Harrier Amber off the mark

Morpeth Harrier Amber Cormack had her first experience of top-class indoor athletics when she competed at the second day of the Northern Athletics combined U17, U20/Senior Indoor Championships, held at Sheffield Arena on Sunday, writes George Patterson.

After finishing fourth in her heat of the U20 Women’s 800m in an excellent 2m24.79s, she ran courageously in her final to finish fifth of six in a slightly slower 2m26.60s.

As this was a first experience for Amber, she can feel well pleased with her efforts.

One athlete who can definitely feel well pleased with her efforts over the weekend is Trafford’s former Morpeth Harrier Nisha Desai.

No stranger to the Indoor Championships, Morpeth-based Desai, pulled out all the stops to claim a silver medal in the Senior Women’s 400m, in a time of 58.02s on day one (Saturday). She had won her heat earlier in the day in 58.43s.

On day two, Desai also made the final of the Senior Women’s 800m, after finishing second in her heat in 2m16.80s, however, despite clocking a faster 2m13.30s in the final, she was run out of the medals into fourth place.

Overnight frost, followed by flurries of snow, made for very hard underfoot conditions at the Durham Schools Cross Country Championships, held at Meadowfield on Saturday.

Nevertheless an excellent quality race developed at the front of the Senior Boys’ event, which saw Morpeth Harrier Elliot Kelly enhance his chances of a possible English Schools selection, when he finished fourth in a close contest behind Birtley’s Tom Goulding.

Kelly was only a mere 20 seconds adrift of Goulding, with Oliver Watson of Durham City finishing second and Jarrow’s Liam Emmett third.

Goulding beat Watson by 10 seconds, with only 10 seconds spanning the efforts of Watson, Emmett and Kelly.

Under such circumstances, the evident chill factor had certainly done nothing to dent the enthusiastic efforts of all four front-runners.

Athletes who took part in Sunday’s annual Brass Monkey Half Marathon, held in York, were subject to around three miles of hard-packed ice on a back-road stretch of the course, which slowed them down somewhat. Apart from that, they were barely hindered, with overhead conditions fairly good, considering the wintry air surrounding the area of the event.

Four athletes from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers travelled from Tyneside to compete in the event, and some were surprised that running conditions for the bulk of the race, were near ideal.

First finisher from the club was Ian Harding, who was running his first major event for some time, following injury, and it was also his first race of the year.

He ran well to finish fifth, in a better-than-expected 70m16s, and was quite pleased to be back in competitive action.

Newcomer Paul Brown, formerly of Wallsend Harriers, was next home for Morpeth, finishing 111th overall in 83m22s and ninth in the Over 45 Veteran Men’s section.

Third home from the club was Kate Chapman, who was one athlete who had found the icy stretches not to her liking, as she was 32nd female finisher in 93m58s.

She was followed home by her mother Lesley, who finished as 77th Woman in 101m27s, but found good compensation in the fact that she was first home in the Over 60 Veteran Women’s category.

There were two first finishers from Morpeth Harriers among the region’s Park Runs on Saturday, with some going ahead despite tricky surfaces caused by overnight frost and intermittent snow showers.

After almost a year out of action, Graeme Taylor got back into competition by being first across the finish line at Gateshead.

Taylor, who holds the course record at the Saltwell Park venue, was some way short of his best performance with his time of 17m27s, however, will be boosted by the fact that he had a 12-second margin over his closest rival Bradley Clough, of Blyth Running Club, and seeks to get himself back into better form by the time the track season gets under way in April.

Another Morpeth Harriers first was U17 athlete James Young, who showed his rivals a clean pair of heels at Whitley Bay, completing the 5k circuit in 18m26s.

Further excellent club performances show Adam Shewry running a personal best of 19m07s to finish third at Druridge Bay and Matthew Boyle finishing fourth in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park in 17m55s, which was 27 seconds outside his best on the course.

A month after succumbing to the slime and mud on Newcastle’s Town Moor in the North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships, Morpeth Harrier Andy Wiles was back in top action, on an entirely different surface when he competed at the British Milers Club Indoor Open meeting, held at Sheffield Arena on Sunday, January 11.

Wiles finished sixth in a top-class Senior Men’s 1500m A-race in a time of 3m54.01s, where only a mere eight seconds spanned all nine finishing runners, who were led home by Liverpool Harrier Harry Harper (3m48.76s).

This was a totally new venture for the David Lowes-coached former New Marske athlete, who did make a tentative comeback following his North Eastern disappointment before Christmas, when he won the Loftus Poultry Run, and Wiles reportedly enjoyed the much warmer experience in Sheffield.

Having won bronze, then silver medals consecutively over the last two years at the Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships, which were held at Knowsley, Merseyside, on both occasions, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s squad, led by team manager David Swinburne, have every reason to both believe and hope that they can go one better and achieve team gold at the renewal, which is held this Saturday, at Pontefract Park Racecourse in South Yorkshire.

Although leading light Jonny Taylor misses the trip, they have Nick Swinburn, Nathan Shrubb, Carl Avery, Lewis Timmins, Ady Whitwam, Richard Morrell and Ross Floyd all showing fine form in a very talented line-up, to mount a most formidable challenge.

The club’s Senior Women could also figure close to the medals, with the very in-form Ashley Gibson, Emma Holt and Josie Cram leading the charge.

Other age groups in the club who could perform well are their U13 Boys, U15 Boys and U17 Men.

Action in the 10-event programme gets under way at 11am, when the U17 Women tackle five kilometres of what is expected to be heavy cross-country surface, following recent weather conditions.

Later in the programme at 2pm, the Senior Women contest their 8k event and, at 2.55pm, the curtain comes down on proceedings with the Senior Men’s 12k event taking place.