There were some excellent results achieved by athletes from Morpeth Harriers and AC,
both on an individual and team front, at the fourth Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League meeting,
held at a wet and very muddy Herrington Country Park, near Penshaw, on Saturday 7th January 2017.
Heavy rain on the Friday had left areas of the newly acquired course in a very wet state,
which quickly cut up as the ten-event programme progressed, and athletes in the later events
were certainly subjected to heavy and very testing conditions.
One Morpeth Harrier who clearly seemed to master the situation was Senior Man Ian Harding.
Running from the Slow Pack, and clocking what was to emerge as the third fastest time of the day,
he won his event by just under two minutes from his nearest rival.
It was Harding’s first Harrier League victory since March 2011,
when he had won the Senior Men’s event at Prudhoe, on a course no longer in operation.
Conditions at Prudhoe had been considerably better however, as on that day,
he had won by the even more comfortable margin of three minutes and thirteen seconds.
Second home on Saturday for Morpeth Harriers was Alistair Douglass,
who was making a welcome return to Cross Country competition,
and he could feel well pleased with finishing sixth from the Slow Pack.
Robert Balmbra was third home from the club, finishing an excellent fourteenth from the Fast Pack,
and posting the second fastest time of the day behind Jarrow and Hebburn’s Andy Burn,
who finished three places in front of Balmbra.
The club then had to look to 37th place for their fourth finisher,
with Sam Hancox finishing from the Fast Pack as seventeenth fastest on the day.
Tim Miley (73rd) (Medium Pack), and Tony Holt (77th) (Fast Pack),
closed the Morpeth scoring count for third team place on the day in Division 1.
Further club Senior Men’s performances came from Jacob Hopkins (100th) (Slow Pack),
Alistair MacDonald (101st) (Slow Pack), Paul Brown (128th) (Slow Pack),
Paul Waterston (168th) (Medium Pack), Steve Haswell (231st) (Medium Pack),
Richard Kirby (237th) (Slow Pack), Rob Hancox (246th) (Medium Pack),
Graeme Thorpe (326th) (Slow Pack), and Les Cavill (405th) (Slow Pack).
The Senior Men’s event had 532 finishers.
Lorna MacDonald, who has certainly put in some mileage recently in ultra-distance training,
certainly found that it all paid off quite handsomely as she secured
an excellent individual win in the Senior Women’s event.
She won with thirty-two seconds to spare over her closest rival,
and led her club to a resounding on the day victory in Division 2 over Gosforth Harriers.
Further excellent team support came from Emma Holt (Fast Pack),
who finished third overall, clocking the days fastest time,
Jane Hodgson (Fast Pack), who finished fourth,
posting the third fastest time, and Gwenda Cavill (27th) (Slow Pack).
Other Morpeth Harriers Senior Women in action were Jane Kirby (97th) (Slow Pack),
Carol Parry (182nd) (Slow Pack), Sue Smith (186th) (Slow Pack), and Frances Naylor (267th) (Slow Pack).
The Senior Women’s event had 341 finishers.
Holly Peck continued her excellent Harrier League form, when she won the Under 15 Girls race
by seventeen seconds from close rival Sophie Robson of Jarrow and Hebburn.
Peck, like Robson ran from the Fast Pack, and was easily the fastest performer on the day,
and in addition led Morpeth to a slender two point on the day team victory over Houghton.
Further team support came from Lily Heaton, who finished eighth from the Fast Pack,
posting the seventh fastest time of the day, and eleventh placed Ella Duffield,
who ran an excellent race from the Slow Pack.
Other Morpeth Under 15 Girl performances came from
Hannah Pountney (18th) (Slow Pack),
and Lauren Cummings (35th) (Fast Pack).
Despite excellent runs from the Fast Pack, which saw them finish second and third respectively,
and clocking the fastest and second fastest times, Morpeth’s Daniel Dixon and Ross Charlton
were disappointed to see their club just lose out for a team victory on the day to Durham City.
Morpeth’s third and closing count came from Thomas Cunningham, who finished 22nd from the Fast Pack.
Further Morpeth Under 15 Boys performances came from Andrew Hudspith (36th) (Fast Pack),
and Bradley Brown (37th) (Fast Pack).
Despite the absence of three leading lights, Taylor Glover, Rory Leonard, and Kieran Hedley,
Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Men still managed to produce an on the day team victory,
albeit on countback over close rivals Durham City, by virtue of their closing counter Matthew Waterfield,
finishing one place and four seconds ahead of their closing scorer, and was the third fastest overall.
The Morpeth team charge was led by Alex Cunningham, who finished an excellent
third from the Slow Pack, and helped himself to an on the day Harrier League medal.
Second counter for the club was Joe Ramshaw, who finished seventh overall,
and was second fastest on the day, and who has really settled in well at Morpeth,
following his summer transfer from Gosforth Harriers.
Another excellent Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Men’s performer was Connor Marshall,
who finished fifteenth from the Fast Pack, and was tenth fastest overall.
Dylan Davies and Ben Walker, both produced superb performances
to finish third and fourth respectively in the Under 13 Boys event.
Running from the Fast Pack, they were also third and fourth fastest,
and led their club to an excellent team victory over Durham City,
with Sam Tate producing a solid Slow Pack run to finish sixth as their third and closing scorer.
Other Morpeth Under 13 Boys performances came from Callum Rowell (18th) (Slow Pack),
James Tilley (39th) (Slow Pack), Jack Barrett (47th) (Fast Pack), and Bobby Stone (55th) (Fast Pack).
Led home by Gracie Hufton, who ran well from the Medium Pack to finish twelfth in the combined
Under 17/Under 20 Women’s event, Morpeth Harriers finished as fourth team behind Birtley AC.
Further good team support came from Abby Sheldon (17th) (Medium Pack), and Alison Brown (23rd) (Fast Pack).
Unfortunately, Morpeth could not turn out a full scoring squad in the Under 13 Girls event.
Fay Smith and Mia Belton finished 47th and 49th respectively from the Slow and Fast Packs.
Morpeth Harriers had six athletes competing in the non-scoring Under 11 events for Boys and Girls.
They had four in the Boys race, with Joseph Hudspith, Ryan Davies,
Harry Jackson and Joe Dixon finishing 6th, 12th, 21st, and 84th.
In the Girls event Sophia Cunningham finished 26th, and Keira Peck finished 35th.
Overall, certainly a good day at the office for the club, with some truly superb
performances, on a day certainly not made for the soft hearted.