The first competitive action of the New Year saw a day of mixed fortunes at Temple Park, South Shields
on Saturday 4th January, with the club comfortably retaining the Sherman Cup but unable to hold
on to the Davison Shield.
Traditionally a test of strength in depth for North East clubs, the event has taken place regularly since 1949.
The trophy was originally donated by Sherman’s Football Pools, hence the name,
while in 2002, former Harrier league secretaries Pam and Ron Davison
donated a trophy to allow women to compete in a similar fashion to the men.
Athletes from across the area compete in five age categories
(the men in Under 13, Under 15, Under 17, Seniors and Veterans,
with the minor variation for the women of U/17 and 20 combined)
with the first three from each club to count.
Among the highlights of the customary breezy afternoon on the exposed playing fields were two team and two individual golds, the latter all the more memorable in coming from brother and sister Rowan and Robyn Bennett.
The men’s team gold came courtesy of their Under 15 boys squad, for whom Joe Dixon again led the way, finishing in 2nd place. He was supported by the runs of Ryan Davies (who had run a fine personal best at the Blyth parkrun on New Year’s Day) in 6th and Will De Vere-Owen in 12th, with further support coming from Liam Roche in 13th, Sam Tate in 15th, Matt Walton in 18th, Bertie Marr in 21st and James Tilley 31st.
The squad continue to provide a fine example of commitment and team spirit to the rest of the club.
The run of Rowan Bennett to take an individual gold in the Under 17s was one of the highlights of the day.
Behind early leaders Will Bellamy of Houghton AC and Charlie Daley of Gateshead Harriers on the first lap,
Bennett stuck to his task in a determined fashion and made up for his disappointment at Alnwick two weeks ago (when he had mistakenly thought there were two laps).
There was to be no such disappointment this time as he comfortably eased past his rivals on the second lap
to win by a margin of well over half a minute in front of his delighted parents Lee and Jill.
He was supported by the runs of Dylan Davies in 10th and Euan Duffin 11th, the latter doing well to grit his teeth despite injury to ensure the team count was complete. The team finished 2nd to Houghton AC.
Ollie Calvert was first home in the Under 13 boys race, finishing in 6th place, with supporting runs by Oliver Tomlinson in 8th , Sam Livingstone in 19th, Luke Robson in 31st and Conner Phillips in 37th, in a squad that is developing nicely. The team were 3rd behind North Shields Polytechnic Harriers and Gateshead.
Complete teams in all three Junior races meant the club was in pole position coming into the combined
Senior and Veteran Men’s three lap race, and it was a winning combination of youth and experience that saw the club over the line.
With many of the club’s more experienced Senior athletes either injured or unavailable, the spotlight was very much on those who had come through the club’s ranks, many of whom had of course run in Junior categories in the competition in previous years.
Prominent amongst these was Modern Pentathlete Ross Charlton, who showed the fine form he has been showing in training when finishing in 3rd place overall behind Calum Johnson and Charlie Mcmillan of Gateshead Harriers. Confessing afterwards he had found the last lap a bit of a struggle - with the distance further than he had ever raced before - nevertheless Charlton took advantage of Dave Green of NSP’s mistake in the run in to get ahead of him and to stay in front of Gateshead’s hugely experienced Conrad Franks.
Adam Pratt had a good run to make the top ten, finishing 9th overall, with the 3rd team count coming from Taylor Glover only one place behind. Kieran Hedley provided further back up in 13th. It was particularly pleasing to see both Glover and Hedley back competing after spells out, and both showing their real potential for the future. The team were 2nd behind Gateshead.
Two more youngsters who have come through the ranks, Dan Melling and Connor Marshall, were 24th and 70th respectively, with the ever smiling Ricky Stafford 114th, Adam Coulson 143rd and Eric Adams 208th.
In the veteran men’s race, meanwhile, Gary Jones was 50th and Lee Bennett 55th. The team count was completed by Jamie Johnson in 138th place. The veteran men were 4th overall, their highest finish for a number of years.
There were further supporting runs by evergreen Dave Nicholson, 173rd, Jason Dawson, on his way back from injury and taking it easy in 179th, Paul Brown 219th, Bill Tilley 253rd and Pieter Vermaas 255th.
In an event where the club has shown its dominance for a number of years now, the overall standings placed Morpeth on 12 points, well clear of nearest rivals Gateshead Harriers with Gosforth Harriers in 3rd.
Sadly, a couple of last minute drop outs from illness and one or two no shows in the Davison Shield meant that two of the three Junior teams were incomplete, and so realistically any prospect of retaining the title from last year was also lost.
Nevertheless, the Senior Women were able to go one better than their male counterparts, winning the Women’s team race, while their Under 17/20 combined squad also finished 2nd.
The latter were led home by Robyn Bennett, older sister of Rowan, who won by a margin of some eight seconds from her nearest rival Chloe Wellings of Gateshead in a determined and purposeful fashion.
Good team support was provided by U17 Holly Peck in 9th, Sophie Coaker in 21st, Ella Duffield 22nd ,
Kirsty Duffin 24th and Kate Gaffing, 34th, the team finishing just behind a strong Houghton Harriers outfit.
In the Senior and Veteran Women’s two lap race, Cat Macdonald was agonisingly close to a gold medal,
losing out to Amy Fuller of Elswick Harriers by the narrowest of one second margins.
She was well supported by Josie Cram, back in competitive action and running strongly to finish 4th, and sister Lorna in 21st. The team finished just ahead of an experienced Jarrow and Hebburn outfit.
Also running in the Senior race were Cat and Lorna’s sister Lindsey, 33rd,
Hannah Rank, 42nd, and Sarah Lawson, 131st.
In the women’s veteran competition, won by Gateshead, Morpeth finished 13th, with scoring counts by Gwenda Cavill, 92nd, Jane Briggs, 93rd and Julie Vermaas, 97th.
There were good numbers out for the club, which looks promising ahead of the remaining Harrier League fixtures, with in addition Shuna Rank 143rd, Sarah Routledge 158th, Jill Bennett 187th and Margaret Macdonald 278th.
The Davison Shield was won by Gateshead Harriers with Birtley AC in 2nd and Gosforth Harriers 3rd.