Three individual, and two sets of team medals were secured by athletes from Morpeth Harriers, at the annual Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships, held at a breezy but relatively firm and dry Pontefract Park Racecourse, in Yorkshire on Saturday 26th January 2018.
Senior Woman Mhairi MacLennan retained her title that she won in 2018 at nearby Harewood House but was made to fight all the way to the finish line by Leigh Harrier Lauren Heyes (formerly Howarth),
and Blackburn’s Jessica Judd, only winning by the slender margin of four seconds.
MacLennan also led her club to a handsome set of Bronze team medals, courtesy of supporting counting runs by Emma Holt (24th), Catriona MacDonald (39th), and Gemma Floyd (61st).
Another top-drawer performance amongst the Morpeth Senior Women, came from Helen King,
who produced an excellent run to finish in 110th place.
After playing a sensible waiting game with two major rivals Euan Brennan of Ilkley and Nathan Dunn of Preston, Morpeth’s Rory Leonard eventually stole away on the final lap of two in the Under 20 Men’s race, to take the individual title, thus adding to the one that he also won at Harewood House in 2018, that being the Under 17 Men’s.
Unfortunately lack of a fourth counter here robbed his club of a possible team title, as Alex Brown and Kieran Hedley had also produced excellent runs to finish seventh and eleventh respectively.
The club did however have the utmost delight in seeing their Under 17 Men secure a team title, courtesy of Ross Charlton (14th), Daniel Melling (21st), Rowan Bennett (24th), and Tom Balsdon (33rd).
Morpeth’s other on the day medallist was Carl Avery, who took an individual
Silver in the Senior Men’s three lap event.
Avery, who won the title in 2018, just lost out to Leeds City’s Emile Cairess,
who had won the Under 20 Men’s title at Harewood.
Only nine seconds divided the pair at the finish line.
In a hotly contested Senior Men’s team race, Morpeth Harriers eventually finished fifth, with further scoring counts coming from Andrew Lawrence (52nd), Jordan Scott (58th), Thomas Straughan (74th),
Phillip Winkler (99th), and Alistair Douglass (124th).
Other Morpeth Harriers competing in the 704 strong field of finishers in the event
were Mark Snowball (162nd), and Steve Haswell (503rd).
On this occasion he finished in an excellent tenth place, five places, and three seconds ahead of Slane, however was third home from the region behind Houghton’s Brandon Pye, Bronze Medallist in the North Eastern’ s, and Gosforth’s Ethan Bond, who finished in sixth and seventh places respectively.
Other Morpeth finishers in the Under 13 Boys event, were Joe Dixon (30th), and Joseph Hudspith (77th).
Morpeth Harriers were also disappointed in not being able to field a full team of four counters
in the Under 17 Women’s 5k event, which began the days programme of ten events.
Holly Peck produced an excellent run to finish twelfth behind Darlington’s India Pentland, who won with eight seconds to spare, to add another Gold Medal to her tally, having won the North Eastern’ s in December.
Other Morpeth finishers in the Under 17 Women’s event were Kirsty Duffin (69th) and Lily Heaton (83rd).
In the Junior Women’s 5.7k event, Morpeth Harriers did manage to muster the required three scoring athletes.
Consequently, the club finished seventh of eight full squads, courtesy of Robyn Bennett (25th), who is returning to action following an injury lay-off, Gracie Hufton (50th), and Kay Errington (60th).
Perhaps the most disappointing team result for the club, came in the Under 15 Boys 4k event.
The Morpeth squad were unfortunately shorn of the services of two of their key athletes in the form of Ben Waterfield and Dylan Gooding with illness.
Nevertheless they did manage to finish as a team in nineteenth spot out of twenty three complete teams, courtesy of Ben Walker (44th), who is making good slow progress after a terrible period of illness and injury, Dylan Davies (54th), also recovering from illness over Christmas, Matthew Walton (145th),
in his first Northern Championship, and a very below par Euan Duffin (178th).
Another disappointment for the club, was not having a full Under 15 Girls squad for their 4k event.
Leading Morpeth home however was Abi Leaper, who finished 48th out 196 finishers, and was eleventh overall from the North East region.
Other Morpeth finishers in the field were Rebecca Bradley (105th), and Rhiannon Hedley (143rd).
Morpeth Harriers had no competitors taking part in the Under 13 Girls 3k event, however in the ten events on offer, they finished as leading regional club in half of them, which outlines a satisfactory day at the office, which could have been bettered by fortune, laced by a tiny bit of effort in some quarters.
As a final footnote, the Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships were also being used as a final stepping stone and performance guide by the regions selectors with regards to their possible final selections for the forthcoming annual UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships, which are scheduled to be held in Loughborough in early March, and several Morpeth Harriers may be well in their minds for places in the regions squads, final decisions are expected sometime during February.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF ADRIAN ROYLE & ROBIN RUTHERFORD