MORPETH Harriers’ Olympic Women’s 1500m finalist Laura Weightman certainly impressed on her European Cross-Country Championship debut on Sunday in Belgrade, Serbia, when she finished eighth in the U23 Women’s event, writes George Patterson.
Unfortunately, however, she just missed out by three seconds, on being one of the official four gold medal-winning scoring counts, when just being outpaced by her Great Britain team-mate Rhona Auckland in the closing stages.
Always up with the leading protagonists, which also included fellow Brits Charlotte Purdue (third), Kate Avery (fourth), and Lily Partridge (fifth), Weightman can take some encouragement from the fact that she was only 48 seconds adrift of the event winner Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, and 39 seconds away from claiming an individual medal, and this on the back of a fairly sparse cross-country record.
Having come through this event with a mere hint of success, she can now sit down with her coach Steve Cram and set up a positive competitive calendar to consider over the forthcoming months, especially following the big disappointments of the summer, when injury very much limited her individual success.
l IT was a very quiet weekend competitively on the athletics front in the North East, but several athletes from Morpeth Harriers kept themselves relatively active by taking part in the local Park Runs at Chester-le-Street Riverside, Newcastle’s Exhibition Park and the Links at Whitley Bay.
Most notable of these runs was that of Morpeth Harriers Women’s Road and Cross-Country team manager Sarah Wilkinson at Chester-le-Street.
She not only won the Women’s event, but also broke the Women’s course record with her clocking of 17m15s, which shows that she is gradually putting her long-term injuries behind her and returning to the sort of form that has eluded her for a considerable period.
In Newcastle, no fewer than six runners from the club tackled the 5k circuit, with U17 athlete Elliot Kelly, finishing in fourth place in 17m21s, leading them home.
Next home was Richard Sill, who was 53rd in 21m09s.
Not far behind him in 58th place was James McFetrich, who was just 17 seconds adrift of his best on the course with 21m23s.
Other Harriers placings in Newcastle were Richard Driscoll (88th) 22m25s, Shuna Rank (116th) (14th Lady) 23m28s, and Claire Walker (180th) (33rd Lady) 25m26s.
Two Morpeth Harriers took part in the Whitley Bay event.
First here was Mark Snowball, who finished 10th in 19m49s, and the club’s other finisher Eric Adams produced a new best on the course of 20m27s when finishing in 18th place.
l HAVING finished an excellent fourth in the Senior Men’s event at the second North Eastern Harrier League meeting, held at Jarrow’s Bedewell Park on Sunday, November 24, John Butters took his current superb form to the Fells, when he finished sixth in the tough Andrew Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble Race, held at Allendale on Sunday, December 1.
Butters, running in the colours of his second-claim club, Northumberland Fell Runners, finished a very accomplished sixth, covering the10.5miles (16.8k), reaching a height of 1,250ft (379m) in a time of 70m49s.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers were Richard Kirby (70th) 92m07s, Claire Bruce (94th) 101m01s, and Jim Tomlin (138th) 118m40s.
l THREE Morpeth Harriers were winners at the North Northumberland Schools Cross-Country Championships, held at Druridge Bay, on Wednesday, December 4.
Nathan Cox and Kieran Hedley, despite still suffering from a heel injury, had respective victories in the Intermediate Boys’ and Junior Boys’ events. Alison Brown won the Senior Girls’ event, and Abby Sheldon was an excellent second in the Intermediate Girls event.
l LAST week’s Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League, held at Wallington Hall, brought the competition and its individual Grand Prix standings to its halfway point.
With three meetings still remaining, Morpeth Harriers have athletes featuring in the top 10 of all age groups apart from the U13 Girls’ section.
Currently leading the Senior Men’s and Senior Women’s standings are Ady Whitwam and Emma Holt respectively.
Also featuring in the Senior Men’s standings in fourth is Thomas Straughan.
The club have no less than four athletes in the U13 Boys’ section.
Best of these is Will Sibson, who is ranked fourth. Not far behind him in fifth is Alex Cunningham. Cameron Dick and Joe Dowd are seventh and ninth respectively.
Adam Shewry is ninth in the U15 Boys’ section.
In the U17 Men’s section, Ryan Green currently lies in third place and Elliot Kelly is fifth.
Abby Sheldon is fifth in the U15 Girls’ Grand Prix, while Alison Brown and Charlotte Jewell occupy eighth and tenth places respectively in the U17 Women’s section.
l THIS Saturday marks the holding of the first major domestic Cross-Country Championship of the season, when the North Eastern Counties Athletics Association host their annual event for the 108th occasion, at Temple Park in South Shields.
Morpeth Harriers hope to have athletes competing in most of the events on the nine-race programme and action gets underway at 11am, with the U13 Boys’ 3.1k Championship.
The club’s main medal hopes lie with their Senior Men, who compete over a distance of 12.4k at 1pm.
With Nick Swinburn, Lewis Timmins, Richard Morrell, Peter Newton, Ryan Stephenson, new acquisition Ady Whitwam and a possibility of Nick McCormick, who is among the entries facing the starter, the possibility of Morpeth Harriers retaining the title they successfully won at Hartlepool 12 months ago would appear to be very much on the cards.
Other club strengths lie in their U17 Men, U13 Boys and possibly their U15 Boys, who hope that long-term injury victim Kieran Hedley makes the start line.
Best chances for team medals in the female section lie with the U17/U20 Women.