, and fifth from the North East Counties,
Taylor Glover (29th), seventh from the North East, and Ross Charlton (34th), who was eighth from the region.
Other Morpeth Harriers performances in the Under 17 Men’s event came
from Matthew Waterfield (52nd), Daniel Dixon (57th), and Alex Cunningham (63rd).
Dixon, who was third in the North East Championships in December is still recovering from
an illness over Christmas, and did well to line-up on the day, his brave efforts are fully appreciated.
Morpeth Harriers only other team performance came from their Under 15 Boys,
who managed to finish twelfth in their single lap 4k event.
They were led home by Euan Duffin, who finished 49th,
and will have gained great experience from the outing at such a competitive level.
Giving further support to the Morpeth team count were Thomas Cunningham (57th),
Tom Balsdon (78th), and Dylan Davies (83rd).
Other Morpeth performances in this age group came from Andrew Hudspith (162nd),
and Ben Waterfield (185th). Winner of this event was Middlesbrough AC’s Archie Lowe.
One of the finest non-medalling Morpeth performances on the day was produced by Under 15 Girl Holly Peck,
who ran a very satisfactory personal race to finish tenth, and was first home from the region,
finishing one place and seven seconds ahead of Chester Le Street rival Emily Chong.
Another good lone Morpeth performance came from Gracie Hufton,
who was 40th in the Under 17 Women’s event out of 93 finishers,
who were led home by Liverpool Harrier Ella McNiven, who is currently in the form of her life.
Hufton, can also take pleasure from the fact that she was sixth home from the North East Counties.
Lack of a fourth counter denied Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys squad a team placing in their single lap 3k event.
However, the race did see one of the finest individual younger age performances from the club in the form of
Sam Tate, who finished an excellent 23rd in a 252-strong finishing field and was just less than a minute behind
race winner Josh Blevins of North Shield Poly, who was also one of the regions five individual Gold medallists,
that also included Avery, MacLennan, Leonard, and Lowe.
Tate was also fifth home from the North East Counties.
Morpeth Harriers other two performances in the Under 13 Boys event
came from Ryan Davies (78th), and Joseph Hudspith (115th).
Sophia Cunningham (200th), and Laura Melling (205th) of Morpeth, will have gained
much experience from their respective outings in the Under 13 Girls single lap 3k event.