AN excellent sunny and mild winter’s day, brought a superb turnout of athletes for the annual North Eastern Counties Road Relay Championship events, held at Hetton Lyons Country Park, Hetton Le Hole, Co Durham, on Saturday, writes George Patterson.
Posting a total time, which was agonisingly just five seconds outside the course record, Morpeth Harriers comfortably won the six-stage Senior Men’s title by a margin of around 90s, from second-placed Sunderland Harriers, with reigning champions New Marske further adrift in third place.
The Senior Men’s event also saw the club win the Royal Signals Trophy, in honour of the originators of the events.
After U20 athlete Jonny Nisbet had the Morpeth A team handily placed in ninth spot on his first leg clocking of 11m20s for the 2.22-mile course, new signing Ryan Stephenson marked his first competitive team outing for the club, by posting their fastest time of the day of 10m43s, which was also the fifth fastest overall, and took the squad into a lead that was never relinquished over the remaining four legs.
Lewis Timmins took up the gauntlet on leg three, and by the end of his effort had increased Morpeth’s leading margin to 41 seconds.
Timmins personal clocking of 10m53s was eighth fastest overall.
Fourth leg saw Ian Hudspith increase their lead even further as he clocked the sixth equal fastest time of 10m48s, which he shared with his clubs fifth leg runner Matt Nicholson.
By the time Graeme Taylor went off on the final leg, and his own personal relay debut, Morpeth Harriers carried an unassailable lead, and Taylor certainly maintained it to the finish line by clocking 11m00s, which was just outside the top 10 on the day, and only surpassed on the leg itself by Sunderland Harrier Weyne Ghebreselasie, and New Marske’s Ricky Stevenson, who were battling for the second and third spots behind Morpeth Harriers.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s B team also made an impressive showing by finishing in sixth spot, courtesy of Michael Dawson, who had an excellent first leg run of 11m03s, and was superbly further supported by Simon O’Donnell (11m16s), plus youngsters Phillip Winkler (12m10s), Elliot Kelly (12m23s), Sam Hancox (12m22s), and Phillip Caldwell (12m22s).
In addition to the Morpeth A and B team performances, Mick Thomsen (12m10s), and Rob Hancox (13m52s) had also competed well for an incomplete C Team.
Medals were also won by Morpeth Harriers Over 40 Veteran Men’s squad, who finished a close third behind North Shields Poly and Tyne Bridge Harriers.
Paul Waterston got them off to an excellent start on first leg, when he came home in fourth place in 11m53s.
The further good work to ensure medals was carried through by the efforts of Neil Wilkinson (11m48s), Fergus Bates (12m03s), Phil Walker (12m27s), Alistair MacDonald (12m47s), and Terry Wall (11m44s).
Morpeth Harriers Senior Women and Over 50 Men finished just outside the medals in fifth and fourth places respectively in their four stage relay events.
The women unfortunately were missing key athletes such as Ashley Gibson, Laura Weightman, and Morag Stead, however they battled through to achieve an excellent result.
Morpeth’s Women’s A team fielded U17 athlete Alison Brown on leg one, and she performed well to come home in 14m17s.
Further excellent legs followed from Charlotte Wilson (13m36s), Gemma Floyd (13m50s), and Emma Holt, who rounded the efforts nicely with 13m21s, which took them closer to the medals.
Morpeth Harriers Women’s B team also performed well to finish 11th courtesy of Joanne Brown (14m21s), Kate Chapman (14m33s), Lorna MacDonald (14m31s), and Claire Mooney (17m31s), in her very first outing in a Morpeth vest.
Sarah Wilkinson, Morpeth Harriers Womens Road and Cross Country team manager was very praiseworthy of her squads efforts, and considering they were currently missing some key athletes including herself, the achievements were still showing well.
Jim Alder (13m43s), Billy Gilroy (12m05s), Peter Scaife (14m28s) and Gavin Bayne (13m36s), steered Morpeth Harriers Over 50 Veteran Men’s A team to an excellent fourth place, finishing behind winners Durham City, second placed Sunderland Harriers, and third placed North Shields Poly.
Their Over 50 Veteran Men’s B team also performed well to finish eighth, with runs by Richard Sill (14m26s), Les Cavill (14m53s), Archie Jenkins (15m01s), and Bob Sewell (15m09s).
Morpeth Harriers have produced a brand new North Eastern Counties champion in U20 sprinter Jack Hepple.
Hepple took the Gold Medal in the final of the 60m at the region’s Indoor Championships held at Gateshead College on Sunday.
After firstly winning his heat in 7.37s, he went on to clock 7.29s for his victory, which was just outside his lifetime best of 7.26s.
Another Morpeth Harrier to taste success was Sean O’Hara, who won his heat of the U15 Boys 60m in 8.07s, a new personal best, then went on to clock the same time again in the later run final, which brought him a championship Bronze medal.
Despite running a new personal best of 7.89s, Henrick Paulsen of Morpeth Harriers just failed to make the final of the U20 Men’s 60m, to accompany Hepple in his success.