Testing muddy conditions were faced by athletes at the annual Northern Schools Inter Counties Cross Country Championships, held at Barnard Castle School, County Durham on Saturday 3rd February 2018.
In what was very much the final stepping stone prior to the annual English Schools Championships, scheduled to be held at Temple Newsham, near Leeds in Mid March, the overall competition was won by a very strong North Yorkshire squad, who on the day, won the Boys section ahead of Northumberland, and finished third in the Girls section, which was won by a strong Cumbria.
Northumberland, who as referred to in the previous paragraph, finished second in the Boys events,
however could only finish fourth in the Girls section, which eventually resulted in them finishing fourth
overall in the toughly contested affair.
Durham and Cumbria finished second and third respectively, with only a mere four points dividing them.
Several Morpeth Harriers were in action for Northumberland, with the best team performances coming from their Intermediate Boys and Senior Girls squads, who both had handsome team victories.
On the individual front, the best club performer was Kieran Hedley, who earned himself
a Bronze medal in the Senior Boys event, behind Josh Cowperthwaite of Cleveland.
The Middlesbrough AC athlete was obviously seeking early compensation for losing out to
Morpeth’s Rory Leonard in last week’s Northern Cross-Country Championships.
On this occasion Cowperthwaite had the luxury of the non-appearance of the Northumberland Champion,
who had another non-athletic appointment to attend,
otherwise the result may well have proved to be somewhat different.
Meanwhile Hedley led the Northumberland Senior Boys to an on the day third team place behind North Yorkshire, with further team support including Morpeth colleagues Taylor Glover (6th), as second counter,
and Matthew Briggs (31st) as sixth counter. Morpeth athlete Alex Cunningham also ran well,
emerging as seventh home in 34th place overall.
Northumberland’s squad of Intermediate Boys won by a margin of twenty-seven points
over Cleveland, with two Morpeth Harriers amongst their scoring counters.
Ross Charlton performed superbly to finish sixth, and was second counter, behind his namesake Sam Charlton, who competes for Wallsend Harriers, and had claimed an individual Silver medal on the day, just losing out to Cleveland’s Archie Lowe, who had won the Under 15 Boys event at the previous weeks Northern Championships.
Morpeth’s Daniel Melling came home as fourth counter in ninth place.
Although just outside the scoring six, Morpeth’s Tom Balsdon also competed well by coming home in 20th place.
Northumberland’s Senior Girls also produced an excellent on the day team victory,
winning by a margin of twenty-two points over Cumbria, who were led home by
race winner Imogen Burrow, who finished a mere fifteen seconds ahead of Rhian Purves of Gosforth Harriers,
who led the squad home, and helped herself to a well-deserved individual Bronze in the process.
Amongst Northumberland’s scoring counters was Morpeth’s Gracie Hufton.
The teenager is very much in the form of her young life at the moment,
and her placing of eighth as fifth counter for the squad was indeed another excellent run,
amongst many that she has produced this season.
Another Morpeth Harrier in action in this event was Kay Errington,
who although was outside the counters can still be pleased with her performance.
One year ago, Kay was indeed recovering from a horse riding accident,
which could have ended her running altogether, the fact that she made it onto
the Inter Counties Start Line, and finished 39th, is very much a bonus.
Euan Duffin of Morpeth had an excellent run in the Junior Boys event, leading Northumberland’s squad home to fourth team place, in what was probably the closest team contest of the day, won by Cumbria, by two points from North Yorkshire, with Durham third, a further two points adrift.
Northumberland, led by Duffin, who finished fifth, were only fifteen points adrift of Durham,
and Duffin himself was only a mere four seconds adrift of an individual medal.
Another Morpeth Harrier amongst the scoring six was Dylan Davies,
who was fourth home for the county when finishing an excellent seventeenth.
Although outside the scoring six, mainly because he took a heavy tumble during the event, a year young in the age group Sam Tate of Morpeth, eagerly picked himself up to finish in 38th place, as ninth home for the county.
Other Morpeth Harriers in action in this event were, Dylan Gooding (58th),
and Ben Waterfield (67th), who were eleventh and twelfth home from the county respectively.
Morpeth’s Holly Peck led Northumberland’s Intermediate Girls home to fourth team place behind a strong Cumbria squad, who were led home in turn by race winner Olivia Mason, who competes for Border Harriers.
Northumberland Champion Peck, finished in sixth place, and was supported in the team count by her Morpeth club colleague Lily Heaton, who was fourth counter when she finished in 33rd place overall.
Although outside the scoring counts, Morpeth pair Ella Duffield and Kirsty Duffin finished in 41st and 44th places,
as seventh and eighth home from the county.
A truly excellent team result was achieved by Northumberland’s Minor Boys, who finished third on the day,
but were only nine and six points respectively adrift of either first or second places.
Playing a big part in this team performance were Morpeth pair Ryan Davies and Bertie Marr,
who finished 16th and 17th with identical times, and were fifth and sixth counters.
Although Joseph Hudspith was outside the scoring counts in 41st place,
he managed to get around the difficult course.
Other Morpeth Harriers in action on the day were Brad Brown, (Intermediate Boys),
Rhiannon Hedley (Junior Girls), Sophia Cunningham (Minor Girls), and Adam Howliston (Minor Boys).
It’s now a case of anxious waiting for some, to see if they have done enough to qualify
for their place on that Northumberland team bus, bound for Leeds in March.
County selectors are expected to make known their decisions very soon.