Morpeth Harriers Senior Track and Field squad finished a disappointing fifth of six competing teams in their third round Northern Athletics Premier North East match held at Churchill Playing Fields on Sunday 4 July.
It was always going to prove a big mountain to climb for the Northumbrians on the day as, despite Women’s Team Manager Vina Desai’s determination in putting out a section that was going to be able to cover the majority of their events, Men’s Team Manager David Swinburne was only able to get six athletes to respond to his call on the day, which included two Under 17’s and one Under 20 athlete, these also limited as to how many events they could cover.
Covid isolation problems robbed Swinburne of any sprinting capacity at all, and not one Field Event duty could be filled; by the end of the day, no 4 x 100m or 4 x 400m options were possible.
This was meant the event was probably the worst Men’s turnout by the club in all of the 30 years or so that your correspondent can ever remember.
On to the match itself, and we firstly reflect on some of the best performances by Morpeth, which undoubtedly came from the Women’s section who more than contributed to the result achieved, as they covered every event, apart from Sprint Hurdles and the cancelled Pole Vault.
Women’s Team Manager Vina Desai (herself competing in two B String events) had also mustered a willing band of eleven additional club members, which made for a fairly competitive squad in comparison.
The Morpeth Women enjoyed four A String victories, also adding three B String wins.
Two of those victories amounted to double wins, in both the 3000m and 400m Hurdles.
Catriona MacDonald managed a three second margin victory in the 3000m A Race in 10m42.9s, and a double points victory for Morpeth, when Hannah Rank, who hadn’t made a Northern League appearance for her club since 2014 when she was an Under 23 athlete, won the B Race comfortably in 11m04.7s, which was fourth fastest overall of the six athletes who faced Starter Alan Bell. Bell was making a return to his original club and roots at North Shields Poly, the day’s hosts, where he once competed as a very competent High Jumper, and indeed a County Champion. Now retired as a Starter at the Olympics, Bell is well known for his numerous encounters with 100m World Champion Usain Bolt, also of course now retired, but he still communicates with him occasionally at his West Indies home.
Morpeth’s other double win on the day came in the 400m Hurdles, where Nisha Desai enjoyed her first of two A String victories, posting a finishing time of 63.6s.
Kay Errington came up trumps in the B Race, winning in a personal best time of 77.3s, taking one second off her previous figures.
Nisha’s other A String victory came in the 400m, where she managed to outsprint North Shields Poly’s talented Under 17 athlete Holly Waugh.
Desai posted a finishing time of 59.5s, being the only athlete in the event to dip under sixty seconds.
Morpeth’s B String athlete Laura Kincaid was second in her heat, posting a time of 68.4s.
There were excellent points scored by the Morpeth 100m and 200m sprinters.
Only Gateshead’s Under 20 athlete Susan Folorunso stood between Jessica Young-Rogers and a sprint double.
In the 100m, Young-Rogers finished second to Folorunso, posting a time of 12.6s, to the Gateshead girl’s 12.4s.
Young-Rogers did taste victory in the 200m A String however, posting a time of 25.8s, just out-sprinting North Shields Poly’s Stella Perrett.
In the 100m and 200m B String events, Morpeth’s Under 20 athlete Abbie Ross finished as third B in the 100m in 14.0s, and Under 17 athlete Olivia Gent finished fifth in the B 200m in 29.5s.
Morpeth’s Hannah Rank finished second in the A Race of the 800m in 2m30.4s, and it was good to see Under 20 athlete Kirsty Duffin back in action in the B Race, where she also finished second, posting a time of 2m43.8s.
It was also encouraging to see the continued steady progress by Under 20 athlete Kate Gaffing of Morpeth, currently working under the guidance of Mike Bateman, who achieved a personal best time of 5m16.6s, taking four and a half seconds off her previous figures, when finishing a good second in the A String 1500m.
Giving sound B String backing was Kay Errington, who also finished second in her section in 5m52.7s.
The Morpeth Women’s squad, also provided the club with a fairly healthy set of results, spread amongst a solid mixture of young, experienced, and veteran athletes, ready to lend weight to the cause.
Dedicated Veteran Claire Reid was an example to all once again, making the journey from her native home across the Border to take part in no less than four field events, all of them in the throws section.
Her best results were achieved in the A String Shot and Discus events, where she putted 9.93m and threw 28.36m, to achieve third place on both counts.
Backing her up in B String events were Nisha and Vina Desai.
Nisha Putted 6.54m for third in the B String Shot Putt, and Team Manager Vina, managed a new personal best of 13.75m in the Discus, adding 74cm to her previous figures, to achieve points for a sixth placing.
Vina also achieved points for her fifth placing in the B String Hammer, where she hurled 15.12m, backing up Reid’s A String effort of 25.00m, which gave her fifth placing.
Reid also backed up Kay Errington in the Javelin, finishing as fourth B String with 11.79m, whilst Errington, competing in the Javelin for the very first time, managed 17.23m, which gave her fourth A String placing.
Morpeth’s Under 20 Athlete Abbie Ross made herself master of the clubs A String Jumps, finishing third in the Long Jump (4.49m), fourth in the High Jump (1.25m), and third in the Long Jump (9.18m).
In the B String Long Jump, Jessica Young-Rogers made the result even sweeter for her club, when she won with a best of 4.26m.
There was another B String victory in the Triple Jump, achieved by Under 17 athlete Olivia Gent, produced a marginal personal best of 8.89m into the bargain.
Nisha Desai provided the B String support in the High Jump, clearing 1.25m for third place.
To round off a very solid day of effort and work, the Morpeth Women’s squad managed to finish third in their 4 x 100m Relay in 55.1s, behind winners North Shields Poly, courtesy of Nisha Desai, Olivia Gent, Abbie Ross, and Jess Young-Rogers.
In the 4 x 400m Relay, Kirsty Duffin, Laura Kincaid, Nisha Desai, and Kay Errington, combined forces to finish second to North Shields Poly in 4m38.7s.
On to the Men’s events, where the best result they could achieve was a double win in the 5000m, courtesy of Matthew Briggs who, running the distance on the track for the first time, took victory in 16m13.8s. The previous day Matthew had finished second in the tough Chevy Chase Fell Run in Wooler – again, another fine example of an athlete committed to the club.
Liam Roarty won the 5000m B Race in 16m40.6s, but his best result was the 3000m Steeplechase, which he won in 11m04.2s, and he finished third in the 400m Hurdles in 77.5s.
He also gave a sound B String backing to Connor Marshall’s fourth place in the A String 1500m, where Marshall posted a personal best time of 4m12.2s.
Morpeth’s Track and Field ever-present, the tireless Mark Snowball, won the B String 1500m in 4m56.0s, to round off a very satisfactory day’s work personally.
Morpeth’s Liam Roache finished third in the 800m A Race in 2m06.8s, and Ryan Davies finished second in the B String, posting a personal best time of 2m08.9s, taking four seconds off his previous figures.
It is hoped that Morpeth may be able to mount a better challenge in the final round Northern League match at home on Sunday 1 August. With no promotion or relegation matters being adopted this season, the club needs to embark on a rebuilding plan for 2022, which will involve not only the already heavily burdened Team Managers but also a great deal of input and advice coming from coaches – but mostly of course from the athletes themselves who will need to consider a sounder commitment to the Summer fixtures.
There is no direct blame to be attached here, except a message to all those out there: your club needs you to consider some priority issues if it is ever going to be a successful Track and Field squad as it has been in the past. As we have said before: it’s not just about pbs.
The club now has some of the best facilities it has had ever had, and they need to be used to the club’s advantage.