Overcast skies, chilly autumnal winds and intermittent rain were no deterrent to the senior and junior athletes from across the North East who turned out in good numbers once again for the second fixture of the North Eastern Harrier League on Sunday 7th October, held at Druridge Bay Country Park.
Run over meadow paths to the north of the lake, the course itself has little in the way of testing hills and with mostly long grass underfoot, many runners opted for trail shoes rather than spikes, with the worst hazards coming from uneven ground and rabbit holes.
On what has come to be very much a ‘home fixture’ for Morpeth Harriers, there were two team and one individual victories, but strong turn outs in most age categories ensured Morpeth runners were once again very much to the fore in most races.
Perhaps most commendable, however, was the commitment shown by the five Junior boys and the three senior athletes, two female and one male, who had all competed the previous day in the Midlands at the English National Road Relays, showing their real pride in competition and setting a tremendous example to club colleagues.
In the Junior races, Holly Peck enjoyed a commanding victory over her nearest rivals in the Under 17 Women/Under 20 Women, to many of whom she was giving a number of years. Peck finished nearly a minute ahead of her nearest rival, Suzannah Fielding of Elswick, and with Lily Heaton finishing in 5th place and Ella Duffield in 12th, Morpeth’s team enjoyed a comfortable win and ensured they stayed top of the cumulative table after two races.
In the Under 17 Mens race, Dan Melling, one of those who had competed strongly the previous day, ran the fastest time of the day to finish in 5th place from fast pack. With support coming from Rowan Bennett (8th from fast pack) and Brad Brown (14th from slow), Morpeth’s team finished in second place to Alnwick Harriers.
There was a good showing also in the Under 15 Boys race. First home for Morpeth was Euan Duffin, another athlete who had raced the day before (9th from past pack) and he was followed home by Dylan Davies, 15th from fast pack, who had been his team mate in the Midlands. With good support coming from Dylan Gooding (20th), Callum Rowell (24th), Alex Porteous (41st) and James Tilley (46th), Morpeth’s team finished in 4th place to maintain their 2nd place overall in the league.
In the Under 15 Girls, Olivia Carruthers was first home, 10th from slow pack, although Abigail Leiper had the club’s fastest run when finishing 15th from fast. Laura Melling (30th from slow) was the team’s 3rd counter to put them in 6th place on the day. Faye Archbold was only a few places behind in 34th.
Morpeth’s Under 13 Boys squad continue to top the table, and although they narrowly lost out to North Shields Poly (for whom a young Ben Maley, son of Sean and Carla was 6th), all three of their runners had also competed the day before. All running from fast pack, Bertie Marr came in 4th, Ryan Davies 7th, and Joe Dixon 18th.
Dixon continues to make strong progress under the watchful eye of his father
and longstanding Morpeth Harriers coach Gordon.
Disappointingly, Molly Baker was Morpeth’s sole representative in the Under 13 Girls,
coming in just under half way through the field in 30th place.
In the two ‘try cross country’ Under 11 races held before the main race programme,
Kiera Peck was 13th out of 62 in the girls and Ashton Glover 40th in the boys.
Morpeth’s Senior Women squad continue to show that they have no intention of giving up their league 1 title won last year without making a fight of it. Despite having both competed in the previous day’s 4 stage relays, both Rachelle Falloon and Claire Calverley competed here just over 24 hours later.
In a women’s race comfortably won by Danielle Hodgkinson, now back at Wallsend,
first home for Morpeth was Catriona Macdonald (4t from medium pack),
now largely doing her running in Scotland. Falloon, newly promoted to fast pack,
was next counter in 59th, with the next two counts coming from Jilly Bell, 79th from slow,
and Calverley, 88th from slow. Sue Smith was 105th, Jill Bennett, newly promoted to medium pack 143rd,
and Claire Hiscock 314th. In all, some 358 women finished. Morpeth’s team were 8th on the day
but sit nicely in the middle of the overall table in 6th place.
Last event of the day was the men’s race and Morpeth were very pleased to finish off the proceedings with another team victory, all the sweeter as it came by a margin of only 3 points over their close Harrier League rivals Tyne Bridge Harriers. Once again star of the show was the indefatigable Sam Hancox whose appetite for competition seems to show no bounds. Having gone toe to toe on leg 1 with some of the best runners in the country the previous day, he was again in the thick of things here with another fastest clocking of the day to match last week’s at Wrekenton, and a 6th place overall finish.
He was not Morpeth’s first counter, however, as this honour went to Richard Johnson, 5th from slow pack in a race won by over a minute by Durham City Harrier Luke Pickering.
Also making the top ten was Jim Alder coached Ali Douglas, 9th from medium.
In his first cross country for nearly a year, Graeme Thorpe was 11th from slow,
and Colin Archer, making a Harrier League debut, 19th. The scoring count was once again
completed by one of Morpeth’s most consistent finishers, Andy Lawrence (29th from fast),
notwithstanding that he had run five miles before the race itself in preparation for a half-marathon next weekend !
Behind these counting six was an excellent turn out of no less than another eighteen Morpeth finishers.
In short order, Tim Miley was 88th from slow; Rob Hancox 109th from medium; Lee Bennett 126th from fast;
Dean Lonsdale 131st, Phil Walker 132nd, Shaun Land 139th and Kris White 160th, all medium;
Dave Nicholson 168th from slow; Tom Innes 186th from fast; Gary Hall 210th from slow;
Paul Waterston 233rd from medium; James Johnson 245 from slow;
Richard Castledine 267th and Will Clark 298th, both fast; Paul Bellingham 299th, Jim Alder 311th
and Andy Leeson 374th, all slow; and, taking respite from tent duties, Peter Scaife, 421st.
Commendations to all.
The team victory moves the men’s team up to first place by a margin of some two points over nearest rival Tyne Bridge, with the next fixture at Gosforth Park in some three weeks time.
Report by Peter Scaife