Organisers of the Start Fitness sponsored North Eastern Harrier League
breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday 17th March 2018
as they managed to complete the seasons fixtures at Alnwick Castle,
amidst prolonged icy wintry showers,following on from Friday’s torrential downpour.
Despite that downpour, apart from one or two boggy areas on the already tough course on the Pastures,
conditions were relatively good on the testing circuit, and the ten race programme was completed without any major hitches, thanks to the excellent stewardship of organising club Alnwick Harriers,
who had already experienced the disappointment of having to call off the original
fixture a fortnight previous, due to heavy snowfall.
However, all went well on Saturday, especially for Morpeth Harriers, whose on the day efforts
secured no less than four end of season team victories, along with a good number of notable individual performances. One very notable individual performer was Jane Hodgson,
who defied a 200 second handicap over most of her rivals, to win the Senior Women’s event from the Fast Pack
by a margin of 1m43s over her second placed club colleague Helen King, who ran excellently from the Slow Pack.
It also meant that Hodgson had a 100% record in the six counting Harrier League fixtures,
making her the leading Veteran Women in the Grand Prix competition incorporated into the event.
Running from the Fast Pack, Alison Brown finished in an excellent nineteenth place,
and closing the Morpeth Harriers scoring count was Susan Smith,
who finished 68th from the Slow Pack, which also secured an excellent Division 1 team title into the bargain.
Last season, Morpeth Harriers had won the Women’s Division 2 title to secure promotion,
and to win the Division 1 title at their first attempt was a superb effort.
Other Morpeth Senior Women rallying to the clubs’ cause on the day were Carol Parry (135th) (Slow Pack),
Claire Hiscock (165th) (Slow Pack), Frances Naylor (166th) (Slow Pack).
Running from the Medium Park, Morpeth’s Karl Taylor came very close to securing his second Harrier League
Senior Men’s victory of the season, having won from the Slow Pack at Thornley in the fifth fixture.
On Saturday he just couldn’t catch the host clubs’ Daniel Leng, who had a 2m30s handicap advantage.
Leng reached the finish line with a 92 second margin over Taylor who finished second, marginally ahead of his Morpeth Harriers club colleague, Sam Hancox, who when running from the Fast Pack,
posted the fastest time in the Senior Men’s event. It wasn’t long before Morpeth saw the emergence
of their third counter Fergus Bates, who ran excellently to finish sixth from the Medium Pack.
The on the day winning team effort, which eventually resulted in Morpeth Harriers Senior Men
taking the Division 1 league title, was further supported by Robert Balmbra (21st) (Fast Pack),
John Butters (42nd) (Fast Pack), and Paul Waterston (52nd) (Slow Pack).
345 finishers took part in the Senior Men’s event, and it is very much testament to the overall
strength of the Morpeth Senior Men’s performance, that all of their finishers were inside the top 100.
Other Senior Men in action were Thomas Innes (57th) (Fast Pack), Andrew Hebden (61st) (Medium Pack),
Dean Lonsdale (69th) (Medium Pack), Will Clark (85th) (Fast Pack), and Richard Castledine (96th) (Fast Pack).
Castledine is the only Morpeth Senior Man to have run in all six league fixtures,
and has counted in two of them, and the added fact that none of the clubs leading runners
figure highly in the Harrier League Grand Prix rankings, and it has been a good all round club
effort by some of their lesser knowns who have brought success.
The clubs’ younger age groups were weakened by the fact that several athletes were competing
in the English Schools Cross Country Championships in Leeds, nevertheless, their Under 15 Boys
finished second on the day behind hosts Alnwick, which still saw Morpeth take the league title.
Scoring counts on the day came from Dylan Gooding (3rd) (Slow Pack),
Alex Porteous (4th) (Slow Pack), and Ben Walker (14th) (Fast Pack).
Other Morpeth Under 15 Boys performers were Jonny Kidd (16th) (Fast Pack),
and Andrew Hudspith (17th) (Fast Pack).
Finishing third on the day, saw Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys finish
second for the season, only a mere three points adrift of Blackhill Bounders.
Scoring counts for Morpeth came from Bertie Marr (10th) (Fast Pack),
Ryan Davies (15th) (Fast Pack), and James Tilley (20th) (Slow Pack).
Other Morpeth Under 13 Boys performances came from
Joseph Hudspith (24th) (Fast Pack), and Joe Dixon (27th) (Slow Pack).
Despite not being able to field any Under 17 Men on the day, due to runners being unavailable because of the
English Schools Championships in Leeds, Morpeth still clinched the league title by a margin of four points over Durham City.
Morpeth’s Molly Ions finished 29th from the Slow Pack in the Under 13 Girls event, and in his first ever run
in the Morpeth colours, Ryan Sample finished 40th in the non-scoring Under 11 Boys event.
In summarising Morpeth’s Harrier League for the season, to win four team titles,
and be second in another is the result of a tremendous effort,
laced with some excellent individual performances, definitely one of the
clubs’ best years on the cross country circuit.