For the seventh time in succession, Morpeth Harriers Male athletes retained their hold on the Sherman Cup, which was held at a cold but relatively dry Temple Park Leisure Centre, South Shields on Saturday 5th January 2019.
It really was a red-letter day for the club, as they also won the Davison Shield,
which is competed for by Female athletes.
Both competitions are held by the North Eastern Harrier League,
and akin to the league itself, sponsored by Start Fitness.
Morpeth Harriers success on Saturday was borne out of an excellent turnout in both genders,
and by some athletes who were admittedly less than fully fit.
On the team front, the club enjoyed age group victories in half of the ten events on offer,
three coming from the Male section, with two coming from Female efforts.
There were also individual championship medals won by the club, two Gold, three Silver, and three Bronze.
The three Male team victories all came from the club’s younger athletes.
Ryan Davies again got to close quarters with Blackhill’s Tom Slane in the Under 13 Boys event,
just losing out for Gold by the merest of margins.
Further Morpeth team support, which saw them achieve an excellent team victory over Blackhill,
came from a truly excellent run by Joe Dixon, which saw him win a Bronze medal,
only a few seconds adrift of Davies, with the winning Morpeth scoring count being closed by seventh placed Bertie Marr, who had also been doubtful with illness prior to the event.
Although outside the scoring three, Morpeth’s Adam Howliston and William DeVere-Owen
are to be commended for finishing 39th and 54th respectively in a finishing field of 75.
Led by Euan Duffin, who excellently ran his way into an individual Silver medal placing behind
Birtley’s Chris Perkins, only losing out on Gold by a mere twelve seconds,
led Morpeth Harriers Under 15 Boys to an emphatic on the day team win ahead of Durham City and Gosforth.
Duffin was well supported in team affairs by Dylan Gooding and a much-rejuvenated Ben Walker,
who finished fifth and ninth respectively, with excellent runs, particularly pleasing for the latter,
who has indeed bounced back after an extensive period of worrying low form, caused by illness and injury.
Despite recent illnesses, Dylan Davies and Sam Tate still turned out to finish
respectively in seventeenth and 18th places.
Other Morpeth finishers in the Under 15 Boys event were Matthew Walton (23rd), and James Tilley (37th).
Houghton’s Will Bellamy may have looked a lonely dominant figure as he strode to an emphatic twenty-eight second margin victory over Gateshead’s Charlie McMillan in the Under 17 Men’s event, however it was what was happening behind the leading two that was deciding the on the day team issue.
Three Morpeth Harriers, all finishing within a period of twenty-seven seconds in third, fourth, and fifth places,
clearly won the day, with Bellamy’s club, and Gosforth Harriers fighting out the minor placings.
It was a particularly pleasing day for Morpeth’s Rowan Bennett, who managed to run himself into an individual Bronze medal placing, only a mere eight seconds adrift of Silver medallist McMillan.
Bennett was joined in the Morpeth team success by fourth placed Daniel Melling,
and fifth placed Tom Balsdon, who were eighteen and twenty-seven seconds adrift of their leader respectively.
Other Morpeth placings in the 27 strong field of finishers in the Under 17 Men’s event were,
Thomas Cunningham (14th), and Brad Brown (22nd).
An excellent turnout by the Morpeth Harriers Senior and Veteran Women, 19 of them in total, saw them take both team titles, which was a superb contribution to the club taking the Davison Shield for the first time since 2012, having won it for nine seasons in succession prior to this, and the club had also won the trophy in the first year it was competed for, which was around 1994, a trophy that was donated to the Harrier League
by Ron and Pam Davison, who were joint secretaries of the organisation,
before their move to Scotland in retirement.
Eight of those Morpeth Harriers in action were inside the top thirty of a 347 strong field of finishers,
which proved the club’s dominance, with five of them being Seniors,
and three of them being Veterans, thus clinching both titles.
Leading the way for Morpeth was European, Olympic and Commonwealth star Laura Weightman,
who returned to the venue of her win in the competition in November 2016.
Then, she had got around the Women’s two lap course in 21m29s, on this occasion she was a good forty seconds faster and winning by a clear margin of nearly 110 seconds from her second placed club colleague Emma Holt, whom she had also beaten in 2016, although the margin had been a little slimmer.
Holt, meanwhile, could take delight that she had bettered her 2016 time by fourteen seconds,
just enough to hold off the stern challenge from Heaton’s Danielle Smythe to take a prize Silver medal.
Completing the Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s winning tally was fourth placed Catriona MacDonald,
who was just over a minute adrift of Smythe.
Not far behind MacDonald in seventh place was her club colleague Rachelle Falloon,
who bravely fought her way round despite nursing a leg injury.
One place, and only eight seconds adrift of Falloon was first Woman Veteran finisher Gemma Floyd,
who led the Morpeth Veteran Women home, with further excellent team counts coming from
Morag Stead (12th Woman) (4th Veteran), and Helen King (19th) (9th Veteran).
The clubs other prominent Women’s finisher was young Alison Brown,
who competed superbly to finish in 30th place.
Another good result for Morpeth Women, was that of newcomer Sarah Lawson, who finished in 68th place.
Not far behind Sarah in 78th place, was Veteran Jane Briggs,
and finishing just outside the top 100, in 101st place was Jill Bennett, another Woman Veteran.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers on the day in the Women’s event were, Jilly Bell (129th),
Lucy Fenwick (134th), Lesley Chapman (162nd), Sue Smith (175th), Jane Kirby (181st),
Pam Woodcock (240th), Margaret MacDonald (272nd), and Claire Hiscock (326th).
A very creditable turnout indeed, leading to two very vital and important team victories.
Second and third team places in the Senior Women’s section went to Gateshead Harriers
and Heaton Harriers, whilst in the Veteran Women’s section, second and third team
honours went to Sunderland Harriers and Gosforth Harriers respectively.
Morpeth Harriers very nearly clinched a third Female team victory on the day,
courtesy of their combined Under 17/Under 20 Women’s squad,
who lost out on countback to Houghton Harriers, after finishing
on a level number of points with their Wearside rivals.
However, Morpeth did have an on the day Gold medallist in this event, in the form of Holly Peck,
who despite a number of stern challenges from Under 20 rival Rhian Purves of Gosforth,
held her resolve to go on to win her Small and Large lap event by a margin of ten seconds,
with Houghton’s leading counter Eva Hardie coming home to take the individual Bronze medal,
a further fifteen seconds adrift.
Supporting Peck in the Morpeth team count was Robyn Bennett, having her first race for some time.
Bennett battled throughout to finish fifth, with the Morpeth team count being completed by Gracie Hufton,
who finished an excellent twelfth.
Bennett and Hufton were second and fourth Under 20 athletes behind Purves.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in this event were, Ella Duffield (15th),
Kirsty Duffin (16th), and Kay Errington (25th).
In the longest race of the day, over three long laps, Morpeth Harriers Senior and Veteran Men
battled hard to finish second and fifth respectively.
Under 20 athlete Taylor Glover led the Morpeth Senior Men’s charge, finishing an excellent sixth,
which still being an Under 20 athlete is a fine achievement, and the added factor that he
was just over thirty seconds adrift of an individual medal, speaks volumes on the
strength of his individual performance.
Supporting Glover in the Morpeth Senior Men’s team count, which saw them finish second to Tyne Bridge Harriers, losing out for team victory by nine points, were Jordan Scott (7th) and Andrew Lawrence (9th).
Other prominent Morpeth Senior Men in the 428 strong field of finishers were
Matthew Briggs (23rd), who was fourth Under 20 to Glover, and Alistair Douglass (26th).
Finishing 39th, Lee Bennett brought Morpeth Harriers Veteran Men home to fifth team place behind Sunderland Harriers, with further team supporting counts coming from Fergus Bates (58th), and David Nicholson (129th).
Other Morpeth Harriers performances in the combined Senior and Veteran Men’s event, came from
Andrew Hebden (68th), Neil McAnany (155th), Richard Kirby (213th) Eric Adams (215th),
and Paul Bellingham (254th).
A superb third place, and an equally superb Bronze individual medal achieved by Morpeth’s Abi Leiper in the
Under 15 Girls event, inspired her club to third team place on the day, but nevertheless was an integral part
of the overall success in winning the Davison Shield.
When Rhiannon Hedley proved to be a late withdrawal with stomach pains, Rebecca Bradley,
who had been ill herself, bravely stepped up to the plate by getting around to finish in eleventh place
as second counter, and Olivia Carruthers, who had been due to take part in a ladies football tournament,
which had been subsequently cancelled, also stepped in to play her part in the team success,
by coming home as third counter in 24th place.
Morpeth’s other finishers in this event were newcomer Sophie Coaker,
and Laura Melling, who finished in 33rd and 35th places respectively.
The clubs least experienced squad, the Under 13 Girls, did well to finish eleventh,
courtesy of Sophia Cunningham (31st), Molly Baker (38th), and Keira Peck, younger sister of Holly,
who is still an Under 11 athlete this season, however by age is now eligible to compete at Under 13 level,
and to finish 49th against a 67 strong field of mainly older girls is in itself an excellent achievement.
At the end of the day, by stepping up in age group, and being a team counter into the bargain,
she will share in her club’s overall success of winning both the Davison Shield and Sherman Cup,
possibly being one of the club’s youngest recipients ever, of a championship medal.
Staying with Under 11 achievements, Morpeth had two athletes lined up in the
non-scoring Under 11 Boys event, which had a finishing field of 68 competitors.
Oliver Tomlinson finished an excellent fourth, only ten seconds adrift of the winner,
and Toby Marr, younger brother of Under 13 Boy Bertie, finished in 57th place.
Returning to the main competitions, the Sherman Cup and Davison Shield,
Morpeth Harriers won both by virtue of the fact that they had managed to field
full teams in all five counting events of each competition.
In the Sherman Cup, they won by a margin of sixteen points over Sunderland Harriers,
with Gosforth Harriers a further three points adrift.
Morpeth Harriers, Sunderland Harriers, and Gosforth Harriers
were also the only teams who had full complement of athletes.
The Davison Shield proved to be a little closer, with only thirteen points
dividing the first three teams, where again, only those clubs had full turnout on the day.
Morpeth Harriers won however by a margin of eight points from Elswick Harriers,
with Sunderland Harriers again scoring, this time for third team place.