DENSE early morning fog eventually gave way to excellent spring sunshine for the hardy competitors who took part in the final meeting of the 2011/12 Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League, held in lofty pasture land situated above Prudhoe High School in the picturesque Tyne Valley, on Saturday.
It also brought to a close a particularly busy and competitive Cross Country season for athletes from Morpeth Harriers, and at least brought some reward for two of their teams, and six of their individuals.
On the team front, the club’s U13 and U15 Boys won their respective divisions, with the former only achieving success at the final hurdle due to a superb performance on the day that saw them finish first, and well ahead of prospective challengers Tynedale Harriers.
The six individual awards gained by athletes from Morpeth Harriers will be presented at a special awards ceremony, to be held at the sponsor Start Fitness’s premises on Pilgrim Street, Newcastle on Thursday, April 12, at 5.45pm.
Morpeth Harriers U13 Boys were undoubtedly boosted by a superb front-running performance from young Samuel Williams, who almost led from gun to finishing tape, to win with eight seconds to spare over his closest rival, who just happened to be the day’s fastest performer in Tynedale’s Matthew Jackson.
Not far behind Matthew in fourth place overall, and second fastest on the day, Morpeth’s Jacob Hopkins, who by virtue of this performance, emerges as third in the season’s overall Grand Prix rankings, which will earn him an award at the aforementioned presentation evening.
Morpeth Harriers U13 Boys’ team score on the day was completed by Kieran Hedley, who finished in eighth place, and was fourth fastest.
That performance sees Kieran as fifth fastest cumulatively in the seasons Grand Prix rankings. Other Morpeth Harriers U13 Boy performances on the day came from Euan Jones (26th) (Fast Pack), and Lewis James (44th) (Slow Pack).
An truly excellent season for Morpeth Harriers’ U15 Boys came to a very fruitful end by them winning their league title, and by creating a new record in itself, by providing the league’s Grand Prix standings with its first, second and third athlete.
On the day itself, it was those three athletes who further confirmed their dominance, when combining to form yet another team victory.
Elliot Kelly sealed his Grand Prix victory by finishing as fastest on the day in second place overall, and Philip Winkler (seventh) (Fast Pack), and Ryan Green (ninth) (Fast Pack) emerged as third and fourth fastest on the day to take the second and third spot cumulatively.
Although not a counter on this occasion, Jarod Lewis had another good run to finish 15th from the Fast Pack.
Unfortunately there was some disappointment on the day, when Morpeth Harriers Senior Men missed a golden opportunity to win the Division One title for the first time.
Instead it went to Gateshead Harriers, who by comparison turned out in force on the day, and very easily won by a fair margin.
Morpeth Harriers finished third in the division on the day, however all credit must go to those who turned out on the day to fly the club flag.
First of those was newcomer James Taylor, who firmly used his fell-running talents, and certainly looks a promising act, as he came home in third place from the Slow Pack, only headed by Durham City’s Dan Garbutt, and Gateshead’s Keiran Flannery, both also from the Slow Pack.
Next home for Morpeth Harriers was Tom Brookes, who finished eighth from the Slow Pack.
Ross Floyd, who is hoping to grab a place in Morpeth Harriers 12 Stage Road Relay team at this weekends North of England Championships in Liverpool, firmly put his name in the hat for possible selection, when he came home as the club’s third counter, when finishing 44th from the Fast Pack, and as tenth fastest overall on the day.
Three places behind Ross came clubmate John Woods, who had an excellent run from the Medium Pack.
Next came Morpeth Harriers’ Road and Cross Country Team Manager David Swinburne, who as usual led by example by finishing in an excellent 55th place from the Fast Pack.
Unfortunately Morpeth Harriers had to look to 109th place to close their scoring count, with Michael Winter doing his level best from the Slow Pack, however, it just was not quite enough to manage a required team success.
Credit must also go to Phil Walker and Rob Hancox, who turned out on the day to finish in 136th and 154th places from the Medium and Slow Packs respectively.
In the Senior Women’s event, Morpeth Harrier Jane Hodgson confirmed her superiority in the Grand Prix standings by finishing in second place on the day, and only lost out on the day for fastest, albeit by six seconds, to Durham City’s Rosie Smith, who had chosen to run from the Medium Pack, giving her a two-minute advantage for a rampant Hodgson to chase down.
Such is the quality of Hodgson’s performance, that she should get so close to a seasoned International talent.
Hodgson will however have the satisfaction of picking up her Grand Prix award from Start Fitness.
It was extremely pleasing to see Morpeth Harriers close as a team in the Senior Women’s event for only the second time this season.
Further team support came from Gemma Floyd (ninth) (Medium Pack), and Maxine Czarneka (51st) (Fast Pack).
Those placings gave Morpeth Harriers second team placing on the day behind Tyne Bridge Harriers in Division Two.
Morpeth Harriers also finished as a team in the U13 Girls event, when they placed fourth.
They were led home by Teegan Dryden (17th) (Fast Pack), with further team support coming from Lois Scott (20th) (Slow Pack), and Georgia Priest (25th) (Fast Pack).
Morpeth Harrier Alison Brown continued her busy strong season by finishing sixth in the U15 Girls event, which also sees her finish as sixth in the overall Grand Prix standings for the campaign, and clubmate Charlotte Jewell continued her impressive progress when finishing tenth from the Fast Pack.
Having already sealed victory in the Grand Prix standings for U17 Men, Morpeth Harrier Jonnie Nisbet sensibly chose not to take his place on the start line, for what would have been his last race in that age group.
Instead he wisely chose to take a well earned break after a hectic spell of Cross Country activity, and he will also be one of the clubs athletes to be honoured at the forthcoming presentation evening at Start Fitness.
Morpeth Harriers sole athlete in the U17 Mens event was Sam Hancox, who ran well to finish 11th from the Fast Pack.
In the non scoring U11s race, Morpeth Harrier Ailsa Jones ran with a great deal of credit to place 13th overall.
She was also fourth female finisher.
Other Morpeth Harriers to feature in this event were Matthew Ingledew (18th), Robbie Elder (20th), and Charlotte France (34th).
In summing up the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League season Morpeth Harriers can feel well proud of the efforts of their younger age Boys teams, can say tough luck to those Senior Men who made the effort, and can look forward to a great deal of promise from their younger girls, and to build on some strengths that exist in their Women’s squads.
On a closing note, Morpeth Harriers would wish to thank all those involved in the organisation of this season’s league for their sterling efforts in providing a good competition.
OVER 600 runners lined up for the Run Northumberland Half Marathon, held at Wallington Hall, Cambo, on Sunday, which heralded the start of a series of events that will take in a number of historic locations within the county.
The event was led home by Morpeth Harrier Michael Morris, who was running his first race for some time, and he could be well pleased with his effort that saw him cross the finish line at Wallington in an impressive 73m29s, (new course record), and approximately 24 seconds ahead of his closest rival Conrad Franks of Gateshead Harriers.
Morris, who in the past has been a leading member of his club’s successful relay squads, now tends to concentrate his efforts on triathlon and he will be competing in an Iron Man contest in Germany in July, and regarded this outing as an ideal preparation.
Third place went to Tynedale Harrier Richard Parker, who was first Veteran Man, in a time of 77m33s.
In addition to Morris several Morpeth Harriers were amongst the field of finishers.
Results: Mike McKean (52nd) 91m37s, Hamish McAllister-Williams (56th) (Second Over 50 Male) 92m13s, Chris Steel (68th) 94m41s, Ed Hillier (86th) 96m18s, Joanne Brown (137th) (Second Over 40 Lady) 100m45s, Michael Briggs (138th) 100m46s, Richard Sill (142nd) (Third Over 50 Male) 101m06s, Eric Adams (163rd) 103m59s, Anthony Richardson (179th) 105m41s, Richard Kirby (211th) 108m04s, Pam Woodcock (278th) (First Over 60 Lady) 113m05s, Sue Smith (335th) 117m27s, Rachel Forster (388th) 122m58s, and Jane Blackett (461st) 137m13s.