THE Morpeth ‘Mudlarks’ were very much alive, and extremely well, in the Senior Men’s three-lap event at the first Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League fixture, held at East Cramlington Nature Reserve on Saturday.
Following extremely wintry conditions that hit the region late on Friday evening andwhich prevailed through most of the night, an early morning inspection was certainly required to ensure the safety of all throughout the nine race programme, and the event went ahead despite the race referee declaring the course condition as ‘bottomless’ in racing terms.
This, however, did nothing to deter Morpeth Harrier Jonny Taylor, who achieved the fastest Senior Men’s time, as he worked his way through the field to finish in 12th place overall, and as third counter for his club, who very much mounted an early challenge for honours in the Division One title race.
Taylor had also given five minutes to most of a 425 strong field of finishers.
The Morpeth Harriers Senior Men certainly emphasised their superiority, and were led home by a superb Jonny Nisbet effort, running from the Slow Pack, who finished second overall, as seventh fastest on the course.
Morpeth Harriers second counter was Neil Gunstone, who also took full advantage of his Slow Pack start, by racing home to fifth place.
The Morpeth scoring count was superbly completed by Nick Swinburn (14th) (Second fastest) (Fast Pack), Lewis Timmins (18th) (Third fastest) (Fast Pack), and a very much inform Sam Hancox, who produced another excellent performance, by steadily placing 21st from the Slow Pack.
Added to all this, the non-scoring performances of Ross Floyd (46th) (Fast Pack) (Fifth Fastest), and Graeme Taylor (48th) (Fast Pack) (Sixth Fastest), were most creditable, and served to give their club what is probably its best ever Harrier League team performance, having finished with six of the to seven fastest on the course was no mean achievement, to say the least.
Further down the field, Morpeth Harriers could also pay tribute to the performances of Philip Caldwell (74th) (Slow Pack), Thomas Straughan (75th) (Medium Pack), Michael Thomsen (78th) (Medium Pack), Rob Hancox (79th) (Slow Pack), and Paul Waterston (88th) (Medium Pack).
Gary Jones found the going a little tough after a period of limited competition, due to injury, and came home in 187th place from the Fast Pack.
It was very heart-warming to see Morpeth Harriers field a squad in the two lap Senior Women’s event, which saw them place as fifth team overall, and second in Division Two behind Elswick Harriers.
They were led home by Gemma Floyd who, running from the Medium Pack, finished 12th and was seventh fastest in the race.
Morpeth Harriers second finisher was newcomer Lindsay Turnbull, who looked every inch the part in the difficult conditions as she got round to finish 21st from the Slow Pack.
After a couple of seasons out of competition with persistent injuries, Morpeth Harriers were pleased to welcome back their former Women’s Road and Cross Country team manager Gwenda Cavill to the fray, and despite a slight loss of fitness, she performed extremely well to finish 40th in a total field of 179 from the Slow Pack.
One of the best individual Morpeth Harriers performances on the day undoubtedly belonged to Elliot Kelly who, after starting very steadily from the Slow Pack, tested himself on the difficult surface and carefully stole away from his rivals in the U17 mens two lap event.
By half-way, he was a good 30 seconds clear, and in an almost gazelle like fashion he won with 35 seconds to spare over second placed James Cripwell of Gateshead.
Kelly can also feel well pleased in the knowledge that he was the fastest of 36 competitors on the course; however will feel a little disappointed that he had no fellow Morpeth Harriers with him to share some team success.
Back to the team front, and Morpeth Harriers can feel well pleased with the efforts of their U13 and U15 Boys who managed to finish as second in their one lap 3.2k events respectively.
The U13 Boys were led home by Kieran Hedley, who produced an excellent second fastest of the day run from the Fast Pack, who gave most of their rivals an eighty second start.
Kieran came through to finish seventh overall in a finishing field of 52, which included eight of his fellow Morpeth Harriers clubmates.
In that light, further team counts came from Louis Stripp, who marked his Harrier League debut, with an excellent run from the Slow Pack to finish 11th.
Not far behind Louis in 14th place from the Slow Pack was Josh Burton, who closed the Morpeth Harriers team score. 15th and 16th places also went to Morpeth Harriers, in the form of Alex Cunningham (Slow Pack), and Jamie Robertson (Slow Pack).
Other Morpeth Harriers U13 Boys who competed were Philip Kirby (22nd) (Fast Pack), Adam Shewry (29th) (Slow Pack), Robbie Elder (45th) (Slow Pack), and Lewis James (48th) (Slow Pack).
Running from the Slow Pack, Jacob Hopkins led the Morpeth Harriers U15 Boys squad home, when he finished seventh overall, and one place ahead of club colleague Ryan Green, who ran from the Fast Pack, and was third fastest on the course. The team count was completed with Jarod Lewis finishing 21st from the Fast Pack.
Morpeth Harriers’ other performer in this event was Sam Williams, who finished 28th from the Slow Pack.
Alison Brown of Morpeth Harriers ploughed a lone furrow for her club in the U17/U20 Womens 4.83k event.
She finished a well earned fourth from the Slow Pack, and was eighth fastest on the course, and was third placed U17.
Another praiseworthy Morpeth Harriers team performance came from their very young and promising U13 Girls.
Although they very much missed their front running abilities of Ailsa Jones, the squad produced a performance that saw them finish as sixth team.
They were led home by Kate Seymour, who on her Harrier League debut finished sixth from the Slow Pack.
Second counter was Teegan Dryden (23rd) (Fast Pack), and Harriet Priest (35th) (Slow Pack), completed the Morpeth tally of points.
Georgia Priest finished 46th from the Fast Pack in this age group.
Morpeth Harrier Charlotte Jewell ran well to finish ninth fastest in a field of 28 in the U15 Girls, who also included her clubmate Florence Thomson.
Charlotte was 14th overall from the Fast Pack, and Florence finished 17th from the Slow Pack.
Morpeth Harriers had two athletes competing in the Mixed non scoring U11 event, where Adam Kirby finished 20th as 14th boy, and Joshua Williams finished 45th as 26th Boy.
As a footnote to the event, it could be well said that the “Mudlarks” had revelled in a day of difficult conditions; however the “Skylarks” were nowhere to be seen, presumed having migrated for the winter.
Such is a Saturday afternoon of entertaining Cross Country activity in a resplendent Nature Reserve.
ATHLETES can really have the chance to enjoy their first journey of 2013, by taking part in the Benfield Motor Group sponsored annual (approx)11k Morpeth Road Race on Tuesday, January 1, at 1pm.
Starting on Mitford Road, at the bottom of Dogger Bank, the event follows its traditional course through Mitford, up to Mitford Steads, back down the Whalton Road, past the Golf Course and the Sun Inn, into Carlisle Park, along the riverbank, to the finish line on the Stanners.
Additional support and sponsorship is also being received for the event from Start Fitness, and Press Officer George Patterson.
Pre Race Entry is now being taken at £5 club runners, and £7 for Non Affiliated Club Runners, and cheques are payable to Morpeth Harriers & AC, and sent along with a Race Entry Form, which are downloadable on PDF on the Morpeth Harriers Website on www.morpethharriers.freeservers.com, or in selected specialist running shops.
Entrants must be at least 17 on the day of the race, and veterans must state their date of birth on their entry details.
The prize list has been modified to include more individual, and various veteran categories, both male and female.
Entries are to be sent to Mr K Bray, 3, Dene View Court, Pottery Bank, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 1SH, Tel No 01670 505953.
Closing date for Pre Race entry is Monday, December 17.
Entries will be accepted on the day, and will be still eligible for prizes, at rates of £7 and £9 respectively.
Numbers are to be picked up on the day, along with any late entries at Race Headquarters at Morpeth Rugby Club, Grange House Field, Mitford Road, Morpeth, from 11.30am.
Changing facilities are available at the Morpeth Harriers and AC Clubhouse, (next to the Rugby Club).
In case of bad weather please watch for any updates on the Morpeth Harriers website.
NATHAN Shrubb of Morpeth Harriers finished 22nd in a 37 strong field in a talented Senior Mens event, in the opening fixture of the McCains Cross Country Series, held in Bristol on Sunday, in a time of 32m53s.
OVER 50 Morpeth Harriers Veteran Jim Alder finished 32nd in Sunday’s Jedburgh 10k Road Race in 40m10s.