In total contrast to the previous weeks icy and snowy conditions, athletes competing in the fifth and penultimate Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League fixture, held at Thornley Hall Farm, near Peterlee in County Durham, on Saturday 9th February 2019, faced very little more than a strong prevailing wind to affect their days performance.
Even the severely undulating farmland proved remarkably firm and dry in places, which in previous encounters on the course, have presented tough, muddy and extremely heavy conditions, which many runners found difficult to master, however on Saturday, those who took part were quite pleased with their 2019 experience.
None more so than Morpeth Harrier Adam Pratt, who was having his first official run for his new club,
following his January transfer from Tynedale Harriers.
Pratt, running from the Slow Pack, took the lead on the second of three laps in the Senior Men’s event, and went on to record a pleasing debut victory by a thirty-five second margin from fellow Morpeth Harriers club colleague Phillip Winkler, who had been the early leader, having also run from the Slow Pack.
It was an excellent result for the Morpeth Senior Men, who led by Pratt and Winkler, executed a fine on the day team victory, which further maintained their status as Division 1 league leaders,
going into the final fixture at Alnwick next month.
Continuing the Morpeth team count was Jordan Scott, who finished an excellent eighth from the Fast Pack, and was third fastest overall in the race, behind the visiting Jarlath McKenna of Bristol and West, and Wallsend’s Jordan Middlemist, who finished in fifth and seventh places respectively.
Further excellent Morpeth Senior Men’s team performances came from Andrew Lawrence (23rd) (Fast Pack),
Adam Cooper (24th) (Slow Pack), and Over 60 Veteran Man David Nicholson,
who finished in 61st place from the Slow Pack, thus closing the scoring six.
Other Morpeth Harriers performers in the 466 strong field of finishers were as follows
Colin Archer (88th) (Medium Pack), Graeme Thorpe (132nd) (Medium Pack),
Kieran Hedley (134th) (Fast Pack), Neil McAnany (217th) (Slow Pack),
Lee Bennett (220th) (Fast Pack), Richard Kirby (241st) (Slow Pack),
Steve Haswell (268th) (Medium Pack), Paul Bellingham (272nd) (Slow Pack),
and Gavin Bayne (280th) (Slow Pack).
Morpeth’s Holly Peck, current Grand Prix leader, kept up her superb Harrier League form,
by achieving her fourth win in the Under 17/Under 20 Women’s event.
Peck, who also claimed an individual victory in last month’s Davison Shield competition, has enjoyed victory in all three packs throughout the season, and has posted the fastest time of the day on no less than three of the five occasions so far.
Holly also led her club to an on the day team victory, with further support coming from Kirsty Duffin (2nd) (Slow Pack), and Robyn Bennett (5th) (Fast Pack), which helps them maintain their lead in the cumulative table.
Morpeth’s other performance in the Under 17/Under 20 Women’s event,
came from Lily Heaton, who finished in twelfth place from the Medium Pack.
Running from the Fast Pack, Morpeth’s Emma Holt posted the fastest time of the day in the two lap Senior Women’s event, which firmly puts her in poll position in the Harrier League Grand Prix rankings.
She finished in fifth place, just a mere six seconds ahead of second fastest Danielle Smythe of Heaton Harriers, who was one place behind.
Emma led her club home to a close third place behind Elvet Striders and Gateshead Harriers in Division 1 on the day, with further excellent team support coming from Catriona MacDonald (8th) (Fast Pack) (3rd Fastest),
Lucy Fenwick (16th) (Slow Pack), and Jane Briggs (62nd) (Medium Pack).
With one fixture remaining, this result leaves the Morpeth Senior Women in second place cumulatively,
six points adrift of leaders Gateshead Harriers in Division 1,
and a mere point ahead of third placed Heaton Harriers.
Other Morpeth performances in the Senior Women’s event, which had a total of 296 finishers,
came from Alison Brown (88th) (Fast Pack), Sue Smith (90th) (Slow Pack),
Jill Bennett (119th) (Medium Pack), Jane Kirby (151st) (Slow Pack),
Claire Calverley (204th) (Medium Pack), and Margaret MacDonald (262nd) (Slow Pack).
Morpeth continued their excellent Harrier League season in their Under 13 Boys one lap event,
where they again finished as on the day winners, courtesy of Ryan Davies (3rd) (Fast Pack) (2nd Fastest),
Joe Dixon (5th) (Fast Pack) (3rd Fastest), and Joseph Hudspith (14th) (Fast Pack) (9th Fastest)
Davies also by finishing third, clinched an on the day finishers medal, his very first.
Other Morpeth finishers in the 46 strong field were, Bertie Marr (15th) (Fast Pack), (10th = Fastest),
William De Vere-Owen (27th) (Fast Pack), and Adam Howliston (32nd) (Fast Pack).
Despite not being able to finish as a team on Saturday, Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Men still hold their lead at the top of their respective table by two points from second placed Houghton,
with Blaydon Harriers a further five points adrift in third place.
Houghton and Blaydon were the only two complete teams to score on the day, where Morpeth’s Daniel Melling
and Rowan Bennett, both produced excellent runs on their two-lap course.
Running from the Fast Pack and finishing nine seconds adrift of each other in third and fourth places respectively, they were very easily the two fastest performers, and are also firmly ranked one and two respectively in the current grand prix rankings, going into the final fixture.
Whilst Melling’s placing won him a finishers medal, lack of a good third counter failed to give them a much-needed team result, which would prove valuable to the final outcome at Alnwick next month.
Morpeth’s Under 15 Boys still hold a four-point lead at the top of their league table,
despite placing second on Saturday to their closest title challengers Durham City.
Dylan Davies led the Morpeth scoring trio home, finishing fifth from the Fast Pack,
and also posting the fifth fastest time overall.
Further Morpeth team support came from Ben Waterfield (8th) (Fast Pack) (8th Fastest),
and James Tilley (31st) (Slow Pack).
Morpeth’s Under 15 Girls finished a very close third behind Chester Le Street and Birtley in their single lap event,
a result which cumulatively sees them currently lying third behind the latter and second placed North Shields Poly going into the final fixture.
On Saturday Morpeth had their best turn out of the season so far in this age group,
with six in total facing the starter in the 40 strong field of finishers.
Leading the Morpeth charge was Abi Leiper, who running from the Fast Pack,
worked her way through to an excellent sixth place, by posting the days fifth fastest time,
she was only just pipped at the post by Chester Le Street’s Emily Chong.
Giving strong support to Leiper in the Morpeth team challenge were Sophie Coaker (11th) (Slow Pack),
her first Harrier League outing, her only other performance being in last months Davison Shield at Temple Park,and Rhiannon Hedley (16th) (Fast Pack) (14th Fastest).
Other Morpeth performers were Rebecca Bradley (21st) (Fast Pack) (16th Fastest),
Kate Gaffing (29th) (Slow Pack), in her first event for the club,
and Olivia Carruthers (38th) (Fast Pack).
Morpeth had one competing athlete in action in the small single lap event for Under 11’s.
Oliver Tomlinson maintained his excellent run of Harrier League performances when he finished as second
Under 11 Boy, behind North Shields Poly’s Zac Brannon, only missing out for a first win by twelve seconds.
Including those already mentioned, Morpeth Harriers have no less than twelve athletes
currently ranked amongst the top six in their respective age groups.