“Certainly, not a day for the fainthearted,”
a statement that applies to the efforts of all those
who were either involved, or competed at the
fifth and penultimate Start Fitness North Eastern
Harrier League Meeting, held for the second occasion at
Thornley Hall Farm, near Peterlee, County Durham,
on Saturday 11th February 2017.
Despite heavy prolonged overnight rain, organisers still managed to get the ten-race programme underway,
and thankfully all events were completed, with very few casualties, although there were several dropouts,
as competitors attempted to master some of the most difficult conditions
to be faced this Cross-Country season so far,
conditions that severely lessened the usual attendance level.
One individual who certainly tackled matters very professionally was Morpeth Harrier Senior Woman Emma Holt,
who won her two-lap event with considerable ease from Durham City’s International talent Rosie Smith,
and on level terms, as both were running from the Fast Pack, giving 200 seconds and 100 seconds respectively
to a good portion of the 245-strong field of finishers,
a little down on usual, mainly due to the very adverse weather conditions.
Holt, very clearly the fastest in the race, won with seventy-six seconds to spare over Smith,
with Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson, also producing a superb run from the Fast Pack
to take third place, thirty-two seconds adrift of Smith.
This meant that Holt and Hodgson also picked up on the day Harrier League
Gold and Bronze medals respectively as a memento of their fine achievement.
Another Morpeth Harrier who mastered the muddy conditions was Catriona MacDonald,
who was fresh from a win in the Forfar Multi Terrain Half Marathon, the previous week.
MacDonald ran very strongly throughout, to come through to finish seventh, also running from the Fast Pack,
and was just over a minute behind her club colleague Hodgson.
Completing the Morpeth Harriers scoring four was Margaret MacDonald, mother of Catriona,
who having not run a Cross Country for some time, did very well to get around
the two-lap course from the Slow Pack, to finish in 230th place.
Margaret finishing was very much vital, as it meant that her club finished
in fifth team place in Division 2 on the day, thus managing to maintain
their status as league leaders going into the final fixture at Alnwick in early march,
which will hopefully see them promoted to Division 1 for next season.
Hopefully more club members will be able to turn out for that, if only to ensure that the
superb combined efforts of Emma, Jane, Catriona, and Margaret, do not go unrewarded.
One welcoming win for Morpeth Harriers on the day, both on an
individual and team front, came in the Under 15 Boys one lap event.
Again, it was down to two athletes being able to superbly master the very testing conditions.
Managing an event win, and an on the day Gold medal, Ross Charlton managed to fend off
the very close attentions of club colleague Daniel Melling, as they worked their way through
together from the Fast Pack, after giving 100 seconds start to eleven of the thirty finishers.
Charlton won by five seconds, as Melling took second place and the Silver medal,
and they were the two fastest in the race, with fourth placed Charlie McMillan
of Gateshead Harriers being the third fastest, running from the Fast Pack, eight seconds slower than Melling.
To add to Charlton and Melling’s delight Morpeth Harriers won the Under 15 Boys team race
by four points over Sunderland Harriers and Durham City, with Bradley Brown
closing their team score, when finishing 26th from the Fast Pack.
Returning to the venue of his victory in November 2016, Morpeth’s Taylor Glover
clearly revelled in another victory this time round in the Under 17 Men’s two lap event,
albeit by just under three minutes slower, mainly due to the very testing muddy conditions this time round.
This time running from the Fast Pack, and giving 200 seconds start to four of his rivals,
he won with nineteen seconds to spare over Durham City’s Michael Wade,
to reward himself with a second on the day Harrier League Gold medal.
Fellow Morpeth Harrier Joe Ramshaw, also running from the Fast Pack, worked his way through to finish sixth.
Unfortunately, Morpeth did not complete as a scoring team in this age group.
Morpeth’s Holly Peck certainly maintained her excellent season and Harrier League form
by producing an excellent fourth win of the series in the Under 15 Girls one lap event.
Although she was nearly two minutes adrift of her previous run at the venue in November,
she still managed to win by a healthy margin of twenty-three seconds over fierce rival
Lydia James of Houghton, whose consolation came when won the team race
by a margin of five points over Peck led Morpeth.
Further Morpeth Harriers team support came from excellent runs by Lily Heaton (8th) (Fast Pack),
and Lauren Cummings (10th) (Fast Pack), who posted the seventh and ninth fastest times in the race,
which had 24 finishers.
One Morpeth Harrier who improves with every outing is Gracie Hufton, who finished an
excellent fifth from the Medium Pack in the two lap Under 17/Under 20 Women’s event.
Gracie proved to fourth fastest out of seventeen competitors who faced the starter in this event,
and clearly showed that she could master the difficult testing conditions on the toughest of courses,
and in addition she was only 102 seconds slower than her November run on the course.
For the first time since 2012, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men did not finish as a scoring six in their three-lap event.
This was due to athletes pulling out during proceedings due to muscle injuries and lost shoes.
Running in his first official scoring race for the club, former Sunderland Stroller
Graeme Thorpe was the first home in a Blue and White vest.
He finished eighth from the Slow Pack after heading the 369-strong field of finishers
(a great deal lower than usual), and looks to be a prominent force for the future.
The club’s three other finishers who battled bravely throughout the tough challenge,
encountering a downhill section, that was fast resembling a muddy ski slope,
were Alistair Douglass, an excellent run from the Medium Pack to finish 24th,
Alistair MacDonald (77th), and Paul Bellingham (175th).
MacDonald, who was completing an excellent competitive day along with his
Wife and Daughter Margaret and Catriona, is to be particularly commended for
his determination to finish, despite taking a couple of tumbles in the sea of mud.
No doubt there would be a race of its own to make the family shower when they finally got home.
Ben Walker led Morpeth’s Under 13 Boys home to sixth team place on the day in their one lap event,
by finishing ninth from the Fast Pack, and posting the sixth fastest time in the 45-strong field.
Further team support came from Callum Rowell (18th) (Slow Pack), and Dylan Davies,
who bravely ran despite recovering from illness.
Dylan finished 24th from the Fast Pack, posting the thirteenth fastest time.
In the Under 13 Girls one lap event, Morpeth Harriers had two runners in the 40-strong field of finishers.
Rhiannon Hedley was the first home for the club, finishing ninth from the Fast Pack,
and posting the eighth fastest time.
Running from the Slow Pack, Laura Melling, younger sister of Daniel, finished in eighteenth place.
The non-scoring Under 11 events for Boys and Girls, run over one small lap, had a total of 91 finishers,
with 58 facing the starter in the Boys event, and 33 in the Girls event.
Morpeth Harriers had three runners in the Boys race.
First of these was Harry Jackson, who raced well to finish sixth,
being followed home very closely in seventh place by club colleague
Ryan Davies, younger brother of Dylan.
Morpeth Harriers third finisher was Bruce Smith, who was 25th.
In the Girls event Morpeth’s Maisie Dickinson ran well to finish eighth.
On a final note in relation to the event and its organisation, thanks must go to the
hardworking team of course builders, marshals, officials and last but certainly not least,
the landowner Jon Taylor, without whose help and expertise,
would not have run so smoothly,
Well Done Everyone.