The new cross country season got under way on Saturday 28th September with the first meeting of the 2019/20 Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at Wrekenton, Low Fell.
On a surprisingly mild and sunny afternoon, conditions were largely good under foot despite several sticky patches, and Morpeth were rewarded with one outstanding individual victory along with one team win,
as well as three second team places.
The individual and team wins came courtesy of the club’s U15 boys where Joe Dixon led from the front to win in a time of 8 minutes 32 seconds, some 14 seconds ahead of his nearest rival. Dixon was supported by Ryan Davies, 3rd in 8:47 and Bertie Marr, 5th in 8:49. With Will De Vere-Owen in 10th, Adam Howliston 25th and Matthew Walton 45th, the Under 15s look well placed already to defend a title won comprehensively last year.
Although not able to provide an individual winner, the U17 boys also placed 2nd on the day with a good 3rd place from Euan Duffin, supported by Dylan Davies in 9th and Ben Waterfield in 12th. Missing 1st team place by the narrowest of counts (24 to Gosforth Harriers’ 23), the team will also hope to be at the top of the table by the end of the season.
Morpeth’s only other complete Junior team was the U13 boys, who finished in 6th place overall, despite a strong run by Oliver Tomlinson, 2nd on the day behind Zac Brannon of NSP. Tomlinson was supported by Luke Robson (18th) and Thomas Huntley (63rd).
Molly Baker (70th) and Kiera Peck (82nd) represented the club in the U13 girls but missed a third teammate for a complete team count. It was a disappointingly similar story in the U15 girls where Abi Leiper ran well to place 21st and was supported by Olivia Carruthers in 51st.
Running from fast pack, U/20 Robyn Bennett ran the 2nd fastest time of the race in the U17 girls /U20 women combined race to place 9th and U/17 Holly Peck, also from fast pack, was not far behind in 14th.
First race of the day had been the very popular U/11 boys and Daniel Scott was 11th here, Sam Davies – the youngest Davies to wear a Morpeth vest – 16th, Toby Marr 67th and Irwin Wilby 97th.
In the matching U/11 girls, Iris Dungait was 24th.
Meanwhile in the Senior Women and Senior Men’s races, the final two events of the day,
there were excellent matching 2nd places for both teams.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the women’s race was a return to competitive action for Jane Hodgson,
many of whose finest performances over the years have been over the cross country. In her first outing since winning the Beadnell-Alnmouth race in July and still not fully free of injury, Hodgson recorded the fastest time of the race (24:23) from the medium pack to finish in 3rd place overall behind an excellent run from NSP O/50 veteran Katherine Davis, whose clocking of 25:02 was actually the 4th fastest overall of the day, and Gillian Manford of Gateshead, both from slow pack.
Only a few seconds slower (24:28) but out of fast pack, Rachelle Falloon was the club’s next counter in 10th. With Claire Calverley 3rd counter and Lindsey Quinn making up the team count, and some twelve athletes representing the club in total, this was a strong start to the season, although NSP presented a very determined effort to win on the day in defence of the title they won last year.
Competing also for the women were Michelle Thompson (85th), Jill Bennett (169th), Sarah Lawson (201st ), Sue Smith (224th), Julie Vermaas (254th), Sarah Routledge (255th), Lucy Sill (308th) and Clare Hiscock (449th). Special congratulations to all taking part in their first Harrier League.
The final race of the day over a three lap and roughly six mile circuit also saw the largest field with over 650 runners. There was an outstanding win in a time of 30:57 by young Sam Charlton of Wallsend Harriers, with newly promoted Blaydon Harriers – all of whose runners had run from slow pack – narrowly pipping Morpeth by a two point margin for overall first team.
First home for Morpeth was young Alex Cunningham in his first outing with the seniors, placing an excellent 3rd overall. He was followed home by veterans Gary Jones, 9th overall, and Jason Dawson, 35th, also both out of slow pack.
Running out of fast pack, Jordan Scott was 4th counter, Mark Snowball 5th from medium
and Andrew Lawrence 6th from fast to complete the 6 man count.
With some eight other Harriers running, like the women this was a good turn-out for the club and a promising start in their efforts to retain a Senior Men’s title they have won for the last two consecutive seasons.
Other Morpeth runs came from Lee Bennett, delighted to be back in medium pack and narrowly avoiding promotion once again (74th), Ricky Stafford (188th), evergreen Dave Nicholson, now an O/65, unbelievably (242nd), Steve Haswell (266th), Paul Brown (381st), Pieter Vermaas (397th) and Bill Tilley (511th).
Action moves next weekend to Druridge Bay on Sunday, almost a home fixture for the club and one that has been a happy hunting ground in the last couple of seasons, so a good turn-out should help ensure further success.