Harriers notch fine times but medals prove more elusive

SUPERB individual performances by Jane Hodgson, Lewis Timmins and Jacob Hopkins were the main highlights on a day when team medals for Morpeth Harriers proved to be as elusive as horses with jockeys at the North of England Cross Country Championships, held at Pontefract Park Racecourse, on Saturday, writes George Patterson.

The infrequently-used West Yorkshire track provided an excellent and most dramatic backdrop for hundreds of runners from various Northern Athletic clubs, who descended on its territory. The event was duly blessed with continued January sunshine that prevailed throughout and runners greatly appreciated the underfoot conditions, that had been described in true racing terms beforehand by Race Referee Kevin Carr, as good to firm.

Those conditions surprisingly remained throughout the 10-race programme, which made athletes very much appreciative of the venue, a factor clearly echoed by Senior Women, who, being the ninth event on the day, would have normally experienced the heaviest of surfaces.

Among those Senior Women in their two-lap 8k event was Morpeth Harrier Jane Hodgson, who truly revelled in finishing seventh overall, and second from the North East behind Durham City’s North East Champion Rosie Smith, who ran excellently to finish fourth, just missing out on an individual bronze by a mere 15 seconds.

Hodgson’s own performance also saw her only 90 seconds adrift of medals and was indeed tenacious to say the least.

Morpeth Harriers finished a very creditable ninth of 25 closing teams and were again second from the region behind Durham City.

The supporting performances to Hodgson came from Emma Pearson (52nd), Kate Chapman (94th) and Marie Drosdowicz (153rd ).

Morpeth Harriers Senior Men were undoubtedly the region’s best performers in their three-lap 12k event by finishing seventh of 52 closing teams, although final results may see them elevated to fifth.

Former U17 Men’s Northern Cross Country Champion Lewis Timmins led them home, having an excellent hard-working run throughout to finish in a very creditable 10th place overall and as second from the region behind New Marske’s Andy Wiles, who finished just outside the individual medals.

Timmins’s outstanding performance was well supported by Matt Nicholson (23rd), who had been well up with the leaders as they entered the second circuit.

Sam Forester, who had flown in from Germany in support of his club, can feel well pleased with his placing of 54th in such company, and North of England 10,000m Track Champion Peter Newton, battled hard to come through to finish 64th.

Morpeth Harriers’ next finisher was Ross Floyd, whose actual finishing position is undetermined at the time of going to press, and finally Ben Harrison gave a dogged performance to finish in the top 100 by finishing 98th to complete the scoring count.

Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the Senior Men’s event were as follows: Gary Jones (116th), Neil Gunstone (117th), Paul Waterston (213th), Michael Thomsen (250th), Gordon Dixon (347th).

There were 685 recorded finishers in the Senior Men’s event.

In the U13 Boys’ 3.1k one-lap event, Morpeth’s Jacob Hopkins battled tenaciously throughout and was quite prominent among the leaders in the early stages.

He eventually came home in 15th place overall and as second from the region behind Gateshead’s second-placed Markhim Lonsdale, but Hopkins was only a mere 30 seconds adrift of the bronze medal placing such was the strength of competition around him.

Morpeth Harriers’ team-placing of ninth of 17 closing teams in the U13 Boys’ was very creditable and was very much due to the excellent run of Hopkins, supported by the equally excellent and perhaps surprising performance of Kieran Hedley, who after spending nearly 10 days in sick bay following a bout of influenza, turned out in support of his club.

Hedley’s performance was very much a valued contribution as he came home in an individual 45th and eighth from the region.

Further Morpeth team support came from excellent runs from Philip Kirby (101st) and Euan Jones (113th).

Morpeth Harriers’ best team achievement on the day undoubtedly came from their U15 Boys’ team, who, led home by North Eastern Champion Philip Winkler, finished in fourth place of 16 closing teams and agonisingly just outside team bronze medals.

Winkler was always prominent in their one-lap 4k event, however, he may feel a little disappointed individually to finish in 17th place and third from the region behind Jarrow’s Thomas Coyne (ninth), whom he had out-sprinted in the regional championships at Cramlington, and Sunderland Harrier Joel Jones (12th).

Morpeth’s team count was further supported by Elliot Kelly (37th), Ryan Green (61st) and Jarod Lewis, who produced one of his best-ever performances to finish 75th in a 158-strong field.

Jonny Nisbet was Morpeth Harriers’ lone competitor in the U17 Men’s 6.2k event, which involved completion of two 3.1k laps.

After a steady start, Nisbet carefully made his way through the field, which had a total of 111 finishers, to finish 18th, and saw him as third from the region behind North Eastern Champion Wayne Parker of New Marske (ninth) and Gateshead’s Greg Chambers (15th).

On this occasion, however, North Eastern bronze medallist Nisbet, did finish well ahead of the North Eastern silver medallist, Gateshead’s Barry Maskell, who, after a promising start, sadly faded to finish in 58th place overall.

At the time of producing this report, final results have not been fully clarified, which means that we cannot confirm the team performance of Morpeth Harriers U15 Girls’ squad, who, despite the first publication of results, which indicated they had not finished as a team, did finish as a full squad.

However, Charlotte Jewell, a key member of the squad tripped shortly after the start and unfortunately shed a shoe.

Having recovered her shoe, without the added help of a budding ‘Prince Charming’, she continued to chase down her rivals, and it is believed that she finished approximately 100th of what is reported to be a 157-strong field.

If she was rewarded with a final position of 100th, this, when recorded alongside the finishing positions of Alison Brown (43rd), Hannah Sheerin (122nd), and Sarah Wilkes (135th), would have given Morpeth Harriers U15 Girls’ squad a final team placing of 14th of 18 closing teams.

Morpeth Harriers did not have any competing athletes in the Junior Men’s, U13 Girls’, U17 Women’s or U20 Women’s age group events.

l WHILE she may have wished to be part of Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s team challenge at Pontefract, Maxine Czarneka continued her steps back to full fitness on Saturday by taking part in the Newcastle Park Run.

She was first lady to finish, in a time of 19m18s for the 5k circuit.

l BY winning her race, less than 24 hours after competing for her club at the North of England Cross Country Championships at Pontefract on Saturday, Morpeth Harrier Alison Brown won her Junior Women’s age group for the season by completing a victory at the final Borders Cross Country League event, held at Berwick.