Cross Country action got well and truly underway for 2018/19 on Saturday 29th September 2018,
when near record fields took part in the first Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League of the season,
at a sunny Cardinal Hume School, at Wrekenton.
There was a strong wind however to encounter, but runners were not to be deterred
as they sprung into action in the ten-event programme.
With very little recent rain to speak of, there was no sign of the usual mud normally experienced,
instead, runners reported conditions being hard and dry underfoot,
the most serious problems being tufts of grass, that had been missed during a recent mowing.
Amongst the contingent were a large number of Morpeth Harriers,
who on the day managed to achieve two individual wins,
one team victory, and a number of good minor placings.
We begin with the individual wins, which were achieved in the Under 13 Boys single lap race, and the combined Under 17 and Under 20 two medium lap event, courtesy of Joe Dixon and Holly Peck respectively.
Joe also led the Morpeth Under 13 Boys home to what was the clubs solitary team victory on the day,
winning by a margin of twenty-six seconds from Tynedale Harrier Nathaniel Henderson,
by posting the event’s twelfth fastest overall of 83 finishers.
Dixon has made great strides in the summer, by mixing triathlon along with older brother Daniel,
and the younger Dixon now certainly seems to be progressing well in his sport, and this excellent
performance will give him utmost confidence throughout the forthcoming Cross-Country season.
He was joined in the Morpeth team success, with further counts coming from excellent performances by Sam Dent and William De Vere Owen, who finished in fourth and twelfth places respectively from the Slow Pack.
Dent just missed out on an on the day Harrier League medal by a mere second.
Morpeth’s other athletes in the Under 13 Boys event also performed with distinction.
Running from the Fast Pack and giving 100 seconds start to a good proportion of the field, Bertie Marr and Ryan Davies both worked their way through the masses to finish in eighteenth and twenty second places and being rewarded with the second and third fastest times respectively, behind fastest competitor Tom Slane of Blackhill, who finished in ninth place from the Fast Pack.
Morpeth’s other on the day winner Holly Peck, not only won by a clear margin of forty-two seconds
from the Slow Pack, she was also rewarded with clocking the fastest time,
and also received an on the day Harrier League medal for her achievement.
Peck has a truly remarkable record on the Wrekenton course, having won and clocked fastest times in both the Under 13 and Under 15 age groups previously, and this win, achieved in a mixed race against some girls who are close to being four years older is a superb achievement in itself.
She led the Morpeth combined Under 17/Under 20 Women’s team home to second team place,
losing out to close rivals Houghton by twelve points, with further on the day team support coming from Lily Heaton, who hopefully has now fully recovered from the illness which forced her to miss last weeks Northern Relay,
and Kay Errington, who finished in thirteenth and fifteenth places from the Slow Pack.
Just missing out on the team count was Under 20 athlete Gracie Hufton, who ran superbly from the Fast Pack, giving 150 seconds away to a good proportion of the field of 36 finishers to very skilfully work her way through to finish sixteenth, clocking the eighth fastest time of the day.
Gracie was also the fifth Under 20 finisher.
Morpeth’s other finisher in this event was Under 17 athlete Lauren Cummings,
who was also well up the field, finishing 21st from the Slow Pack.
It is anticipated that the competitive rivalry with Houghton in this age group,
will continue as the season progresses.
A near record field took part in the three laps approximately 9k Senior Men’s field,
who were led home by former North East, and Northern Champion Dan Garbutt,
making a welcome return to the North East Harrier League after a prolonged absence.
Morpeth Harriers had a superb turnout in this event, with a total of nineteen finishers getting around, in a finishing field of 594. In a very close Division One team race, Morpeth just lost out to Sunderland Harriers by a mere six points, being led home superbly by Sam Hancox, who was very easily the fastest overall on the course by a clear margin of just under one minute.
Hancox worked his way through from the Fast Pack, giving five minutes
to most of the field, to finish in an excellent tenth place.
Second Fastest on the day was his Morpeth club colleague Jordan Scott,
also running from the Fast Pack, who had an excellent run to finish in nineteenth place overall.
Third counter, and having an equally excellent run, was Sam Hancox’ s Over 50 Father Rob,
who maintained superb pace throughout to finish 27th from the Slow Pack.
Further Morpeth scoring counts came from Shaun Land, in his first Harrier League for the club following his Summer transfer from Alnwick, who finished 41st from the Slow Pack, Andrew Lawrence (47th) (Fast Pack),
and Kris White, another Harrier League debutant, who finished 54th from the Slow Pack.
Two places adrift of the sixth scoring place was Paul Waterston, who also ran from the Slow Pack.
Other Morpeth Senior Men’s performances were as follows
Tim Miley (89th) (Slow Pack), Andrew Hebden (97th) (Medium Pack),
Dean Lonsdale (153rd) ( Medium Pack),
Lee Bennett in his first Harrier League following his transfer
from Elswick Harriers, who finished 181st from the Fast Pack,
Thomas Innes (190th) (Fast Pack), Phil Walker (207th) (Medium Pack),
Fergus Bates (225th) (Fast Pack), Paul Bellingham (229th) (Slow Pack),
Steve Haswell (245th) (Medium Pack), Jim Alder (277th) (Slow Pack),
Will Clark (347th) (Fast Pack), and Steven Major (369th) (Slow Pack).
Morpeth Harriers Senior Women certainly made a promising start to this year’s Division One Harrier League campaign, by finishing third on the day behind winners Tynedale Harriers and second placed North Shields Poly.
The club were led home by Vicky Gibbs, making a competitive comeback following a period of injury.
Running from the Slow Pack, Gibbs finished eleventh overall.
Six places behind Vicky, was her Morpeth club colleague Emma Holt,
who is also recovering from injury, after missing most of the summer competition.
Running from the Fast Pack and giving five minutes to a good proportion of the 450 strong field,
Holt posted the fastest time of the day, although afterwards was strong enough to admit that
she had been running scared, with second fastest Georgia Campbell of Jarrow and Hebburn
only a mere four places and around ten seconds adrift of her.
Morpeth’s excellent scoring count was completed by newcomer Rachel Falloon,
who finished 30th from the Medium Pack, and posting the sixth fastest time,
and Gwenda Cavill, who finished 61st from the Slow Pack.
In addition to the scoring four, Morpeth Women were also well
supported by a further six who faced the starter.
Results were as follows
Sue Smith (116th) (Slow Pack),
Jilly Bell (131st) (Slow Pack),
Jane Briggs (135th) (Medium Pack),
Lorna MacDonald (146th), Jill Bennett,
making her Harrier League debut for Morpeth
by finishing 151st, from the Medium Pack,
Lesley Chapman (174th) (Slow Pack).
Although they just lost out in the team race to Houghton,
Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Men performed superbly in their two medium lap affair,
by providing the event with its third, fourth, and fifth fastest finishers in the field of 31.
The clubs first finisher, and third fastest, Tom Balsdon very nearly won the event,
just losing out to Houghton’s Will Bellamy by a mere second in a closely fought encounter from the Slow Pack.
Not far behind Bellamy and Balsdon in third place was Morpeth’s Rowan Bennett,
making his Harrier League debut for the club following his summer transfer from Elswick.
Completing the Morpeth Under 17 Men’s scoring count was Daniel Melling,
who posted a fifth fastest time from the Fast Pack, to finish twelfth overall.
Morpeth’s other finisher in this event Sam Bradley, finished 21st from the Slow Pack.
Very much in superb form at the moment is Morpeth’s Under 15 Boy Euan Duffin,
and he certainly kept up this form, by easily posting the fastest time in their one lap race.
Giving 100 seconds away to a good proportion of the 62 strong finishing field,
Duffin worked his way through to finish thirteenth overall from the Fast Pack,
leading his club to second team place behind a strong Tynedale Harriers squad.
Approaching the finish line, Duffin just managed to outsprint his Morpeth
club colleague Matthew Walton, who had a Slow Pack start.
Completing the Morpeth scoring count was Callum Rowell, who placed 25th from the Slow Pack.
Although just a few places and seconds outside the scoring three,
Dylan Davies can feel well pleased with his seventh equal fastest clocking,
having run from the Fast Pack to finish 33rd.
Alex Porteous finished 55th from the Fast Pack, having not competed for some time.
Morpeth’s Under 15 Girls just lost out by one point in their attempt
to win a top three placing in their single lap event.
They were led home by Abby Leiper in her first Harrier League for the club.
She finished in seventh place from the Slow Pack and was twelfth fastest overall.
Supporting her in the Morpeth team count was Rebecca Bradley (10th) (Slow Pack),
and Rhiannon Hedley, making a welcome return to Cross Country action, finishing thirteenth from the Slow Pack.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the Under 15 Girls event were Laura Melling and Faye Archbold,
who finished 29th and 30th respectively from the Slow Pack, and two seconds apart.
Morpeth Harriers had two athletes competing in the Under 11’s Two Small Lap “Try it Cross Country”
non-scoring events that preceded the main eight event programme.
Oliver Tomlinson ran superbly to finish a close fourth in the Boys race,
and Keira Peck, younger sister of Holly finished seventh in the Girls race.
The Wrekenton venue will next be called to use for the annual North Eastern
Counties Cross Country Championships, scheduled to be held early in December.
North Eastern Harrier League action will continue next Sunday, with the holding of the second fixture
at Druridge Bay, where there will be an adjusted timetable, see the league website on www.harrierleague.com
An excellent start to the Cross-Country season for Morpeth Harriers, no doubt, more to come.