GOLDEN glory came the way of Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men on Sunday at the North of England 12 Stage Road Relay Championships, writes George Patterson.
Despite this win, making it six in the last ten renewals of the event for the club, its runners had not tasted victory since 2007 in Sunderland and this success ended Leeds City’s three-year reign as champions.
It also marked a gold medal debut in the championship for their Mongolian international Serod Batochir.
Indeed it was Batochir who got them off to a superb start at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire by coming home in an excellent 21m39s for the five-mile long first leg, which eventually proved to be the third fastest long stage time of the day and was only two seconds adrift of early leader, Great Britain International Tom Lancashire of Bolton.
Lancashire had no other runners to pass on to however, which meant Morpeth were now fighting alongside Derby, Leeds City and North East rivals Sunderland Harriers.
On the short second stage, run over two and a half miles, Morpeth Harrier Terry Wall only surrendered a place to Derby and was just nine seconds adrift of the lead when he got round in 11m57s.
Jonny Taylor certainly put Morpeth in command on Leg Three when he clocked the day’s fastest long stage time of 21m37s to now give his club a commanding lead of 130 seconds.
From this point onwards the team never surrendered their lead as Michael Morris (11m48s), Ross Floyd (23m29s), and Ian Harding (11m15s – fastest of the leg), maintained nearly a two minute margin over Leeds City.
Leeds did manage to cut the Morpeth lead down to nine seconds during the seventh and eighth legs of Michael Dawson (23m33s) and David Swinburne (11m42s), particularly on seventh leg courtesy of James Wilkinson’s 22m10s.
But the intelligence and experience of Ian Hudspith on Leg Nine proved very significant in lifting the margin back up to 28 seconds, as he got round in an excellent fastest-on-the-leg time of 22m00s. This also proved to be eighth fastest long stage on the day.
And Morpeth were brought home in first place by Neil Wilkinson (11m43s), Peter Newton (22m20s – fastest of the leg) and Matt Nicholson (11m13s), only surpassed on the leg by Derby’s Richard Weir who clocked the day’s fastest short stage time of 10m50s.
In addition to Batochir, the success also meant that Taylor, Floyd, Harding, Dawson, Newton and Nicholson were winning North of England Senior Gold medals for the very first time.
Morpeth Harriers came within a minute of a second set of medals on Sunday when their Senior Women finished fourth behind Wakefield, Leigh and Salford Harriers.
This was indeed an excellent team performance led by the example of their new Team Manager Sarah Wilkinson.
After Carolyn Dickie’s first leg clocking of 13m58s over the two and a half mile circuit had the squad in 20th place, Wilkinson took over on leg two and elevated them up to a superb seventh place, courtesy of both the third fastest time of the leg and tenth fastest overall of 12m46s.
Sarah Graham dropped a couple of places on leg three as she got round in 14m19s, but despite losing another three places on leg four, Emma Pearson’s 14m32s managed to keep them in contention.
This factor was soon proved as Maxine Czarnecka got them back up to fifth with her clocking of 13m07s.
Jane Mooney got round in an 11th fastest 12m47s (second fastest of the leg) to claim a final fourth place spot by a margin of 13 seconds.
l Morpeth Harrier Jonnie Nisbet produced one of Northumberland’s finest individual performances at Saturday’s English Schools Cross Country Championships, held at Nottingham’s Wollaton Park.
He led the county home to 19th team place in the Intermediate Boys’ event by finishing 29th, and only just a minute adrift of the medallists.
Another Morpeth Harrier to produce an excellent run in this event was Philip Caldwell, who distinguished himself well with an excellent run to finish 158th, and fourth from the county.
Ailsa McGregor continued her fine run of current form when she came home as third counter for a ninth placed Northumberland in the Senior Girls’ event, which was the county’s best team result on the day.
She finished an excellent 69th, and less than two minutes adrift of the individual medallists.
Fellow Morpeth Harrier Hannah Rank was seventh home from the county in 180th place.
Philip Winkler, who has bounced back after some bad injury problems this winter, can take some deserved reward and encouragement from the fact that he was Northumberland’s first counter in 137th place in the Junior Boys’ event where they finished as 37th team.
Although disappointed with her finishing place of 247th, Alison Brown will have gained great experience in the Junior Girls, where she was seventh home for the county.
Eighth home for the county was her Morpeth Harriers clubmate Jessica Morrison, who was 296th. Northumberland finished 21st in this event.
In the Senior Boys’ event Northumberland were 35th and Morpeth Harrier James Woollett finished in 306th place, as eighth home.
l Paul Waterston and Kathryn Foley of Morpeth Harriers were dual winners of the main events at the Veterans AA North Eastern Cross Country Championships – held at Foxhunters Playing Fields, Monkseaton, on Saturday.
Waterston won the Over 35 Men’s 8.5k event with 15 seconds to spare over Sunderland Harrier Brian Bewick.
Other Morpeth successes in the Men’s events were Gavin Bayne, who won the Over 55 Veteran category, Gordon Dixon, who was third in the Over 50 section, Paul Bentley, second in the Over 65 section, and Walter Ryder, who when finishing just behind Bentley was first Over 70 to finish.
Bentley and Ryder competed over the shorter 6k distance.
Foley won the Over 35 Women’s event, with eight seconds to spare over F Little of Tynedale.