FOR the second week in a row, heavy muddy surfaces were very much the order of the day for Morpeth Harriers athletes taking part in the third Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League meeting, held at Bedewell Park, Hebburn on Saturday.
It was a return to the venue for the league, after an absence of over 10 years, however, the heavy rain on the Friday had made the tight course tricky in places.
Athletes certainly welcomed the slightly milder temperatures.
An excellent turnout for Morpeth Harriers in the Senior Men’s three-lap event saw them finish third overall on the day in a very close challenge in Division One against winners Sunderland Harriers and second-placed Durham City.
This was achieved largely by having the scoring six of their 12 athletes among the top 60 of a total of nearly 400 starters.
First home for the club was Matt Nicholson, a former Harrier League Champion, who was having his first outing for some time.
Running from the medium pack on a 2m30s handicap, he worked his way through to fourth on the day, clocking what was the second fastest overall on the day.
Next home for Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men was the ever-improving Fergus Bates, who produced an excellent run from the slow pack to finish ninth, and sees him elevated to the medium pack for the remainder of the campaign.
Third home was medium packer Neil Gunstone, who had a superb run to finish a well-accomplished 13th.
Fourth counter for Morpeth was Thomas Straughan, who produced a very solid run from the medium pack to finish 51st.
Completing the Morpeth Harriers scoring six were Alistair MacDonald (55th, slow pack) and Graeme Taylor, who produced a superb fourth-fastest clocking of the day to work his way through to 56th from the fast pack.
Other Morpeth Harriers Senior Men to finish were, Rob Hancox (89th, slow pack), Stephen Bradley (95th, slow pack), Jim Alder (133rd, slow pack), Sam Hancox (185th, medium pack), Les Cavill (249th, slow pack) and Archie Jenkins (294th, slow pack).
Another good Morpeth Harriers effort on the day came from their Senior Women, who finished second in Division Two behind Low Fell.
They were led home by one of their team silver medallists from the previous week’s North Eastern Championships.
Gemma Floyd worked her way through from the medium pack to finish ninth and ninth fastest in the race.
Morpeth Harriers’ second counter was Deborah Oakley, who was making a welcome return in a blue and white vest, after a considerable period away because of her studies. Deborah came through to finish 25th from the slow pack.
Completing the Morpeth Harriers scoring count was Jane Briggs, who came through from the slow pack to place 66th.
Also running for Morpeth Harriers was Claire Bruce, who finished 95th from the slow pack.
Morpeth Harriers U13 Boys’ squad are certainly developing a healthy zest for success and competition. On Saturday, they showed that they are a force to be feared by winning their team race by a nine-point margin over Durham City, with Tynedale a further three points adrift in third.
They were led home by Kieran Hedley, who was second fastest on the day, and subsequently earned himself an individual Harrier League medal, by coming home in third place from the fast pack.
Unfortunately, in doing so, he denied his Morpeth Harriers clubmate Joe Dowd his first individual medal by seven seconds.
Nevertheless, Dowd, who finished fourth from the slow pack, was pleased to be part of his team’s success, with Philip Kirby closing the Morpeth Harriers count, when finishing 19th from the fast pack.
Further good Morpeth Harriers performances came from Josh Burton (21st, fast pack), Tom Hizzett (24th, slow pack), and Adam Shewry (32nd, slow pack).
Sam Williams led Morpeth Harriers U15 Boys home to second team place in their event, by finishing an excellent eighth from the slow pack, which means he was elevated to the fast pack for the remainder of the season.
Further team support came from North Eastern Cross Country silver medallist Ryan Green (12th, fast pack, seventh fastest on day) and Jacob Hopkins (15th, fast pack, ninth fastest on day).
One man who is certainly hitting better form as the new year approaches is Philip Winkler and he certainly proved his worth when he clocked the day’s second fastest time, when finishing fifth in the U17 Men’s event from the fast pack.
Morpeth Harriers clubmate Elliot Kelly put in a battling performance to finish as seventh fastest in 12th place from the fast pack. Unfortunately, illness to Joe Elder meant that Morpeth were unable to mount a team challenge in this age group.
Another Morpeth Harriers athlete who is certainly making steady progress is Charlotte Jewell, who proved this beyond all doubt when finishing a good fifth in the U15 Girls’ event, a race in which all of the first six finishers had run from the fast pack.
Alison Brown also gave a good account of herself in the combined U17/U20 Women’s event, in which she placed ninth from the fast pack, seventh fastest on the course and sixth U17 in the field.
Morpeth Harriers had two finishers in the U13 Girls’ event.
Harriet Priest finished 21st from the slow pack and not far behind in 27th spot was Kate Seymour, running from the fast pack.
In the combined non-scoring U11 Boys’ and Girls’ event, Morpeth Harriers had three runners taking part.
Adam Kirby was the first of those to finish, placing 15th overall, as 11th Boy home.
Next to finish was Rhiannon Hedley, who was 33rd overall, and was 12th Girl home.
Joshua Williams was the third Morpeth Harrier home, finishing 52nd, and was 28th Boy.
PRE-RACE entries for the annual Morpeth 11k Road Race, scheduled to be held on New Year’s Day, have now closed.
The event, whose main sponsors are the Benfield Motor Group, will commence at 1pm at the foot of Dogger Bank on Mitford Road.
Late entries and race registration is at Morpeth Rugby Club, Grange House Field, from 11.30am. Changing is available at Morpeth Harriers’ clubhouse.
Late entry costs £7 forclub runners and £9 for unattached, and are still eligible for prizes. All race numbers are to be picked up on the day.
For ongoing weather conditions that may affect the event, please continue to check the Morpeth Harriers website on www.morpethharriers.freeservers.com
So why not begin your new year with purpose and style and take part in the Morpeth 11k Road Race and view scenic Northumberland at pace.
NICK McCormick of Morpeth Harriers finished second to fellow GB International and Olympian Andy Baddeley of Harrow, in Sunday’s Telford 10k, in a time of 29m21s. Baddeley won in 29m08s.