The first ever North Eastern Harrier League meeting to be held at Druridge Bay was certainly a memorable one.
Conditions could easily be described as soft and very muddy underfoot, and the organisation was excellently carried out by Blyth Running Club in the main, despite a couple of on-the-day mishaps.
What the organisers could not arrange was the weather, and strong winds and squally showers worsened already-damp underfoot conditions to almost swamp-like consistency at the culmination of the 10-event programme.
The competition itself was a fairly respectable day at the office for Morpeth Harriers.
Although they didn’t quite match up to the previous week’s successes at Aykley Heads in County Durham, they did manage three on-the-day individual wins, two team victories and three third-placed teams.
One individual victory which brought much-deserved pleasure to the athlete, and also to the club, was that of senior man Graeme Taylor, who, running from the slow pack, won with 15 seconds to spare over his closest rival over the near-six-mile course.
Taylor has had to contend with months of inactivity due to injury, and this win was a confidence-booster for him, especially as he emerged from somewhat-sloppy conditions thankfully injury free.
Morpeth Harriers’ senior men finished second in the division one team race behind Sunderland Harriers, courtesy of further counts coming from James Young (14th), John Butters (22nd), Tony Lewis (30th), Mark Cockburn (32nd) and Ross Floyd (34th).
The fact that Floyd had finished 34th as first from the fast pack highlighted the fact that the entire fast pack had been sent off course on the first of their three laps, resulting in them running about 500 metres extra.
Whether the outcome of team affairs at the end of the day would have been changed had that mistake not been made remains unknown, but grand prix times were certainly affected, a matter for the league management to resolve.
Other Morpeth Harriers senior men in action among the 537-strong field of finishers were:
Steve Haswell (49th, Neil Gunstone (57th), Tim Miley (62nd), Robert Balmbra (73rd), Paul Waterston (89th), Chris Smith (100th), Tom Pattison (106th), Sam Hancox (116th), Rob Hancox (121st), David Nicholson (128th), Karl Taylor (135th), Steve Patterson (148th), Michael Skeldon (165th), Alistair MacDonald (187th), Peter Scaife (218th), Richard Kirby (255th), Paul Bellingham (260th) and Mark Snowball (262nd).
Morpeth Harriers’ under-15 boys enjoyed yet another team victory in their two-mile event.
Leading them home was Daniel Dixon, who also took time to enjoy a superb individual victory from the slow pack by a margin of 50 seconds over his closest rival, clocking the day’s second fastest time overall.
Dixon was joined in the team success by Brad Brown (7th) and Taylor Glover (9th), who had the day’s fastest time.
Next home for Morpeth was Rory Leonard, winner at Aykley Heads the previous week. Despite being elevated to the fast pack as a result of his win, he could feel well pleased with finishing 15th and posting the day’s third fastest time behind club colleagues Glover and Dixon.
Other Morpeth under-15 boys’ performances of notecame from fifth-fastest runner Ross Charlton (19th), Connor Marshall (27th), Daniel Melling (28th), Sam Bradley (39th), Matthew Waterfield (41st) and Alex Cunningham (57th).
For the third Harrier League meeting in succession, Morpeth’s Holly Peck posted the fastest time in the under-13 girls’ event.
Running from the fast pack, she finished third, only three seconds adrift of second, and 23 seconds adrift of club colleague Lauren Cummings, who had a clear win from the slow pack, clocking the sixth fastest time on the 3.2km course.
Along with Peck, Cummings led Morpeth to a superb team win, with further support coming from fourth-placed Lily Heaton, also running from the fast pack and clocking the second fastest time.
Morpeth Harriers, other runner in this event, Rhiannon Hedley, also competed well, finishing seventh overall from the fast pack, posting the fifth fastest time.
Led home by Josh Burton (16th), Morpeth Harriers under-17 men finished as third team behind Durham City in their 5km event.
Further Morpeth team support came courtesy of Jacob Hopkins (24th) and Jamie Duguid (25th), who unfortunately finished with a very painful Achilles tendon injury and might be out of action for the foreseeable future.
In their 4.2k event, Morpeth Harriers’ combined under-17/under-20 women finished as third team behind Gateshead Harriers.
This event also saw an on-course error take place, with the entire fast pack, with a time difference of 150 seconds, being sent on to complete the longer lap first, while the slow pack completed the required short lap first.
That effectively meant that for most of the race, the slow pack were following behind the fast pack.
Matters were resolved when fast pack runners were diverted to do their short lap at the end of proceedings.
Leading Morpeth home was Lizzie Rank, who was 50 seconds adrift of the race-winner, running from the slow pack.
Further Morpeth team support came from Abby Sheldon (22nd) and Charlotte Jewell (23rd).
Morpeth Harriers had an excellent turnout in the under-13 boys’ 3.2km event, where no fewer than nine of the club’s athletes faced the starter.
First home for the club was Jack Barrett, who finished 13th from the slow pack.
One place behind Jack, and having an excellent run from the fast pack, was Thomas Cunningham, who emerged as seventh fastest overall on the day.
Closing the Morpeth Harriers’ scoring count for fourth team place on the day was Ben Walker, who finished 18th from the fast pack, and was 10th fastest overall.
Other Morpeth under-13 boys’ performances came from Joshua Adams (22nd), Alex Porteous (26th), Aaron Haldane (41st), Reece Garrett (51st), Adam Willoughby (59th) and Jack Lackenby (61st).
In the senior women’s 6.2km event, Morpeth Harriers finished as fifth team in division two, behind Wallsend Harriers.
Scoring counts came from Gemma Floyd (4th), Catriona MacDonald (27th), Gwenda Cavill (124th) and Jane Briggs (152nd).
It was good to see Morpeth Harriers fielding an under-15 girls’ team in their 3.2km event.
They managed to finish as sixth team behind Tynedale Harriers, being led home by Ellie Coxon.