For the first time in a good number of years Cross Country racing returned to Gosforth Park
on Saturday 27th October 2018, when local club Gosforth Harriers hosted the third Start Fitness
sponsored North Eastern Harrier League, on land to the North West of the extensive estate,
which encompasses the famous Northern Racecourse, where feature races such as the
Northumberland Plate, and Eider Chase take place, along with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
On Saturday it was definitely the turn of the thoroughbreds, as runners tested out a brand-new course,
including members of Morpeth Harriers. The early morning freezing rain thankfully gave way to pleasant
autumn sunshine, by the time the ten-event programme got underway with events for Under 11 athletes
in two Try It Cross Country Non-Scoring races.
It was certainly a good day for Morpeth Harriers, and their hard-working athletes,
who competitively secured no less than four team victories, and two individual wins for their combined efforts.
In addition, the club also individually managed some of the fastest times over the new circuits, which by comparison to other venues, were fairly flat, yet undulating and testing.
Making his Harrier League debut as an Under 20 Man, Morpeth’s Matthew Briggs clearly made hay in the sunshine from his five-minute handicap Slow Pack start, as he quickly stole away from the rest in the three lap Senior Men’s event, to eventually win by a twenty-seven seconds margin, from fellow Under 20 athlete Findlay Johnstone of Newcastle University.
Briggs also had the added pleasure of leading his club to a fifteen-point margin team victory
over closest rivals Tyne Bridge Harriers, in their Division 1 battle.
Morpeth now have a two-point lead at the top of the table after three fixtures.
Further good on the day team support to Briggs came from Matthew Boyle,
who also benefitted from his Slow Pack start, to finish seventh,
Tony Lewis (12th) (Slow Pack), David Swinburne (19th) (Slow Pack),
Andrew Lawrence, who produced a superb Fast Pack run to finish 30th,
posting the seventh fastest time in the record 623 strong field of finishers,
and Andrew Hebden (63rd) (Medium Pack).
In addition to the scoring six, Morpeth Harriers had an excellent turnout
of seventeen additional finishers in the Senior Men’s event.
Further performances in the Senior Mens event were as follows,
Graeme Thorpe (75th) (Medium Pack), Rob Hancox (128th) (Medium Pack),
Kris White (157th) (Medium Pack), Thomas Innes (167th) (Fast Pack),
Gary Hall (182nd) (Slow Pack), Lee Bennett (186th) (Fast Pack),
Paul Waterston (234th) (Medium Pack), James Johnson (252nd) (Slow Pack),
Fergus Bates (258th) (Fast Pack), Eric Adams (303rd) (Slow Pack), Neil McAnany (309th) (Slow Pack),
Jim Alder (338th) (Slow Pack), Steven Major (409th) (Slow Pack), and Andy Leeson (416th) (Slow Pack).
Although she was not the first to cross the finish line, Morpeth’s Rhiannon Hedley
was awarded a win in the Under 15 Girls one lap event in the judges’ room.
Gateshead’s leading light Innes Curran, running from the Fast Pack, and posting by far the days fastest time, found herself subsequently disqualified for failing to wear the correct number.
Hedley, who was the closest finisher to her, six seconds adrift, but having a hundred seconds start due to her Slow Pack start, found herself elevated to event winner, with every athlete behind her promoted by one place.
Those athletes, all 53 of them, included Hedley’s Morpeth club colleagues Abbi Leiper, and Laura Melling, whose placing of ninth and nineteenth respectively, gave their club a narrow one-point margin team victory on the day, over second placed Birtley.
Leiper ran from the Fast Pack, with Melling competing from the Slow Pack, and the former proved to be the seventh fastest overall following the exclusion of Curran, whose result was erased under the league rules.
The Under 15 Girls team win now sees them move into third team place behind North Shields Poly
and Birtley on a cumulative front.
Other Morpeth Under 15 Girls performances on the day came from Rebecca Bradley,
who finished 21st from the Fast Pack, and was thirteenth fastest,
Faye Archbold (23rd) (Slow Pack), Olivia Carruthers (38th) (Fast Pack),
and Molly Ions (47th) (Slow Pack).
Morpeth Under 13 Boy Bertie Marr produced an absolutely superb performance to lead his club home an excellent team victory in their single lap event.
Giving 100 seconds away to many of his seventy-one rivals, he chased Blackhill leading light Tom Slane all the way to the line, to finish an excellent second, only losing out for victory by a mere seven seconds.
Slane and Marr were well clear of third placed athlete Sam Terry of Durham City,
who had also competed from the Fast Pack.
Marr was joined in the winning Morpeth team count by Adam Howliston (4th) (Slow Pack),
and Ryan Davies (8th) (Fast Pack), who was an excellent sixth fastest on the day.
Because of this team victory, Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys currently lead their league table
cumulatively by four points over North Shields, with three meetings remaining
Morpeth’s other Under 13 Boy performer on the day was William De Vere-Owen,
who finished 61st from the Fast Pack.
Finishing tenth from the Fast Pack, and posting the fifth fastest time of the day, Morpeth’s Tom Balsdon led his club to a twelve-point margin team victory on the day over Houghton in the Under 17 Mens two medium lap event.
This now means at the half way stage they have a one-point lead over them cumulatively and will need to fight all the way to retain the title that they won last season.
Balsdon had on the day team support from Brad Brown (12th) (Slow Pack),
and Rowan Bennett (15th) (Fast Pack), who was sixth fastest in the 33 Strong field of finishers.
For the second meeting in succession Morpeth’s Holly Peck proved herself to be the fastest performer in the combined Under 17/Under 20 Women’s two medium lap event.
Running from the Fast Pack and giving 150 seconds to many of her rivals in the 38 strong field,
she worked he way through the masses brilliantly to finish in an excellent ninth place
and was eighteen seconds faster than her closest rival in terms of time Eva Hardie of Houghton Harriers.
Peck also led her club to third team place on the day behind Newcastle University and Houghton Harriers, with further team support coming from an excellent Kirsty Duffin, who was one place behind her, running from the Slow Pack, and Laura Cummings, who finished fourteenth, also from a Slow Pack start.
Finishing one place ahead of Gosforth Harriers on the day, means that Morpeth still maintain their lead at the top of the Under17/Under 20 Women’s league table cumulatively by four points.
Morpeth’s other performer in this event was Lily Heaton, who finished 26th from the Medium Pack.
Finishing as third team on the day behind Gateshead Harriers and North Shields Poly,
Morpeth Harriers managed to leapfrog to the top of the Under 15 Boys league table,
albeit by the slender margin of one point ahead of Durham City, who only finished fifth.
They were led home by Euan Duffin, younger brother of Kirsty, who finished in fourth place
by virtue of the first finisher from Tynedale Harriers being disqualified for failing to wear his club vest.
Duffin, running from the Fast Pack, giving 100 seconds away to a good proportion of the 52 strong field of finishers, posted the second fastest time overall, only two seconds and one place adrift of Tynedale’s Charlie Daley,
whose club were denied an on the day team victory at the exclusion of the disqualified first finisher,
which would have put them closer to the top of the table.
Further Morpeth scoring counts came from an excellent run by Matthew Walton,
who finished fifth from the Slow Pack, and James Tilley (36th) (Slow Pack).
Morpeth’s other finisher in this event was Alex Porteous, who was 40th from the Fast Pack.
The Senior Women’s field had a total of 460 finishers in their two large lap event, which included an excellent ten from Morpeth Harriers, whose combined performances saw them finish sixth in Division 1 on the day.
They were led home by Emma Holt, who on her second outing in the league this season, finished 15th from the Fast Pack, posting the second fastest time overall, only surpassed by Wallsend Harrier Danielle Hogkinson,
who won her second Harrier League in succession from the Medium Pack,
having won previously at Druridge from the Slows.
Holt was joined in the Morpeth team count by Victoria Gibbs (37th) (Medium Pack),
Rachelle Falloon (40th) (Fast Pack), who posted the sixth fastest time of the day,
and Jilly Bell (122nd) (Slow Pack).
Other Morpeth Senior Women’s performances came from Lorna MacDonald (141st) (Fast Pack), Sue Smith (158th) (Slow Pack), Alison Brown (197th) (Fast Pack), Jane Briggs (218th) (Medium Pack), Jill Bennett (228th) (Medium Pack), and Frances Naylor (305th).
Making his Morpeth Harriers debut, Aaron Hayes finished a superb second in the Under 11 Boys single short lap non-scoring event that preceded the Harrier League competition.
He only just lost out to North Shields Poly’s Zac Brannon by a mere eight seconds for a debut win.
Also running well was Oliver Tomlinson, who followed up his fourth place at Wrekenton
in the opening fixture, by finishing a very close sixth here.
Another Morpeth debutant Hamish Tweedie finished 26th, and Toby Marr,
younger brother of Bertie gained more competitive experience when finishing
40th in a 60 strong Under 11 Boys field.
Fifty-five finishers took part in the Under 11 Girls event, including Morpeth’s Keira Peck,
younger sister of Holly, who finished a superb tenth, only a mere thirty seconds adrift of the leading trio.