Carl returns to lead the charge for race glory

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SOME excellent front-running by Carl Avery, spearheaded an equally brilliant winning performance by Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men, at Saturday’s wind-affected fourth Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League meeting, held at Cardinal Hume School, Wrekenton, Gateshead, writes George Patterson.

Avery, who competed for the club when he was a youngster, only returned to the sport recently and certainly produced an eye-catching performance, as he claimed his victory with 69 seconds to spare over his closest rival.

Leading from the gun in the Slow Pack, he quickly established a healthy advantage, which he maintained throughout the three laps, and his victory was further enhanced by the added knowledge that he had clocked the eighth fastest time overall in the 450-plus-strong field.

Avery will certainly take stock of his victory and progress to be a leading player for Morpeth Harriers, his boyhood club, and will prove to be a most welcome acquisition to their already very strong squad.

That strength was certainly proved, as Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men maintained their leadership in the Division One table, by having no less than 11 athletes in the top 100 on the course, and their six required counters all within the first 25 finishers.

Supporting Avery in the team count was firstly Richard Morrell, who was easily the fastest on the day, by coming through from the Fast Pack to finish a superb fifth.

Third counter was Ross Floyd, who also produced a superb run from the Fast Pack to finish 14th and fifth fastest overall.

Fourth man home was Blaydon Harrier League winner Ade Whitwam, who now looks fully recovered from the injury he picked up in the Morpeth New Year’s Day Road Race.

Also running from the Fast Pack, Whitwam ran the seventh fastest time to finish in 17th place.

Next home was young Sam Hancox, who is clearly warming up for his forthcoming Inter Counties appearance for the North East U20 Men’s squad. Running from the Medium Pack, Sam finished in 20th place.

Closing the scoring count for Morpeth Harriers was Fergus Bates, who finished 23rd from the Medium Pack, just one place and seven seconds ahead of clubmate John Butters, also running from the Medium Pack.

Not far behind Bates and Butters was another Morpeth Harrier Geoff Whitman, who finished 29th from the Slow Pack.

As a result of the excellent aforementioned performances, Hancox, Bates and Butters now see themselves promoted to the Fast Pack, and Whitman goes to the Medium Pack.

Other Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s performances were: Rob Hancox (53rd, Slow Pack), Thomas Straughan (83rd, Fast Pack), Phil Walker (98th, Medium Pack), Michael Dawson (104th, Fast Pack), Paul Waterston (112th, Medium Pack), Phillip Caldwell (213th, Fast Pack), Neil Gunstone (227th, Fast Pack), Bill Tilley (251st, Slow Pack) and Les Cavill (253rd, Slow Pack).

For Tilley, Saturday’s run also marked a return to the sport with his club, having been a prominent runner in the ’90s with them.

On the team front, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men finished 41 points clear of Durham City, with Tyne Bridge Harriers a further 19 points adrift in third place in Division One.

Avery’s individual win was one of four for Morpeth Harriers on an excellent performance day for the club, and in the Senior Womens event, Emma Holt took great pleasure in winning over two laps from the Fast Pack, and was clearly the fastest runner on the course.

She won with 19 seconds to spare over her closest rival and was the fastest by 73 seconds.

Second counter for Morpeth Harriers was Jane Hodgson, who continues to make steady progress in her comeback to competition.

Jane finished in 25th place from the Fast Pack and was the seventh fastest overall in the field of 216 finishers.

Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s team count for sixth place in Division Two was completed with Gwenda Cavill finishing 73rd from the Slow Pack.

Another Morpeth Harriers winner was Matthew Waterfield, who led the club’s U13 Boys home to a narrow team victory over Tynedale Harriers.

Running from the Slow Pack, Matthew won with 12 seconds to spare over his closest rival.

However, the performance of the day for Morpeth Harriers in this age group was undoubtedly that of Joe Dowd.

Dowd clocked the fastest time to finish fourth from the Fast Pack, narrowly missing out on an on-the-day Harrier League medal by two seconds.

Another good run, which closed the Morpeth Harriers winning team count, was that of Cameron Dick, who finished 15th from the Fast Pack and was sixth fastest overall on the day.

Other Morpeth Harriers U13 Boys’ performances came from Ross Charlton (23rd, Fast Pack), Alex Cunningham (24th, Fast Pack) and Robbie Dunlop (37th, Slow Pack).

Holly Peck’s outstanding run in the U13 Girls’ event brought her an excellent and, perhaps surprising, individual victory.

Surprising in that, having only just become an 11-year-old in November, she was running against opponents, some of whom were nearly two years older, and that her victory was achieved with 34 seconds to spare over her closest rival.

Holly’s achievement was further enhanced by the fact that she was also fifth fastest in the 57-strong field of finishers.

Only a one-point margin deprived Morpeth Harriers U15 Boys of a team win at the hands of Durham City.

They were led home by a much-rejuvenated Kieran Hedley, who thankfully now seems to have put his heel injury worries behind him.

Hedley superbly finished in fifth place from the Fast Pack, and can take much-needed confidence from the fact that he was fourth fastest in the field of 30 finishers.

Jacob Hopkins was Morpeth Harriers’ second counter in this event and he can take added confidence from the fact that he was eighth fastest overall when he finished 12th from the Fast Pack.

Completing the scoring three for Morpeth was Adam Shewry who finished 20th from the Fast Pack and was 13th fastest.

Other Morpeth Harriers performances in the U15 Boys’ event came from Josh Burton (23rd, Fast Pack), Sam Williams (24th, Fast Pack), Lewis James (25th, Fast Pack), and Alex Dunlop (29th, Slow Pack).

Phillip Winkler continued his steady progress back after a short bout of illness and he produced a superb performance to emerge as third fastest in the U17 Men’s event, when he finished seventh from the Fast Pack.

Running from the Slow Pack, his Morpeth Harriers club colleague Joe Elder finished 10th, in the finishing field of 22.

Another small field was that of the U17/U20 Women’s event.

However, Morpeth Harriers’ two performers Louise Brett and English Schools-bound Charlotte Jewell certainly gave a good account of themselves.

Normally a sprinter, Louise persevered well in the wind and mud, to finish in ninth place overall from the Slow Pack.

Charlotte also came through well to finish 13th from the Fast Pack and was ninth fastest overall in the field of 26 finishers.

Another Morpeth Harrier who competed well in the conditions was Abby Sheldon, who finished 14th in the U15 Girls’ event and was ninth fastest in the field of 31 finishers.

LAST week’s report contained some unconfirmed performances achieved by athletes from Morpeth Harriers at the Northern Inter County Schools Cross Country Championships, held at Meadowfield Leisure Centre, near Durham.

Results have now been completed and the following can be confirmed: Year 7 Boys: Daniel Dixon (28th, eighth Northumberland), Ross Charlton (41st, 11th Northumberland).

Junior Boys: Kieran Hedley (seventh, first Northumberland), Joe Dowd (42nd, eighth Northumberland), Adam Shewry (50th, 10th Northumberland).

Intermediate Boys: Jarod Lewis (49th, eighth Northumberland), Jacob Hopkins (54th, ninth Northumberland).

Senior Boys: Elliot Kelly (12th, ninth Durham), Phillip Winkler (22nd, third Northumberland).

Year Seven Girls: Eire Marshall (75th, eighth Northumberland).

Junior Girls: Kate Seymour (35th, eighth Northumberland), Lizzie Rank (42nd, 10th Northumberland).

Intermediate Girls: Charlotte Jewell (13th, third Northumberland), Amber Cormack (37th, ninth Northumberland), Louise Brett (45th, 10th Northumberland), Abby Sheldon (49th, 12th Northumberland).

Senior Girls: Alison Brown (sixth, second Northumberland), Beth Woolley (29th, fifth Northumberland), Alice Kelly (37th, eighth Northumberland).