POSSIBLY the worst conditions ever faced at the venue blighted some athletes’ individual ambitions at the annual Saucony English Cross Country Relays, held at Berry Hill Park, Mansfield, on Saturday.
A heavy rainstorm during the U15 Boys’ 3x2k event made its mark on the normally reasonably pristine surface, which also continued to prevail slightly during the Senior Women’s 3x3k event which followed, however, did manage to peter out during the final event of the day, the Senior Men’s 4x5k.
On the day, Morpeth Harriers athletes managed to produce some positive results from the four events in which they competed.
The most surprising, however, and most welcome came from their U13 Boys in their 3x2k event, where they thoroughly exceeded all expectations by finishing in 16th place out of 91 teams who faced the starter and were seventh from the North of England.
Fortunes were indeed boosted by first-leg runner Kieron Hedley, who in September was a relatively unknown force.
However, he proved his worth when he came home in 18th place in 7m31s, which was followed by Jacob Hopkins’ excellent 7m29s on second leg, which in turn saw him rise 11 places to seventh.
This left final-leg runner Philip Kirby, who would not always be automatic third choice, with the task of maintaining a respectable placing.
Philip did an excellent job, by clocking 8m07s, which, although saw him drop back to 16, still allowed him to play his part in a superb result.
Morpeth Harriers fielded two Senior Women’s teams in their event and their A team were boosted by the debut of Ashley Gibson (formerly Elswick), who came home in seventh place on the first leg in 10m35s, which was just outside the top 10 best performances of the day.
They maintained this position throughout the three-leg event, with further excellent support coming from Maxine Czarneka (11m15.95s), and Sarah Wilkinson (11m11.50s).
That placing also saw them finish as second from the North of England, behind Yorkshire’s Bingley Harriers, who finished in fifth spot.
Morpeth Harriers’ B team were 43rd and were also the sixth B team to finish.
Kate Chapman (12m57.35s), Carolyn Booth (formerly Dickie) (12m08.55s) and Sarah Graham (12m02.35s) all had excellent runs.
Much had been expected of Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s performance and, despite illness and injury respectively robbing them of the services of Ian Hudspith and Nick McCormick, their two teams performed superbly to finish in ninth and 31st places.
The A team got off to an excellent start, with Jonny Taylor clocking the day’s fifth fastest overall time of 15m48.35s and coming home with a first-leg placing of fifth.
On second leg, Peter Newton found a great deal of tough opposition around him, as he battled in the tricky conditions to maintain a respectable placing.
Peter slipped to 11th place, despite clocking 17m00.35s, and third-leg runner Ian Harding ran a similar 17m01.80s, as he dropped a further place.
Matt Nicholson did supply a last-leg revival, however, as he got back up to a final ninth at the end of his excellent 16m32.50s clocking, as they also finished as fourth from the North of England.
The Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s B team also performed excellently to finish as third B team.
Their fastest runner was Michael Dawson, who clocked 17m23.40s when placing 59th.
Ben Harrison climbed a further six places on second leg when he got round in 17m54.55s.
David Swinburne kept the momentum going when he climbed a further eight places to 45th with his clocking of 18m12.40s.
On the final leg, Morpeth Harriers welcomed back Sam Forester to the fold after many years of absence and the former Junior Great North Run winner certainly did his club proud, as he clocked a superb 17m25.15s, to climb a further mammoth 14 places to their finishing spot.
The U15 Boys’ 3x2k event was run during what were the worst conditions of the day, where a heavy downpour forced spectators and officials alike to seek some protective shelter.
During the course of proceedings, Morpeth Harriers’ first-leg runner Ryan Green began the challenge by coming home in a time of 7m34s to finish 55th of the 98 starters, and passed on to Joe Elder, who was called in as a last-minute replacement for the ill Philip Winkler, who gained a further place on his run of 7m47s.
Jarod Lewis finished off the final effort by placing 51st in 7m46s, which gave Morpeth Harriers the mantle of 22nd from the North of England.
Having three out of their four competing teams in fairly high positions was certainly a good result for Morpeth Harriers, after a good day’s work, and withstanding the conditions, was a true testament to their athletes’ determination.
l NEW Morpeth Harriers recruit Graeme Taylor was an easy winner of Sunday’s Blackhill Bounders 15th Fruit Bowl Trail Race, held in the grounds of the Gibside Estate.
Conditions were much better than in previous years with bright sunshine and a firmer underfoot surface. Taylor, who was third in 2010, soon headed the 450-strong field on the revised shorter course, pulling away to a winning margin of 82secs over Gateshead’s Conrad Franks with his finishing time of 32m28s.
Morpeth also had the winner of the Ladies race when Jane Hodgson had a convincing victory finishing in 11th position overall. The winning margin was identical to the Men’s with Sunderland’s Michelle Holt (also second in 2010) taking second place ahead of Heaton’s Jo Zoppi.
l JOHN Butters led a quartet of Morpeth Harriers home in Sunday’s 52nd running of the Derwentwater 10 mile Road Race in Keswick.
Butters finished in 28th place in 60m33s, which is probably his best time for the distance.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers were Mike Steven (158th) 72m00s, who was also 17th in the Over 50 Veteran Mens category, Andrea Mitchell (411th) 97m49s, who was 16th in the Over 50 Veteran Ladies category, and Jenni Wilson (412th) 97m50s, who was eighth in the Over 55 Veteran Ladies category.
l GARY Jones of Morpeth Harriers was a convincing winner of Saturday’s Newcastle 5k Park Run. He completed the run in 16m38s, and finished ahead of clubmates Mike Hegarty (fifth) 17m15s, and Alistair MacDonald (12th) 17m50s.