FOR the fourth year in succession and the ninth time ever, the North East Counties won a much-prized set of team gold medals in the Senior Men’s 12k event at the highly competitive UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships, writes George Patterson.
The event was once again held on what has become the adopted home of the contest, at Cofton Park, near Birmingham, on Saturday.
That achievement proved to be the icing on the cake and a fitting end to a day during which the region’s other medal successes had earlier come individually in the U13 Boys’ 3k and U17 Women’s 5k events, courtesy of the silver medals picked up by respective English National Cross Country Champions from two weeks previous, Josh Cowperthwaite of Middlesbrough Athletics Club and Lydia Turner of Birtley AC.
Ironically Turner’s Birtley AC clubmate Kate Waugh narrowly missed out on individual bronze by eight seconds in the U15 Girls’ 4k event, in which she finished fourth.
Waugh did see compensation in the fact that she had picked up an award for her performances in the series of UK Cross Challenges, of which the Cofton Park event served as the final.
It was fitting that the North East Senior Men were led home to their gold team success by reigning North East and Northern Cross Country Champion Dan Garbutt, who ran solidly throughout to finish ninth against top-class opposition from all over England.
Garbutt was fully assisted by fellow members of a strong squad, who included Morpeth Harriers Richard Morrell and Lewis Timmins, who placed 21st and 26th respectively as the fourth and fifth counters of the required six to score.
Other Morpeth Harriers outside the scoring six, but still producing good sound performances were Matthew Nicholson (42nd) and Ross Floyd (133rd).
Nevertheless, all of the region’s athletes finished in the top half of a 276-strong field of finishers, who were led home by Middlesex’s National silver medallist and British Student’s Champion Richard Goodman of Woodford Green, who just managed on this occasion to out-sprint National Champion Steve Vernon of Greater Manchester and Stockport.
Ironically, although Vernon has won English National titles, he is yet to win an Inter Counties.
Other counters in the successful North East Senior Men’s squad were Yared Hagos (Wallsend Harriers, 18th), Carl Smith (Leeds City, 19th) and Ben Douglas (Durham City, 39th).
Also running in the Senior Men’s event was Morpeth Harrier Nathan Shrubb, who ran superbly to finish 22nd and led his newly-adopted county Dorset, to 19th team spot.
The next best team result for the region came from the U17 Women in their 5k event.
Led home by the aforementioned Turner, they finished fourth, only losing out for bronze by 13 points behind Cheshire, who were led home by Turner’s conqueror Harriet Knowles Jones.
Producing one of her most excellent performances ever, Charlotte Jewell came through to claim the final fourth counter’s spot, when finishing a well-earned 77th place out of 260 finishers and well ahead of some of her more well-acclaimed North East rivals, who just happened to include her Morpeth Harriers clubmate Alison Brown, who later admitted to feeling tired in the closing stages mainly due to a lack of fitness in having been unable to train successfully for a couple of weeks due to injury.
Brown finished in 155th place, however, remained upbeat and pleased for her clubmate Jewell.
One of the region’s most solid team performances on the day, came from their Senior Women, who battled well in their 8k event, which boasted a 270-strong field of finishers.
Led home by Durham’s Rosie Smith, who was so close to an individual medal when she finished sixth, the squad finished seventh.
Morpeth Harrier Emma Holt ran strongly to finish 36th as second counter, with further scoring performances coming from Alex Snook (Jarrow, 47th), Tracey Millmore (Birtley AC, 71st), Rachel Lundgren (Gosforth, 82nd) and Elaine Leslie (Jarrow, 91st).
Running what was probably the best performance of his young life, Morpeth Harrier Sam Hancox can take much pride and pleasure from the fact that he came through as the fourth and final counter, for the North East U20 Men’s squad in their 8k event, which opened the 10-event programme.
Using exactly the same tactics he had successfully employed two weeks previously at Nottingham in the English National Championships, Sam started very steadily not far from the rear of the field, however, still found time in the two-and-a-half-lap event to work his way through to finish in a much credited 71st place in a field of 177 finishers.
The North East finished as ninth team in this event, with Hancox giving very able team support to the front-running efforts of Adrian Bailes (52nd), Jonathan Currie (60th) and Jordan Bell (65th).
Another ninth team placing came from the region’s U13 Boys in their 3k event.
They were led home by individual silver medallist Cowperthwaite, and Morpeth Harriers Inter Counties debutant Joe Dowd ran superbly to finish 113th out of 300 finishers to close the North East scoring count in the four-to-score event.
Another superb Morpeth Harriers performer for the North East was Elliot Kelly, who finished in 81st place in the U17 Men’s 6k event and was the fourth and final scoring counter for a squad that finished as 14th in a very tough and competitive participating field of 266 finishers.
With very little cross-country events left for him this campaign, Kelly effectively ran out of his skin to achieve this excellent performance, and successfully locked horns with counterparts who have had the better of him competitively recently, notably fellow North Easterner, Gateshead’s James Cripwell, who was only one place ahead of him in the final results, with the same recorded time.
Not so fortunate, however, was Kelly’s Morpeth clubmate Nathan Cox.
The North East U17 Men’s Champion unfortunately suffered an asthma attack during the early proceedings of the two-lap contest and was forced to slow considerably. Cox eventually finished in 105th place.
Other good North East team performances came from the U15 Boys, who finished as fifth team in their 4.5k event, the U20 Women, who finished as sixth team in their 6k event, the U15 Girls, led by fourth-placed Waugh, who finished 10th team, and finally the region’s U13 Girls, who finished as 13th team.
There were no Morpeth Harriers in these squads.
With a total of 80 points collectively from the 10 programmed events, in which the North East counties finished as a team in all, the region finished as third team behind winners Yorkshire, and second-placed Surrey.
Congratulations go to the respective North East team managers for their efforts in pulling their squads together to produce a superb overall result.
MORPETH Harrier Nick McCormick looked every inch a man in excellent form, when he secured a 27-second-margin victory in Sunday’s prestigious Trafford 10k Road Race, in Manchester.
The event itself had taken a few top-class runners away from the previous day’s Inter Counties Cross Country and McCormick was certainly made to work hard for his handsome victory, which he took in a new personal best time of 28m56s.
Second place went to Stockport’s Ross Millington in 29m23s, with third place going to Derby’s Richard Weir (29m33s). Fourth place went to Clowne’s Andrew Ward.
All four leading runners secured new pbs for their efforts, as did a high percentage of the top 20 finishers, despite windy conditions.
FERGUS Bates was Morpeth Harriers’ only finisher in the Men’s 35 to 60 age group event at the North East Masters Cross Country Championships, held at Willington, near Wallsend on Saturday.
He finished fifth overall and was first Over 40 Veteran Man.
In the Over 65 event. Morpeth Harriers Walter Ryder and Paul Bentley finished 24th and 27th respectively.
Walter was first Over 75 Veteran Man and Paul was seventh Over 65 Veteran Man.
MORPETH Harrier Elliot Kelly took time out from a series of Cross Country action in preparation for the Inter Counties Championships in Birmingham, by coasting to a win in the Whitley Bay Park Run, on Saturday, March 1.
While his clubmates were in action at Alnwick, Kelly set new figures of 16m47s for the 5k distance, not only knocking a massive 20 seconds off his previous, but also setting a new fastest time for an U17 athlete on the course, a clocking that may prove to be unbeatable, and shows that he is in good determined form for the Birmingham contest, where he represents the North East.
Ironically, it looks as if Kelly will be sitting out the English Schools on the following week, as he failed to get a place automatically due to the strength of the Durham Schools athletes in front of him in his age group, however, remains on standby as an ever-willing and competent reserve.
Another Morpeth Harriers Park Run success came in the South Shields event, where Michael Morris broke the course record with figures of 15m55s, another record which may not be broken, as he now competes in the Over 35 Veteran Men’s age group.
SEVERAL Morpeth Harriers will be travelling to Castle Donnington in Leicesterhire tomorrow (Saturday), as representatives of Northumberland at the annual English Schools Cross Country Championships.
No less than three athletes from the club have been selected to face the starter in the Intermediate Boys’ event.
North East U17 Men’s Cross Country Champion Nathan Cox from North Northumberland heads the squad and he is joined by King Edward pupil Ryan Green and Adam Weightman, also from North Northumberland.
In the Junior Boys squad, Kieran Hedley will be second from the pen.
Completing the male line-up is Phillip Winkler of North Northumberland, who competes in the Senior Boys’ event.
Alison Brown (North Northumberland) and Beth Woolley (East Northumberland) are among those selected to compete in the Senior Girls’ event and Charlotte Jewell (East Northumberland) completes the Morpeth Harriers female tally, when she lines up in the Intermediate Girls’ event.
The following Morpeth Harriers have also been selected at present as non-travelling reserves: Intermediate Boys Jarod Lewis (North Northumberland), Junior Boys Joe Dowd and Adam Shewry (East Northumberland); Senior Girls Alice Kelly (East Northumberland), Junior Girls Kate Seymour and Lizzie Rank (East Northumberland).
WHILE some younger members of Morpeth Harriers will be competing at the English Schools Cross Country Championships on Saturday, the club’s Senior Men and Women will be lining up in the Northern Athletics 12-Stage and Six-Stage Road Relays in Heaton Park, Manchester.
The Senior Men’s team hope to include Nick McCormick and Nick Swinburn in what hopes to be a strong line-up and the Women hope to see Laura Weightman in their line-up for their six-stage contest. Action gets under way at 11.30am and 11.35am respectively.