Despite the absence of some of their leading athletes, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men
certainly showed a strength in depth, as they finished seventh in the Northern
12 Stage Road Relays, held at Blackpool’s Stanley Park on Saturday 25th March 2017.
Following endless weeks of cold and predominately wet conditions,
it was indeed encouraging to witness what could be described as spring like weather,
sunny, with just a faint whisper of wind, which were in essence ideal,
and very much to the liking of those involved competitively.
This was the 50th anniversary of the Northern Men’s 12 Stage Relay,
first established in Derby in 1968, when it had been won by the host club,
who were also in action on Saturday.
Morpeth courtesy of Ross Floyd began well, in what was the usual cavalry charge on the long First Leg,
covering the distance of 9.55k, which was one of four of those legs on the day,
with the shorter 5.2k distance being covered eight times.
Floyd competed well to remain in contention, clocking a personal time of 30m16s,
and managed to finish in thirteenth place, and just under two minutes adrift of early leaders Liverpool Harriers,
who were fractionally ahead of fellow North East rivals Gateshead Harriers, with Leeds City in third place.
Clocking what was to emerge as his clubs second fastest short stage time of the day of 16m36s,
(tenth fastest of the leg), Under 20 athlete James Young, took Morpeth up a further four places to ninth,
and just under two minutes adrift of the minor medals.
Liverpool Harriers were still in front, eventual winners Sale Harriers had moved into second place,
and Bolton had moved up nine places, courtesy of International Tom Lancashire,
who clocked what was to be the fastest short stage time of the day of 14m49s.
Robert Balmbra clocked 31m15s on third leg for Morpeth, which saw him maintain
his ninth place throughout, however leaders Liverpool Harriers had now established
a lead of slightly over a minute from Sale Harriers, with Bolton holding off
close challenges from Lincoln Wellington and Derby.
At this point, Morpeth Harriers introduced another of their Under 20 athletes
into the fray in the form of Joe Armstrong, who managed to hold onto ninth spot,
as he got around the short fourth stage in 16m43s, but held off the challenges coming from behind him.
Armstrong’s time was sixth fastest of the leg, however they were now around four minutes adrift of the leaders,
who were still Liverpool Harriers, with Sale still second, however Leeds had now gone into third,
2016 winners Salford had gone into fourth, Bolton had slipped back to fifth,
Gateshead had gotten back into contention courtesy of Chris Parr (6th),
Lincoln Wellington were seventh, and Derby were marginally ahead in eighth place.
Fifth leg was a long leg, and Thomas Straughan clocked the ninth fastest time of the leg of 30m53s,
as he gained one place at the expense of North East rivals Gateshead,
to go into eighth spot, however just over four minutes adrift of medals.
Fortunes had changed at the front however, as Leeds had now gone into the lead,
ahead of early leaders Liverpool Harriers, with Sale now in third place.
Gateshead’s Jed Marshall got slightly ahead of Morpeth’s Karl Taylor on the sixth leg,
as Taylor clocked 16m55s, taking them to the half way point in ninth place.
Taylor’s time was seventh fastest of the leg.
Morpeth remained in ninth place throughout Andrew Lawrence’s 31m57s on seventh leg,
and Jake Masterman’s 17m30s on the short eighth leg.
Sale Harriers had now gone to the front, and did not look back from this,
with Liverpool firmly in second place, and Leeds and Salford continued to battle for the Bronze.
Morpeth remained in ninth place during Alistair Douglass’s leg nine clocking of 17m31s,
as Sale Harriers had established a lead over Liverpool Harriers of just under two minutes,
with Salford in third place, just ahead of Leeds.
Clocking the fifth fastest time of the short tenth leg of 16m53s,
Morpeth’s Jordan Scott held on to ninth place,
however had managed to close in on the two clubs marginally ahead of him,
Blackburn Harriers and Barlick Fell Runners.
Morpeth’s eleventh and penultimate leg runner Mark Snowball, very much exploited this
as he went up into seventh place, as he clocked the sixth fastest time of the leg of 17m10s.
Running a twelfth and final leg of 16m28s, Morpeth’s fastest short stage time of the day,
Chris Smith managed to fend off any final challenges from Blackburn and Barlick,
he found sixth placed Derby a little too far ahead to catch, however he did eat into their advantage somewhat.
Morpeth Harriers finished in a total time of 4hrs20m07s over the twelve stages,
which was just under eleven minutes adrift of the winners, and around ten minutes adrift of minor medals.
Considering the number of key absentees, Morpeth Senior Men performed well in their efforts,
and will quite rightly will take their place in the English National 12 Stage Road Relays at Sutton Park,
Sutton Coldfield in two weeks’ time, alongside North East rivals Gateshead Harriers (11th),
Tyne Bridge (12th), and possibly Sunderland Harriers, who finished nineteenth.
A total of 61 complete teams took part, and included other clubs from the North East,
Blackhill Bounders (40th), and Wallsend Harriers (42nd).
In addition to the Relay Championships, Northern Athletics also held 5k Championships
for Under 15 and Under 17 athletes, Male and Female, and Morpeth Harrier Rory Leonard
performed very well to take a Bronze medal in the Under 17 Men’s event, posting a finishing time of 15m58s,
which was four seconds adrift of Silver medallist, City of Sheffield’s Alfie Manthorpe,
with the Gold medal going to another City of Sheffield athlete Connor Henderson, who clocked a time of 15m52s.