MORPETH Harriers’ team heroes of the day at Saturday’s North of England Cross Country Championships were undoubtedly their Senior Men after they very handsomely won a set of bronze team medals, writes George Patterson.
The event, held for the very first time at Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, went ahead mainly thanks to the efforts of the safari park and local athletics club officials, who were all up at dawn to begin a massive operation to organise snow clearance.
It was indeed a very ‘tigerish’ performance by Morpeth Harrier Lewis Timmins when he led his club home by finishing an individual 12th.
Richard Morrell, having his first major championship in a Morpeth vest, was next to come home in 19th place and he was closely followed in two places later by Matt Nicholson, who produced one of his best runs ever for the club in respect of the tricky conditions he was facing.
Further excellent squad support came in the form of Graeme Taylor, Ross Floyd, and Jordan Scott, who followed each other home in 39th, 40th, and 41st places respectively with only ten seconds dividing them, closing the Morpeth Harriers team score.
It was indeed an excellent all-round team effort, including those of the non-scorers with Ben Harrison finishing 81st, Thomas Straughan 100th and Paul Waterston coming home in 150th place, which clearly outlined an excellent effort as nearly 600 Senior Men faced the starter.
Leeds City were the team winners, with Stockport Harriers taking second.
Commenting afterward on his squad’s performance, Morpeth Harriers Men’s Road and Cross Country Team Manager David Swinburne said: “I felt that the team responded quite positively to the conditions and the fact that all nine who had turned out were in the top third of the entire field showed a definite renewed strength in depth, a factor that will prove very valuable in forthcoming competitions.”
Another source of satisfaction was that the club’s Senior Men were winning medals again in the Northern Cross Country Championships, an achievement that hadn’t been realised since as far back as 2003 when Swinburne himself had been a member of an illustrious six who claimed silver medals at Heaton Park in Manchester.
In addition to their achievement, there were also some good quality performances from Morpeth Harriers athletes in other supporting events.
Particularly of note was that of Kieran Hedley in the Under 13 Boys’ 3k event. Despite the tricky surface, he ran very positively throughout and after a very good and determined start, he stuck to the task in hand to come home in an excellent seventh place out of 125 finishers.
Kieran was only a mere seven seconds adrift of a medal winning achievement, such was the outstanding quality of his run.
Unfortunately, and somewhat disappointingly, he had no one to share his triumph with from Morpeth Harriers in his age group, leaving a no-show in team affairs.
Another excellent individual performer on the day was Alison Brown, who no doubt had probably one of the longest journeys on the day, having come from her Berwick base.
She battled her way round her two-lap 5.3k Under 17 Women’s course to finish a superb 29th of 90 finishers, and beat some of her worthy North East opponents into the bargain.
In the Senior Women’s 8k event, which was two hard and gruelling laps of what was now fast becoming a well-churned-up course of mud base underneath melting snow, Morpeth Harriers’ lone starter Emma Holt (formerly Pearson) very much used her triathlete strengths to come home an excellent 31st of 217 finishers.
Unfortunately, lack of further team support denied her sharing what could have very easily resulted in a set of team medals.
Another lone starter on the day for Morpeth Harriers was Charlotte Jewell. She gave a very polished and determined performance to finish 45th of 126 finishers in the Under 15 Girls’ one-lap 4k event and was fourth of 12 from the North East.
A very strong field of 107 finishers in the Under 17 Men’s two-lap 5.8k event saw Morpeth Harrier Philip Winkler battle his way through to finish 47th. Clubmate Elliot Kelly also battled to stay in contention, but found the going tough when he came home in 65th place.
Unfortunately, Joe Elder did not have the best of preparations for his race, arriving at the venue with only a few minutes to spare having made the fateful error in journeying via the M6 hoping for a clearer route. He persevered to finish 105th.
Morpeth Harriers’ only other team finishers on the day were their Under 15 Boys, who were disappointed to finish as 16th team in their one-lap 4k event.
Leading the squad home was Ryan Green, who was well up with the leading contenders in the early stages, however faded to finish 85th as the event progressed.
The other club finishers in this age group were Jacob Hopkins (113th), Jarod Lewis (126th), and Euan Jones (134th).
A final vote of thanks must go to Northern Athletics for its determination in getting a good team together to ensure that the event took place when other regional events had not survived.
• Morpeth Harriers have now completed presentations of the Benfield Motor Group Athlete of the Month awards for November and December 2012.
The respective awards went to Under 15 athlete Ryan Green for his excellent course record-breaking run at the Heaton Memorial Road Races and to Under 17 Philip Winkler for his superb run in difficult conditions at the North Eastern Cross Country Championships at Hartlepool, where he finished fifth.