It was certainly a very muddy end to the season for the Start Fitness
North Eastern Harrier League on Saturday 4th March 2017,
with the final fixture being held at The Pastures,
close to Alnwick Castle, normally a very picturesque setting.
Despite an absolute deluge of overnight rain, which continued into the
early morning, proceedings got underway on time, and all ten programmed
events were completed, mostly in a murky, misty atmosphere.
Thankfully the rain stopped just prior to the first event, and by the time everything
was completed, the area had become bathed in warmer spring sunshine.
With tricky conditions before them, competitors were very much up for the task in hand,
and it was certainly a good day at the office for athletes from Morpeth Harriers,
who showered themselves literally with success by taking no less than three league titles,
three on the day team victories, and had two individual winners.
The clubs Senior Women will compete next season for the first time
in the upper echelon of their three divisions next season,
following some excellent performances which gave them the Division 2 title,
finishing one point ahead of Gosforth Harriers, who had won on the day by a mere two points.
Winning the league title itself, is a just reward for a squad who
have very much worked as a team, and with great spirit.
Despite missing leading light Emma Holt, who had been given a late call to represent the region
elsewhere over the weekend, the team managed to muster a strong enough number to complete the task.
It was Jane Hodgson who led the squad home, finishing second overall,
and posting the fastest time of the day, which has also given her the
Veteran Women’s Grand Prix title for the season.
Running from the fast pack, and giving 200 seconds to the vast majority of the 300 plus finishing field,
she finished only a mere sixteen seconds adrift of North Shields Poly’s Carla Maley,
who had managed to hold on throughout from the Slow Pack.
Supporting Jane in the team count for Morpeth were Gemma Floyd (14th) (3rd Div) (Fast Pack),
Jane Briggs (81st) (20th Div) (Slow Pack), and Jane Kirby (111th) (31st Div) (Slow Pack).
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the Senior Women’s event were as follows
Jilly Bell (168th) (Slow Pack), Sue Smith (189th) (Slow Pack),
Jacinta Wake (195th) (Slow Pack), Carol Parry (198th) (Slow Pack),
Jenny Glossop, making her debut, (257th) (Slow Pack),
Claire Hiscock (276th) (Slow Pack), and Margaret MacDonald (278th) (Slow Pack),
who now knows that her supporting run at the previous meeting was worth its weight in Gold.
A very dominant on the day performance by Morpeth’s Under 17 Men,
saw them clinch the league title over Durham City by one point.
Their on the day margin was very clear, with seven points they won by
twenty-nine points over the same rivals, however, such was the dominance,
they were also twenty-five points ahead of what would
have been a Morpeth B team if B teams were permitted.
Leading the Morpeth charge was Kieran Hedley, who is very near to his best form at last,
after a period of illness and injury that hit him during December and January.
Hedley, running from the Fast Pack, and giving 200 seconds
to a portion of the 30-strong field of finishers, posted the fastest time of the day,
to win by twenty-four seconds from club colleague Taylor Glover, also running from the Fast Pack.
Morpeth Harriers scoring count was completed by
an excellent run by Joe Ramshaw, who finished fourth.
He was followed home very closely by fifth placed Matthew Waterfield,
who finished sixth in the seasons Grand Prix by virtue of this superb performance.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the Under 17 Men’s event were
Liam Marsh (7th) (Fast Pack), and Josh Burton (20th) (Fast Pack).
Morpeth Harriers Under 15 Boys ended their superb season,
which has seen them execute four on the day victories,
including this one, by winning their league title by a margin of seven points over Durham City.
On Saturday they won by a margin of eight points over hosts Alnwick Harriers,
courtesy of Daniel Melling (4th) (Fast Pack), Ross Charlton (7th) (Fast Pack),
and Thomas Cunningham (15th) (Fast Pack).
Unfortunately, on Saturday they were without Daniel Dixon,
who has won the Grand Prix, however although absent,
he will be very pleased to learn that his club colleagues battled to clinch the league title.
Other Morpeth Under 15 Boys performances came from
Andrew Hudspith (41st) (Fast Pack), and Brad Brown (50th) (Fast Pack).
A superb on the day win by Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys squad,
saw them finish an excellent third cumulatively for the season.
They were led home by Callum Rowell, who finished fifth overall from the Slow Pack,
with further support coming from Ryan Davies, also running from the Slow Pack,
in his first race in this age group, who finished an excellent ninth,
and he was followed home by slightly older brother Dylan,
who worked his way through in the Fast Pack to finish 13th, as ninth fastest overall,
having given 100 seconds to a vast proportion of the seventy strong field of finishers,
which also included fellow Morpeth Harriers,
James Tilley (35th) (Slow Pack), and Sam Tate (45th) (Fast Pack).
Holly Peck of Morpeth Harriers completed a fantastic Harrier League season
by winning once again from the Fast Pack in the Under 15 Girls event.
She has also posted the fastest time in all six meetings, including Saturday,
creating a unique record for a young athlete, which means that
she is a very clear winner of her age group Grand Prix.
Peck won by a 24 second margin over her closest rival Lydia James of Houghton Harriers.
On the day, Morpeth Harriers Under 15 Girls finished as fifth team behind Houghton,
and second to them for the season, losing out by three points.
Further on the day support for Morpeth came from Lily Heaton (22nd) (Fast Pack),
and Lauren Cummings (28th) (Fast Pack).
Morpeth Harriers Senior Men finished seventh in their final Division 1 race,
which meant that they finished fourth cumulatively for the season, behind clear winners Tyne Bridge Harriers.
Posting what was to emerge as the fastest overall time of the day over the three-lap course,
Ian Harding was first home for the club, when finishing fourth from the Medium Pack.
Second home for Morpeth Senior Men was Jordan Scott, who finished in 26th place from the Fast Pack,
and was twelfth fastest overall in the field of slightly over 500 finishers.
Further scoring counts for Morpeth came from Tim Miley (52nd) (Medium Pack),
David Nicholson (118th) (Slow Pack), Rob Hancox (132nd) (Medium Pack),
and Alistair Douglass (140th) (Fast Pack).
Other Morpeth Harriers competing in the Senior Men’s event were,
Paul Brown (146th) (Slow Pack), Paul Waterston (177th) (Medium Pack),
Alistair MacDonald (179th) (Slow Pack), Neil McAnany (212th) (Slow Pack),
Steve Haswell (213th) (Medium Pack), Richard Kirby (249th) (Slow Pack),
and Robert Cockburn (302nd) (Slow Pack).
Unfortunately, injury ruled Alison Brown out of the combined Under 17/Under 20 Women’s event,
which meant that Morpeth Harriers could not mount a team challenge in their event at the final hurdle.
Nevertheless, they still managed to finish in fourth team place overall for the season behind Birtley.
One Morpeth Harrier who has certainly blossomed in this age group is Gracie Hufton,
who on Saturday managed to finish an excellent seventh from the Medium Pack,
and was eighth fastest out of the finishing field of 34 runners.
Fellow Morpeth Harrier Abby Sheldon, also running from the Medium Pack,
finished fifteenth overall, and was fourteenth fastest overall.
Led home by Rhiannon Hedley, who finished twelfth from the Fast Pack,
Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Girls squad finished eighth on the day, and eighth for the season.
Other Morpeth finishers in this one lap event were Laura Melling,
who ran well to finish 24th from the Slow Pack,
and Fay Smith, who finished 50th from the Slow Pack.
Morpeth Harriers had four runners competing in the non-scoring
Under 11 Boys event, which had a total of 85 finishers.
Three of those four managed to finish in the top thirteen of the field.
Joseph Hudspith, younger brother of Andrew, and son of Morpeth Harriers
Commonwealth Marathon Bronze medallist Mark, and nephew of Ian,
was first home in fifth place overall, and only fifteen seconds adrift of the winner.
Four seconds and two places behind him was club colleague
Dylan Walker, son of Morpeth Harrier Phil.
Harry Jackson also ran well to finish in 13th place.
The other Morpeth Harriers finisher was Harry Walker, who was 84th.
Morpeth Harriers had two competitors lined up in the 70-strong field
of finishers in the Under 11 Girls event, which was non-scoring.
Sophia Cunningham, younger sister of Alex and Thomas finished 23rd,
and four places behind her, and two seconds adrift was Keira Peck, younger sister of Holly.
Morpeth Harriers have five athletes lined up to receive Grand Prix awards
from the League at a forthcoming Presentation, date to still be arranged,
to be held at the Newcastle premises of the event sponsor Start Fitness,
whom it is hoped will continue their sponsorship in the forthcoming season.
Finally, many thanks and congratulations go to Mark Doctor, and his willing team at Alnwick Harriers,
for their excellent hosting of the final meeting, who did extremely well in difficult conditions following
the heavy overnight rain, to set up the course, and their overall management of the event on the day.
Last but certainly not least, thanks to all the UK Officials for their efforts throughout the season.