With no less than four team wins, plus four individual victories,
along with a superb set of minor team and individual successes,
Morpeth Harriers & AC were certainly once again a dominant force
to be reckoned with at the 111th annual North Eastern Athletics
Association Cross Country Championships,
held at Aykley Heads, Durham on Saturday 10th December.
Two times Olympian, and European and Commonwealth medallist Laura Weightman
became the first Morpeth Harrier to lift the Senior Women’s 8k title since Dianne Henaghan in 1996,
and led her club to a twenty-six-point margin team victory over Jarrow and Hebburn,
with Gosforth Harriers a further sixteen points adrift in third team place.
Weightman had been expected to line up in the 200 plus strong field alongside
fellow Olympians Alyson Dixon of Sunderland Strollers, and Sale Harrier Sonia Thomas,
plus six times winner, and reigning Champion Rosie Smith of Durham City,
however that factor evaporated at the eleventh hour following the withdrawal of all three for varied reasons.
It was no surprise when Weightman went quickly to the front from the gun,
being hotly pursued by club colleague Emma Holt, and Gosforth Harriers
Rachel Lundgren and Helen Warburton, plus another chasing group that
included Gateshead’s Mary Ferrier, Tyne Bridge Harrier Alison Dargie,
Morpeth pair Josie Cram and Jane Hodgson, and Jarrow and Hebburn pair
Alex Sneddon and Gina Rutherford, the latter running her first race
as an official counter for Steve Cram’s old club.
Cram was there himself to witness Weightman lift her first North Eastern Cross Country title,
since she had won as an Under 13 athlete in her very first appearance as a Morpeth Harrier at Darlington in 2003.
After emerging from the first of two long 4k laps with a healthy fifty metre lead over Holt,
Weightman proceeded to lengthen her advantage as the race progressed,
and eventually crossed the finish line with a comfortable margin, over her nearest rival.
It was still Holt who had held onto second place and a Silver medal, with Lundgren just
managing to hold off her Gosforth club colleague Warburton for the Bronze medal.
There was more delight however for Morpeth Harriers, when they took the Senior Women’s team title,
with Weightman and Holt being very ably supported by Josie Cram (7th) and Jane Hodgson (8th).
Another good prominent Morpeth Harrier performance came from
Catriona MacDonald, who finished in twelfth place overall.