PRIDE was very clearly etched in the faces of the 12 Senior Men from Morpeth Harriers, who did battle with some of the country’s best at the English National 12 Stage Road Relays, held at a rain-swept Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham on Saturday, writes George Patterson.
The club has a good record in this event, having won in 2000, and finished in silver-medal position in both 2002 and 2005.
They also just missed out on medals in 2003, when they finished a very close fourth.
Unfortunately, the club’s fastest performer at the North of England Relays, held in Blackpool three weeks ago, Peter Newton, could not be present, having booked a holiday on the basis that he thought he might not make the squad because of a persistent foot injury that had dogged him since the end of 2012.
However, the club did have a very good replacement in the form of GB European Cross Country medallist Jonny Taylor, so a certain amount of strength still remained available to team manager David Swinburne’s illustrious squad.
After the successes at the aforementioned North of England Championships, where the club’s Senior Men’s A-team won bronze and the B-team were second, Morpeth were privileged to be able to field two teams nationally.
On leg one for the A-team was Nick Swinburn and he showed that he was clearly a man in form and that he meant business, when he came home in 11th place with a clocking of 17m29s only 12 seconds adrift of early leaders Brighton.
In fact, only 30 seconds divided the leading 15 teams as Ryan Stephenson went off on the second leg for Morpeth A-team.
Stephenson battled hard to stay in contention and he only surrendered one place around the 5.847klm circuit with his clocking of 18m06s.
However, Morpeth Harriers were now 43 seconds adrift of new leaders Scottish club Central AC, who had an eight-second lead from leg-one leaders, with eventual winners Sale Harriers of Manchester a further three seconds adrift.
At this stage, Morpeth were the fourth northern club, however, that was to change quite dramatically on leg three.
While Sale Harriers went into the lead for the first time, Morpeth, courtesy of Jonny Taylor’s 17m29s, fourth fastest of the leg, went into fourth place, only 37 seconds adrift of the new leaders and only seven seconds adrift of possible medals, as the event reached its half ay stage.
Fourth leg runner Matt Nicholson, currently not in the best of form, battled to stay in contention, however, with a great deal of faster runners around him, he slipped back several places as he got round in a slower-than-preferred 18m51s.
Morpeth’s A-team were now nearly two minutes adrift of leaders Sale, who had gone clear of Bristol, with Midland outfit Tipton on home soil in third place.
However, Morpeth had still remained in second from the North of England, but Salford and Northern Champions Leeds City were not far behind and very much challenging.
Fortunes were revived somewhat for Morpeth on the fifth and penultimate leg when Richard Morrell got round in the leg’s third fastest clocking of 17m48s to rise up to eighth, only 48 seconds adrift of medals, to hand over to the veteran talents of Ian Hudspith to mount a final challenge for glory.
Ian had been a member of the Morpeth Harriers squad in 2000, when they achieved their one and only victory in the event, and had run the second fastest time of 16m47s on the same course, bettered on the day only by elder brother Mark (16m42s).
To repeat such a feat 13 years on was indeed a tall order, however, Ian did produce an excellent run of 17m40s, which not only took his club up to very respectable fourth place, but also reduced the margin to third (Tipton) down to 25 seconds and to second (Belgrave) a further 34 seconds.
The squad had re-enacted their performance of 10 years previous, when again they had just missed out, however, this was collectively Morpeth Harriers’ best performance in slightly less than a decade.
Fellow northerners Sale were clear winners, with 28 seconds to spare, however, Morpeth Harriers managed to remain second from the North, ahead of Leeds City (10th) and Salford (16th).
They were also first of the four competing North East clubs, with Gateshead finishing 47th, Tyne Bridge 59th, and Jarrow and Hebburn (65th).
This also does credit to the competing Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s B-team, who also finished ahead of the other North East clubs in 30th place and the second B-team to finish, behind southerners Aldershot and Farnham (26th).
The other North of England B-teams came from Leeds City (34th), Sale Harriers (42nd), Liverpool Harriers (49th) and Salford (63rd).
Ross Floyd had the Morpeth B-team in 42nd place on leg one with his clocking of 18m27s, their fastest on the day.
Second-leg runner Graeme Taylor unfortunately slipped back to 49th with 18m54s, before Michael Dawson took them to halfway in 38th spot with his clocking of 18m49s.
They made further progress up to 32nd on the fourth leg, courtesy of a good run by Nathan Shrubb (18m41s).
Ian Harding’s fifth and penultimate leg clocking of 18m40s, saw them rise to 29th and not far behind leading B-team Aldershot.
A leg injury unfortunately restricted final-leg runner Karl Taylor somewhat, as he slipped a little to the final placing of 30th with his clocking of 19m14s.
Former Elswick Harrier Ryan McLeod, now with Tipton Harriers, son of Mike, and younger brother of Morpeth’s Mark, currently recovering from injury, clocked the fastest time of the day of 16m55s. A total of 80 complete teams took part.
There were no North East clubs represented in the accompanying Women’s 4 Stage Relay, won by Aldershot and Farnham, spurred by the appearances of internationals Steph Twell and Emilia Gorecka.
THERE was a definitive air of quality about Morpeth Harriers two young athletes championship races, held on Lancaster Park, on the evening of Monday, October 7.
On this occasion, it was the club’s U15 athletes who faced the starter, with six competing in the Girls’ race, and no less than 19 in the Boys’ event.
The quality could be seen in the fact that the slowest finisher in the two events over the 1.2mile circuit posted a time of 11m32s.
One time that did stand out above all was that of the boys’ winner Jacob Hopkins, clocking 7m46s, which was 17 seconds faster than his 2012 effort, which then saw him finish third to Ryan Green’s 7m28s.
Second place in the Boys’ Championship went to Euan Jones, who posted a time of 8m09s.
Ten seconds behind him in third place for the bronze medal was William Kelly, who was running in his first club championship.
The girls’ race was won by Abby Sheldon, also running in her first championship, and she posted a finishing time of 9m03s, which in turn would have seen her place fifth in the boys’ event, such was the quality of her performance.
Also performing well was Lizzie Rank, who took the silver medal placing in 9m07s.
Third place in the girls’ event went to Ellie Kidd, who clocked 10m47s.
Boys’ race: Adam Shewry (fourth) 8m42s, Christie Kidd (fifth) 9m07s, Sam Williams (sixth) 9m10s, Daniel Almond (seventh) 9m12s, Connor Barclay (eighth) 9m13s, Liam Henderson (ninth) 9m26s, Edward Barry (10th) 9m27s, Cameron Kirk (11th) 9m30s, Patrick Smith (12th) 9m32s, Lewis James (13th) 9m34s, Andy Mirfield (14th) 9m42s, McKenzie Clark (15th) 9m47s, Hamish Thomsen (16th) 10m02s, Andy Cheung (17th) 10m13s, Michael Fahy (18th) 10m59s, Michael Cryer (19th) 11m32s.
Girls’ race: Lois Scott (fourth) 11m05s, Harriet Grace (fifth) 11m08s, Georgia Priest (sixth) 11m10s.
FOUR Morpeth Harriers faced the starter in Sunday’s Run Northumberland Ponteland 10k Road Race, the latest in the series of events set in the county’s heritage areas.
First home from the club, in fifth place and posting a season’s best for the 10k distance of 37m19s, was Matthew Boyle.
One place and four seconds behind Matthew came his Harriers clubmate Neil Gunstone.
Having his second outing in a Morpeth vest was Matthew Holt and he finished 17th in 40m02s.
Morpeth Harrier Melissa Hepburn placed 25th in 43m47s and was second female home behind winner Louise Trainor, of Quakers RC, who was 23rd in 43m42s.