The Northern Athletics Men’s 12 Stage Road Relays, held at Birkenhead Park,
on Merseyside, on Sunday 25th March 2018, saw an under-strength Morpeth Harriers squad
finish an excellent ninth, despite being missing several key athletes,
notably including Northern Cross-Country winner Carl Avery, who was on International duty in Nottingham,
plus others who were either unavailable or nursing injuries.
They finished just over seven minutes adrift of winners Lincoln Wellington, who had led at halfway, but lost their way momentarily in the second half of the contest, only to find a new lease of life over the final two legs.
With several regulars absent, Morpeth Team Manager David Swinburne was forced to call upon a unique blend of Youth and Experience, namely Father and Son Sam and Rob Hancox.
The pair were featuring together for the first time in a Morpeth Harriers Men’s 12 Stage squad,
and neither let the side down, as they ran the respective opening and final legs of the day.
In running the opening 9.9k Long Leg, Sam got around the circuit in 23m39s,
posting the clubs fastest long stage time of 23m39s, coming home in eighth place.
North East Under 20 Cross Country Champion Kieran Hedley held this position on the
short second leg (5.5k), marking his 12 Stage debut with an excellent clocking of 11m49s.
Veteran Chris Smith got the squad up to seventh on the long third leg, posting a time of 24m28s,
and on the fourth leg, another young Morpeth star James Young took them up to fourth,
posting 11m50s, one second slower than Hedley.
Unfortunately, at this point, Morpeth’s fifth leg runner Ian Harding misjudged Young’s arrival in the change-over zone, and lost around a minute on his closest rivals, being given a clocking of 25m47s, as he slipped to ninth.
This position was held over the next three legs by Phillip Winkler (12m08s),
Thomas Straughan (24m57s), and Alistair Douglass (12m39s).
Karl Taylor’s ninth leg clocking of 12m11s saw the squad pull back one more place to eighth,
and Andrew Lawrence’s tenth leg clocking of 12m32s, saw the squad climb back another place to seventh.
On his 12 Stage debut, young Tom Inness did both his club proud,
by retaining seventh place on the penultimate eleventh leg, clocking 12m55s.
Rob Hancox did his level best on the final twelfth leg as he clocked 13m45s,
however he slipped back into ninth place.
Morpeth were still the best of the five North East squads competing,
with Tyne Bridge Harriers (15th), Sunderland Harriers (18th),
Gateshead Harriers (20th), and Blackhill Bounders (40th).
Apart from Blackhill, the other three North East clubs will all line up
alongside Morpeth in the National Relays at Sutton Park in three week’s time.