The latest named storm of a dreadful Winter period, Storm Jorge was however thankfully unable to do what its two immediate predecessors had successfully managed and force the cancellation of the latest North East Harrier League fixture, so round three of the now five fixture cross country programme took place at Alnwick Pastures
on a bright but breezy, chilly Saturday afternoon.
Held once again within sight of Alnwick Castle, the course was essentially that used for the North East Championships in December, with the Senior Men completing three laps and the Senior Women two over a variety of challenging – but thankfully largely dry – terrain.
With the fixture only a short drive up the A1, a strong Morpeth turn out saw the club winning
no less than four of the eight team fixtures with one individual first place performance.
This belonged to Under 17 boy Dylan Gooding, running out of Slow Pack in his first Harrier League outing of the season, who won by well over a minute from his nearest rival. The supporting runs of Dylan Davies and Euan Duffin, 5th and 18th, also meant the team finished in 1st place ahead of Houghton Harriers, who have been their keenest rivals throughout the season in both the Northern and National Championships.
The U/17 victory was the third in a row for the club on a successful afternoon, especially for the teenage boys. Earlier, the U/13s had finished a comprehensive 1st, this time ahead of Gateshead Harriers, with Sam Livingstone their first counter in 3rd place, Oliver Tomlinson 7th and Luke Robson 8th
They were followed by an even more dominant group of the club’s U/15s, with Dylan’s brother Ryan first home this time in 4th and supporting runs by Sam Tate in 6th and James Tilley 7th. However, with Liam Roche 12th,
Bertie Marr 13th and Matthew Walton 17th, the club actually had six in the first twenty finishers,
proving once again what a strong age group this is for the club.
In the matching girls’ races, Abi Leiper showed she had got last week’s challenging National Championships out of her legs when finishing 5th in the U/15, one place behind training partner and Alnwick Harrier Mille Breese.
Zara Naughton was 22nd and new recruit Caitlin Flanagan 25th, although she was sadly not yet eligible for the team count.
Despite missing leading light Robyn Bennett - who had competed with distinction midweek in the
Police Service UK Championships - the club’s U/17 girls and U/ 20 women also gave a good account
of themselves, finishing in 3rd place behind Blaydon and Elswick Harriers. Sophie Coaker came home in 3rd place,
with Ella Duffield 6th and Kate Gaffing completing the scoring count in 17th.
Earlier, the day had got off to a bright start with a storming run by Under 11 boy Rob Walton,
who was only pipped on the run-in by his Gateshead rival but credited with the same time.
Harry Shaw also ran for the club, finishing in 54th.
In the corresponding girls race, Emma Tomlinson ran well to come home in 18th.
Penultimate event of the day was the two lap Senior Women’s race, and a first-rate turn-out
of no less than thirteen athletes from the club helped ensure a comprehensive 1st team place.
Led home once again by the tireless Jane Hodgson, 5th from fast pack and, at the age of 36,
still posting the 2nd fastest time of the day behind Heaton’s Danielle Smythe,
Morpeth’s scoring count was completed by sisters Lorna Macdonald and Lindsey Quinn, 8th and 29th respectively from medium pack, with Julie Vermaas in 37th from slow.
Behind them, there were a host of decent runs: Gwenda Cavill was 43rd from slow; Jane Briggs, 69th from medium; Sue Smith 112th from slow; Sarah Lawson 115th from medium; Sarah Routledge 131st from slow;
Michelle Thompson 137th from fast pack; Laura Shaw 164th from slow; Fran Naylor 213th
and Margaret Macdonald 237th.
The victory moved the club’s women to the top of the Grand Prix standings, tied on places with Tyne Bridge Harriers but well ahead of third place South Shields. Equally strong performances in the final two fixtures – the last of which is close to homeat Druridge Bay – should see the club regain the title they won in 2018 but lost last year.
Final event of the day was the Senior Men’s race and, after the dismal turn-out at Aykley Heads in December, it was cheering to see no less than sixteen runners heeding the call and a much improved team performance.
In a race won by over and a minute from medium pack by Wallsend’s young Sam Charlton,
Adam Pratt had another good run to finish in 7th from medium pack.
He was supported by the ever-improving Ricky Stafford, 42nd from slow,
Alistair Macdonald, 69th also from slow, Gary Jones, 84th from fast, and Lee Bennett, 89th from medium.
Final counter was evergreen Over 65 Dave Nicholson, 104th from slow.
Mention should especially be made of Jones, who is having a fine season
over the country and has now moved up to 2nd in the Veterans Grand Prix.
Morpeth’s other finishers were: Eric Adams, 113th from slow; Andy Hebden, 134th from fast;
Jamie Johnson, 142nd from medium; Richard Kirby, 154th from slow; Jason Dawson, 161st from medium;
Will Clark, 218th from medium; Paul Brown, 220th from slow; Steve Johnstone, 229th from slow;
Bill Tilley, 231st from slow; and Andrew Dippie, 255th from slow.
The Senior Men finished in 5th on the day and moved up one place in the team divisions also to 5th.
With Sunderland Harriers having clear daylight ahead of the chasing group,
it looks like the title is now gone but strong performances in the last two fixtures
might still secure a 3rd place finish.