With five of their competing teams all finishing inside the first 15 in their respective events, it was a relatively good day at the office for Morpeth Harriers at the annual English Cross Country Relay Championships.
Best of those five results came from their Under-15 Boys, who finished tenth, followed closely by the Under-17 Men, who finished 12th, at the events held at Berry Hill Park in Mansfield, on Saturday.
The Senior Men, who after a tough battle finished 13th, and the Junior Men, and Under-15 Girls both achieved 14th places respectively.
Very little recent rainfall rendered the various courses fairly firm and dry, with only the odd muddy patch in the wooded sections of a now well known and much established North Nottinghamshire venue, and autumn sunshine accompanied by a cool wind proved welcome to most competitors.
Morpeth had two Under-15 Boys’ teams in action in their 3x2k event, and their A team worked their way through from a first leg effort by Daniel Melling, who was 31st on the opening leg, with a time of 6m53.45s.
Ross Charlton did well to take them up 19th with an equally excellent 6m54.55s on second leg, leaving third leg runner Daniel Dixon to bring them home in a final tenth place, with a clocking of 6m34.00s, which was just outside the ten fastest times of the day.
The squad were also second from the North and North East behind Middlesbrough AC, who were nine seconds and four places ahead of them.
They were also only around 30 seconds adrift of a medal winning spot.
The Morpeth B team were the ninth B team, finishing in 56th overall out of 78 complete teams, courtesy of Thomas Cunningham (7m19.40s), Andrew Hudspith (7m37.75s), and Brad Brown (7m49.50s).
Morpeth Harriers had no less than three teams competing in the 3x3k Under-17 Men’s event.
Their A team performed superbly to finish 12th out of 72.
Rory Leonard had them well in contention when coming home in 18th on the first leg, posting a finishing time of 9m21.10s, which proved to be only a mere 21 seconds adrift of early leaders, and fellow North Easterners Middlesbrough AC, courtesy of supremo Josh Cowperthwaite, who eventually proved to be the fastest of the day.
Taylor Glover elevated the squad to 12th on the second leg, posting a time of 9m46.05s, a position that was carefully maintained by third and final leg runner Kieran Hedley, who clocked 9m33.70s.
The squad finished as fourth from the North of England, and first from the North East, as early leaders Middlesbrough AC slipped to 13th place, seven seconds adrift.
Morpeth Harriers Under-17 Men’s B and C teams finished in 37th and 58th places respectively.
The B team performance came courtesy of newcomer Joe Ramshaw, who is now fully clear to compete following his transfer from Gosforth Harriers, and he can feel proud of his debut effort as he made an excellent start by finishing 50th in 9m53.65s, which was firmly supported by colleagues Connor Marshall and Liam Marsh, who clocked 10m06.30s and 10m10.90s respectively.
Matthew Waterfield set things up nicely for the Morpeth C team with his first leg effort of 10m08.80s, which was further improved upon by Joe Dowd (10m30.35s), and Alex Cunningham (11m00.10s).
The Morpeth B and C teams were seventh and third respectively.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Men unfortunately could not defend their title that they narrowly won 12 months ago.
Due to injury and general unavailability, only Jonny Taylor remained from that winning squad, however, along with Taylor, Carl Avery, Robert Balmbra, and Jordan Scott made every effort to produce a respectable performance.
On the first leg of the two-lap four leg effort covering a distance of 5k per leg, Taylor came home in third place, clocking what was to eventually emerge as the day’s fourth fastest time overall of 14m52.90s.
Avery on second leg certainly kept the squad well in contention on the explosive second leg. He had been unavailable in 2015, but climbed to second with a clocking of 15m39.75s, as the race had new leaders in the form of Notts AC.
Despite excellent third and fourth leg performances by Balmbra (16m45.50s), and Scott (16m36.35s), the squad slipped to a final placing of 13th, but were only eighty seconds adrift of a medal.
They were also fourth from the North of England, and first of eight North East clubs competing.
Morpeth Harriers Junior Men’s squad finished 14th in their 3x3k event, courtesy of Joe Armstrong (9m04.20s), Phil Winkler (9m49.50s), and Scott Beattie (8m50.45s), which proved to be just outside the top ten fastest times.
They were sixth from the North of England, and first of four North East clubs, and only 48 seconds adrift of a medal.
Completing the Morpeth Harriers squads in the top 15 were their Under-15 Girls, who ran competitively to finish 14th overall.
Ellie Coxon had them handily placed in 24th on the first of their 2k legs, posting a time of 7m36.20s.
On second leg Holly Peck climbed an excellent 14 places, posting a time of 7m30.15s.
Lily Heaton responded well on the pressure cooker final leg, and despite losing a mere four places, her time of 7m58.95s was most respectable.
The squad were fourth from the North of England, and the first of three North East clubs.
In the Junior Women’s 3x2.5k event, which was the first to face the starter of the ten-race programme, Morpeth Harriers finished 29th, courtesy of Alison Brown (10m07.75s), Abby Sheldon (10m24.70s) and Charlotte Jewell (11m20.50s).
Morpeth Harriers Under-13 Girls finished 62nd in their 3x2k event, courtesy of Mia Belton (8m44.00s), Rhiannon Hedley (8m09.10s) and Laura Melling (9m43.80s).
For Belton and Melling, the occasion must have proved quite daunting, as in both cases it was their first ever taste of national competition, and under the circumstances they coped well and impressed team manager Mike Bateman.
Bateman was equally praiseworthy of the Morpeth Under-13 Boys’ squad, who courageously battled through to the finish of their 3x2k event, despite being the victims of an overzealous official who denied second leg runner Alex Porteous access to begin his run after first leg runner Ben Walker had come home in an excellent 21st place, posting a time of 7m13.05s.
Meanwhile as Porteous, knowing that Walker had finished, protested, and around three minutes and 60 plus places had been lost before the mistake was realised, and eventually the Morpeth youngster was given sanction to begin his run.
Clearly upset, Porteous battled through to hand over to final leg runner Dylan Davies, who individually clawed back 15 places with his clocking of 7m38.10s.
Despite further protests afterwards by the Morpeth Harriers team management, the event referee decreed that the result could not be altered.
It is thought that in reality Porteous actually ran around 8m00s in terms of time, which effectively would have seen the squad in 20th place overall, and seventh from the North of England, and also first from the North-East region.
Morpeth Harriers Olympian Laura Weightman posted the fifth fastest time of the day of 9m36.00s when she came home in fifth place on the first leg of the Senior Women’s 3x3k event.
Unfortunately, because of other commitments, Morpeth could only manage to field two runners on the day, and second leg runner Josie Cram finished 11th when she clocked 11m00.85s.
Bateman was also very praiseworthy of parents’ willingness to assist by ferrying youngsters to the event, and for the general on the day support throughout the course of proceedings, which certainly contributed to an excellent all round performance.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Elswick Harriers Norman Woodcock Road Race saw four Morpeth Harriers in action amongst the 76-strong field in the annual event held at Gosforth Park Racecourse.
First home from the club was Tony Lewis, who finished eighth in 29m18s.
Second from the club in 17th place in 30m44s was Lorna MacDonald, who was second female finisher, one place and 17 seconds adrift of Birtley’s Chloe Price.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers were Sue Smith (68th) (3rd O/50 female) 39m50s, and Pam Woodcock (69th) (1st O/60 female) 39m52s.
Pre-race entry is now being accepted for the annual Morpeth 11k Road Race, sponsored by Linden Homes, and run on New Year’s Day at 1pm.
Entry is available online at www.racenumber.co.uk at fees of £6 for club runners and £8 fo those unattached. Online entry will close on Tuesday, December 27.
On the day entry is available at Race HQ at Morpeth Rugby Club from 11.30am, at rates of £9 and £11 respectively, and will still be eligible for prizes.
All entrants must be at least 17 years of age on the day of the race.
Updates and late race information will appear on Morpeth Harriers’ website on www.morpethharriers.com