WHILE Midland supremos Tipton Harriers easily retained their Senior Men’s title at Saturday’s National 12 Stage Road Relays, held as usual in the splendour of Sutton Park, in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, Morpeth Harriers battled bravely with a very much under-strength team to finish in a very creditable seventeenth place out of a total of 61 finishing teams, including their North East rivals Gateshead Harriers, who also battled well to finish in 20th spot.
Being able to only field seven of their Bronze medal-winning North of England squad, Morpeth were always going to be under pressure, however the individual performances of Peter Newton (26m47s) on the 5.38mile long fifth leg, and Lewis Timmins (14m43s) over the short 2.99mile third leg, proved to be the high points of their day’s efforts, and these along with the dogged determination and inspired leadership demonstrated by team manager David Swinburne, who clocked 15m58s on the short eighth leg, which kept them in a very respectable leading North of England club position.
With the absence of leading performers Serod Batochir, Nick McCormick, Ian Hudspith, and Jonny Taylor, the club were obviously short of firepower, however, the input of replacements Ben Harrison, James Taylor, making his championship debut for the club, Ian Harding, young Thomas Straughan, another championship debut, and leading Veteran Paul Waterston, who is only just recovered from injury himself, could not be undervalued.
In addition to finishing 17th, Morpeth Harriers were also fourth from the North of England, behind Leeds City (second), North of England champions Liverpool Harriers, who on this occasion were second in 10th place, and Salford Harriers (16th), who only passed Morpeth on the final leg, to take third by a mere 40s.
As usual it was a battle of the fastest on the long Leg One, and for Morpeth Harriers this was down to Matt Nicholson, and although he could only hold 23rd place, such was the fight at the front end of affairs, his 27m12s, was only just over a minute adrift of northern rivals Stockport Harriers, who had tried to grab a piece of early glory, courtesy of former Sunderland Harrier Patrick Martin, who (26m01s) eventually emerged as the fastest long stage time of the day.
Next it was the aforementioned Timmins to join the fray for Morpeth Harriers, and he succeeded excellently by climbing a massive 10 places to 13th to hand over to third leg runner Michael Dawson, who although only slipped back to 17th with his individual 28m37s, managed to put Ben Harrison into a challenging position on the short fourth leg.
With good opposition all around him Harrison battled relentlessly, however he slipped back to 20th with his individual 15m43s.
Fortunes were revived somewhat, however, with Peter Newton’s aforementioned effort on Leg Five, which saw him take Morpeth Harriers back up among the strong challengers, by finishing 14th, with the fourth fastest time of the leg.
As debutant James Taylor set off on the short sixth leg, it was now a case of preserving a respectable placing, and although he was personally somewhat disappointed with his clocking of 16m26s, he only lost a couple of places, leaving seventh leg runner Ian Harding with the task of continuing the fight as he took Morpeth Harriers into the second half of the contest.
Harding perhaps paid the price somewhat, as having only just got back into training following a back injury, he got round the long seventh leg in a very painful 28m31s, which by his own admission was around a minute adrift of what he would reasonably expect, and he had slipped to 17th.
Next to go for Morpeth Harriers was the aforementioned team manager David Swinburne, and his inspired effort took his squad back up into 16th place.
Ross Floyd on ninth leg bravely battled to hold on to this placing, as he got round the long ninth leg in 28m33s.
Thomas Straughan, who was having his first ever 12 stage run as a Morpeth Harriers Senior, can take personal delight in that he managed to gain a place to 15th at the end of his short stage 10 clocking 16m52s.
Straughan’s only previous memory of Sutton Park, had been when running as an U15 Boy at the National Young Athletes Road Relays several years ago, and he certainly rose to the occasion demanded of him on the day, and remains an athlete of much promise.
Eleventh leg for Morpeth Harriers fell to the responsibility of former Junior Great North Run winner Sam Forester, who on the day was a little disappointed in that he slipped back to 16th with his clocking of 28m44s.
The 12th and final leg for Morpeth Harriers fell to Veteran Paul Waterston, and although he battled hard to get round in 17m10s, he could not quite match the chasing Salford Harriers final leg runner, who grabbed the third North of England spot in the closing stages.
So Morpeth Harriers ended the contest in 17th place in a total of 4hrs25mins16secs, which was 14mins59secs behind the winners Tipton Harriers on the day, however, the squad can still feel proud to be competing with the best in the country on the road, and still be in the top third of the field.
As aforementioned the North East’s other representatives Gateshead Harriers managed to finish a respectable twentieth in 4hrs27mins39secs, the highlight of their performance being Ross Murray’s 14m00s for the fourth leg, which gave him the fastest short stage time of the day.
Sadly no North East club travelled to contest the Six Stage Womens’ event, which was easily won by Aldershot and Farnham.
THREE Morpeth Harriers have been selected to run for the North East Counties in the Mini Marathons that accompany the Main London Marathon on Sunday, April 22.
U13 Boy athlete Jacob Hopkins has found favour with Tom Millmore of Birtley AC, along with U15 Boys Philip Winkler and Elliot Kelly.
TWO Morpeth Harriers took part in Saturday’s Newcastle Park Run.
In finishing sixth overall in 18m07s over the 5k circuit, Ashley Gibson was first Lady, and Kate Chapman, when finishing 43rd in 21m03s, was fourth Lady.
MORPETH Harriers Mongolian International Serod Botochir was one of four runners who broke the Mens’ course record at Sunday’s third Brighton Marathon.
The innaugural winner finished fourth behind Kenyan Peter Some, who won in 2hrs12m01s.
Batochir clocked 2hrs13m01s, finishing a whole three minutes clear of Salford’s Tomas Abyu, who placed fifth.
Wallsend Harrier Yarod Hagos was ninth in 2hrs19m30s.
NICK McCormick of Morpeth Harriers finished fifth behind the great Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele in the Spar Great Ireland 10k Road Race in Dublin on Sunday, clocking an excellent 29m04s behind Bekele’s fast finishing 27m49s.
Morpeth Harrier Nathan Shrubb continued his progress back to full fitness on Sunday in great style, when he won the Worcester Half Marathon in an excellent 73m44s, which although was just over a minute down on his best for the distance, it was a positive step in his recovery from injury.
Michael Morris of Morpeth Harriers achieved his second victory in the Run Northumberland series on Saturday, when he won the Cragside 10k at Rothbury in 34m41s.
Neil Wilkinson of Morpeth Harriers was the clubs leading finisher in Sunday’s South Shields Harriers Sand Dancer 10k Multi Terrain Race.
Wilkinson was also first Veteran Man when finishing third in 34m52s.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers were Paul Bentley, who was first Over 65 Veteran Man in 44m28s, and Bernie Cordes, who was first Over 75 Veteran Man in 54m35s.