Amble Army march to win

From left, Morpeth Harriers Jordan Scott, Robert Balmbra and Karl Taylor, first, second, and third at Saturday's Harrier League Meeting in Hebburn. Picture by Hudson Stoker.
From left, Morpeth Harriers Jordan Scott, Robert Balmbra and Karl Taylor, first, second, and third at Saturday's Harrier League Meeting in Hebburn. Picture by Hudson Stoker.

A very wet and muddy course at Bedewell Park, Hebburn, after overnight snow gave way to rain, presented very little problem for Morpeth Harriers’ Titanic Trio, writes George Patterson.

Robert Balmbra, Karl Taylor and Jordan Scott, who achieved a very rare unique front-running one-two-three for their club in the Senior Men’s event, at Saturday’s fourth Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League.

The affectionately known as Amble Army, as all three reside in the Northumberland coastal town, finished within 16 seconds of each other, and indeed were almost a minute clear of their nearest rivals, after a Slow Pack start.

Giving five minutes to most of the 466-strong field of finishers with his Fast Pack start, team medallist from the previous week’s Northern Championships Carl Avery, superbly worked his way through the field to finish in sixth place, and as the club’s fourth counter, posting the fastest time of the day overall.

Unfortunately, Morpeth Harriers could only finish as second team to league leaders Tyne Bridge on the day, with further counts coming from Steve Haswell (74th, Slow Pack) and Rob Hancox (88th, Medium Pack).

Also competing on the day for Morpeth Harriers Senior Men were Thomas Straughan (99th, Fast Pack), Sam Hancox (113th, Fast Pack), Jim Alder (131st, Slow Pack), Phil Walker (133rd, Medium Pack), Andrew Richardson (181st, Slow Pack), Peter Scaife (216th, Slow Pack), Les Cavill (281st, Slow Pack) and Kevin Bray (320th, Slow Pack).

On a very tough day, Morpeth Harriers secured no less than three team victories, two of them coming from their youngest age group.

The narrowest of those team victories came in the U17 Men’s event, which by comparison had the smallest field of competitors, 16 in all.

Nevertheless, the Morpeth Harriers athletes packed well enough to win by one point from fierce rivals Sunderland Harriers.

They were well led home by North Eastern Cross Country silver medallist Scott Beattie, who triumphed with nearly a minute margin over his closest rival Alex Brown of Houghton AC, with further counts coming from excellent supporting runs by Jacob Hopkins (seventh) and James Young (eighth), both running from the Fast Pack along with Beattie.

The supporting Morpeth Harriers hierarchy felt well pleased with the excellent on-the-day team-victory efforts produced by the club’s youngest, their U13 Boys’ and Girls’ squads.

Daniel Melling, who by comparison to the rest of the U13 Boys’ squad, has only as yet competed in only a handful of events.

Nevertheless, Melling produced a really top-drawer performance to lead the squad home, with a determined run through the ever-increasing mud; he prevailed to finish third from the Slow Pack and, as a result of his efforts, will now see himself promoted to the Fast Pack for the remainder of the season.

He was equally well supported in his team effort by Ross Charlton, who only lost out for fastest time by four seconds to Houghton AC’s Henry Johnson, when coming home fourth from the Fast Pack.

The Morpeth Harriers winning score was closed, when Daniel Dixon came home in 12th place from the Fast Pack, posting the day’s eighth fastest time overall.

Not far behind Daniel was his Morpeth Harriers clubmate Thomas Cunningham, who finished 15th from the Fast Pack, posting the 10th fastest time overall.

Running her very first Harrier League as an U13 Girl, Morpeth Harriers Rhiannon Hedley was never daunted, as she produced an excellent performance to come home in second place from the Slow Pack, and led her club’s charge to team victory over second-placed Blaydon Harriers.

Four seconds and one place behind Rhiannon was her Morpeth Harriers clubmate Lily Heaton, who also produced an excellent run from the Slow Pack.

Morpeth Harriers’ winning count was certainly completed, when North Eastern Counties Cross Country silver medallist Holly Peck came home to finish sixth from the Fast Pack.

Peck’s time was the second fastest of the day, only beaten by the North Eastern gold medallist Grace Varley, who finished ahead of her in fourth place.

Morpeth Harriers’ other performer in the U13 Girls’ event was Nicole Teasdale, who finished 52nd from the Fast Pack.

It was indeed an excellent day competitively for the Hedley household, when Rhiannon’s older brother Kieran also claimed an on-the-day silver medal in the U15 Boys’ event.

Hedley continued his excellent form shown in the previous week’s Northern Championships, where he had just been run out of the medals.

However, on a day when conditions were equally as tricky, Kieran stuck like glue to North Eastern Champion Max Pearson of Tynedale and only lost out for actual victory by one second at the finish line.

Ironically, Tynedale had also packed slightly better than Morpeth on the day and took the team title ahead of them.

Hedley was well supported in his team efforts, however, with good performances coming from Joe Dowd (11th, Fast Pack), and Adam Shewry (12th, Fast Pack).

Further Morpeth Harriers efforts in the U15 Boys’ race came from Jamie Duguid (16th, Slow Pack), Cameron Dick (20th, Slow Pack), Alex Cunningham (30th, Fast Pack), Connor Marshall (32nd, Fast Pack), Josh Burton (33rd, Fast Pack) and Lewis James (42nd, Slow Pack).

Morpeth Harrier Emma Holt was very clearly the fastest performer on show in the Senior Women’s event, where she came through the 284-strong finishing field to place third from the Fast Pack, giving at least four minutes’ handicap start to a good proportion of her opposition.

Unfortunately, Morpeth had a tough team race on their hands in Division Two, as they could only finish as sixth team.

Supporting counts to Holt came from Jane Briggs (105th, Medium Pack), Gwenda Cavill (106th, Slow Pack) and Kate Chapman (174th, Medium Pack).

Unfortunately, Morpeth Harriers are currently being very much under supported in their U15 Girls’ events, apart from Gracie Hufton, who ran well from the Slow Pack to finish eighth.

In the non-scoring U11 events, Morpeth Harriers saw two impressive debut performances respectively by Ben Walker and Ailidh Dick.

Walker finished a superb fourth and only 14 seconds behind the winner in the 59 strong Boys’ event.

Dick ran well to finish 11th in the Girls’ event. Both were the first Morpeth Harriers home respectively.

Other club performers were Dylan Davies (12th), Callum Rowell (22nd), James Tilley (33rd), Dylan Walker (35th) and Reece Garrett (44th) in the Boys’ race, Amy Lott accompanied Ailidh Dick in the Girls’ event, finishing 15 in the 44-strong field.

Unfortunately, the combined U17/U20 Women’s event ended in controversy, with more than half of the field ending up being accidentally sent the wrong way.

At the time of going to press, organisers are still trying to establish a correct course of action in terms of a result.

On a final note, Morpeth Harriers would very much wish to thank senior member Les Cavill for his stringent efforts of late, in seeing that the club tent has been arriving for events in clean condition.

The item has recently been used in three events which encountered bad weather and has resulted in it having to be thoroughly hosed down and dried after each occasion. This Saturday was no exception and we thank you Les most sincerely for your efforts in this light.

U15 Girl Morpeth Harriers athlete Ailsa Jones competed at the Scottish National Open Indoor Athletics Championships, held at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena on Saturday, January 17.

It was Ailsa’s very first taste of indoor competition and, according to her coach Vena Desai, she blossomed to the occasion well by finishing second in her age group 800m event, by finishing second in 2m42.30s, only slightly adrift of race winner Sarah Davenport of Tweed, who clocked 2m42.23s.

This weekend, Ailsa had her second taste of Indoor Competition, when she again competed over 800m at the combined Northern Athletics Indoor U13 and 15 Championships in Sheffield on Sunday, February 1.

On this occasion, however, she did meet tougher opposition, when in heat one of three. She finished sixth, clocking a time of 2m48.44s, which made her 15th of the 17 competing in the event.

She can still take some pride from her performance, despite not making the final here, and Desai hopes that the indoor events will tune up her athlete well for the forthcoming summer track season, when Jones herself hopes to tackle the longer 1500m event.

Also competing at the Scottish Indoor Open in Glasgow on the 17th was fellow Morpeth Harrier Nathan Cox.

The Borders-based U20 Middle Distance athlete is certainly mixing his winter activity well, as he finished third in a mixed field of six Senior/U23 and U20 athletes in the main 800m race on the crowded programme.

Cox clocked an excellent 1m59.83s, a time which also bodes well for the forthcoming outdoor track season.

Two athletes from Morpeth Harriers took part in the North East Marathon club 50k and Half-Marathon events, held at Newcastle Racecourse in High Gosforth Park, on Sunday, January 25.

In the 50k event, Lorna MacDonald finished third overall in a time of 4hrs9mins34secs, which involved running 19 laps of the circuit, and she was first woman finisher.

Meanwhile, Paul Banks took part in the half-marathon, which involved running eight laps of the circuit, which he completed in a time of 1hr34mins, placing 19th overall. Well done to both.

A total of 17 athletes from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers have been selected to run for the North Eastern Counties at the annual UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships, scheduled to take place at Cofton Park, near Birmingham, on Saturday, March 7.

Regional selectors met after the Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships at Pontefract last week and finalised their choices after nearly three hours deliberating over numerous performances.

Six of those 17 figure in the Senior Men’s squad, who compete to retain the Championship title that they won at the venue last March.

North East Champion Jonny Taylor leads the nine athletes selected, which include Morpeth clubmates Nick Swinburn, Lewis Timmins, Richard Morrell, Carl Avery and Nathan Shrubb.

For Avery, it will be his first call-up.

Shrubb also makes his regional debut; however, like Taylor, Swinburn, Timmins and Morrell, he has had Inter Counties experience previously, having run in the colours of Dorset last year, where he was resident for several years in his work commitments.

Joining the Morpeth Harriers sextet in the North East line-up, are 2014/15 North East and Northern Champion Dan Garbutt of Durham City, Cheltenham’s North East-based Phil Wylie and Leeds City’s Whitley Bay-based Carl Smith.

Elliot Kelly, of Morpeth Harriers, will line-up in the North East Junior Men’s squad, along with Jordan Bell of Blackhill Bounders, Tom Goulding of Birtley AC, James Cripwell of Gateshead Harriers, Jack Willis of Middlesbrough and Cleveland, Jonathan Currie of Tynedale Harriers, Liam Emmett of Jarrow and Hebburn, and Oliver Wilson of Durham City.

Two Morpeth Harriers are in the region’s line-up of U17 Men.

Scott Beattie and Nathan Cox join North East Champion Nathan Baker of Middlesbrough Mandale, along with Crook’s Markhim Lonsdale, Alex Brown of Houghton AC, Joseph Graham-Bradley of Durham City, and Gateshead Harriers pair Joe Armstrong and Chris Robinson.

Kieran Hedley of Morpeth Harriers, who only narrowly missed out on an individual medal in last week’s Northern Cross Country at Pontefract, lines up in the North East U15 Boys’ squad, alongside his Morpeth Harriers clubmate Taylor Glover, Max Pearson of Tynedale, Middlesbrough Mandale’s Josh Cowperthwaite and Josh Allen, New Marske’s Reece Curtis, silver medallist at Pontefract, Chester-le-Street’s Ryan Arthur, and Durham City’s Michael Wade.

The North East U13 Boys’ squad include Morpeth Harriers pair Daniel Dixon and Ross Charlton, along with Blyth’s Josh Fiddaman, Gateshead Harrier Ethan McGlen, Houghton AC’s Henry Johnson, Middlesbrough Mandale’s Daniel Currie, New Marske’s Daniel Gunn, and Durham City’s Izaak Taylor.

On to the Women’s event, where Morpeth Harriers’ North East silver medallist Emma Holt and Ashley Gibson accompany area champion Rosie Smith of Durham City, along with Alex Sneddon of Jarrow and Hebburn, Elswick’s Justina Heslop, Birchfield’s former Wallsend Harrier Danielle Hodgkinson, Gosforth’s Rachel Lundgren, Tyne Bridge Veteran Alison Dargie and Elisabeth Mooney of Cambridge Hare and Hounds, formerly with Gateshead Harriers.

Alison Brown of Morpeth Harriers, lines up in the North East Junior Women’s squad, that also includes Alnwick’s Susie Barwise-Munro, Gateshead’s Robyn Waugh, Birtley AC quartet, Anna Fawcett, Paige Gilhespy, Sophie Forster, and Great Britain European Cross Country team medallist Lydia Turner, and Durham City’s Amy Etherington.

The U15 Girls’ and U17 Women’s squads are the only ones in the North East contingent that don’t include a Morpeth Harrier in their line-ups.

Last but not least, Morpeth Harrier Holly Peck, the North Eastern Counties Cross Country silver medallist is included in the region’s U15 Girls’ squad, which also sees North East Champion Grace Varley and Natasha Stephenson of Gateshead Harriers, North East bronze medallist India Pentland and Megan Noble of Darlington Harriers, Eva Hardie of Houghton AC, Callie Henderson of Alnwick, and Rebecca Tilley of New Marske, all joining her in an impressive line-up.