Final act in most successful season

Morpeth Harriers report by George Patterson

SATURDAY saw the curtain come down on what arguably has been one of Morpeth Harriers’ most successful cross-country campaigns.

The highlight was last month’s Senior Men’s National Championship victory and ended with three outstanding team victories and a handful of superb individual Grand Prix achievements in the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League series, which also ended in almost Arctic conditions on the higher reaches above Prudhoe High School.

One of those team victories was the Senior Men, who, having all of their six required counters within the top-21 finishers, easily secured the Division One league title for the very first time in its present divisional form.

The club had last won the Men’s Harrier League title in 1988 at Chester-le-Street, when it was a singular division competition, and this was a most welcome title to add to their already impressive seasonal tally, one which they have been attempting to achieve for several years of trying.

Morpeth Harriers’ chances were very much boosted by the surprise late appearance of five athletes, who had been destined to represent their club at the North of England 12 Stage Road Relays in Blackpool. However, that event was cancelled at 8am that morning because of ice on the course, which meant a turn-round after they had reached part-way down the M6, and they re-routed to help their club in a further quest for honours.

Two of those five were Graeme Taylor and Jonnie Nisbet, who superbly led their club’s charge by finishing sixth and seventh respectively from the fast and medium packs, with Taylor recording the second fastest time of the day and Nisbet the seventh.

For Taylor, it also meant he had finished second in the season’s Senior Men’s Grand Prix standings.

Also up with the leaders in the early stages for Morpeth was Jordan Scott. However, he was forced out of the action with a troublesome injury after two gruelling laps in an increasingly cold wind.

Third home for Morpeth was young Matthew Boyle, who, on his very first Harrier League outing, competed well to finish an excellent 10th from the slow pack.

Ross Floyd, fully-dressed to fight off the elements with body-hugging Lycra, came through well to finish 13th from the fast pack and, as fourth fastest in the field of 354 finishers, was Morpeth’s fourth counter.

Next home from the club was their leading Alnwick finisher Phillip Caldwell, despite dropping to 15th from the medium pack.

Morpeth Harriers’ winning count on the day was completed by Fergus Bates, who again produced an excellent run from the medium pack, when placing 21st.

With Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men already celebrating an emphatic team victory ahead of Gateshead Harriers and Sunderland Harriers, mention must be made of the superb supporting efforts of those who finished outside the scoring six.

First of these was young Sam Hancox, who, during an outstanding season as a Junior Man, did his club proud throughout the season by turning out in all six of the Harrier League meetings and was an actual counter in two, and also turned out in the Sherman Cup. Sam came through in the medium pack to finish 30th.

Three places behind Sam was his clubmate Thomas Straughan, who was an excellent 10th fastest overall in the field, running from the fast pack. Mick Thomson had another excellent run from the medium pack to finish 54th.

Next home was Rob Hancox, who finished 68th from the slow pack. Rob, along with clubmate Peter Scaife, comes in for extra praise for his supporting work in erecting the club tent throughout the season, and encouraging Senior Men’s turnout in his assistant coach capacity.

Finally, Jim Alder completed the list of Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s finishers, in 107th place from the slow pack.

Winning the Senior Women’s event in a sprint finish on the day gave Morpeth Harrier Emma Holt an excellent victory in her Grand Prix effort.

Morpeth Harriers’ team victories for the season were also enjoyed by their U13 Boys’ and U15 Boys’ squads, after finishing third and second on the day respectively.

The club’s U13 Boys were led home at Prudhoe by Kieran Hedley, who was second fastest overall when finishing third from the fast pack. Kieran also finished second in the U13 Boys’ Grand Prix behind Tynedale’s Max Pearson.

Second counter for Morpeth Harriers in the U13 Boys’ event was Luke Wareing, who, on his first Harrier League outing, did well to finish ninth from the slow pack.

Alex Cunningham completed the Morpeth Harriers team count when finishing as ninth fastest in 20th place overall from the fast pack.

Other Morpeth Harriers performers were Josh Burton (30th, fast pack), Adam Shewry (32nd, fast pack), and Robbie Elder (38th, slow pack).

Morpeth Harriers’ U15 Boys were led home by Ryan Green, whose fourth fastest effort from the fast pack got him to fourth overall, which in turn made him second in the season’s Grand Prix standings.

The club’s team count was completed by Jarod Lewis (eighth, fast pack), and Jacob Hopkins (10th, fast pack).

Joe Elder was Morpeth Harriers’ lone U17 man finisher. He finished 23rd from the slow pack.

Kate Seymour was Morpeth Harriers lone finisher in the U13 Girls’ event. She placed 24th from the fast pack.

Although not competing or finishing on Saturday, the following are among the leaders in their respective Grand Prix standings for the season.

Alison Brown (third, U17 Women), Elliot Kelly (second, U17 Men), and Phil Winkler (fourth, U17 Men).

Once again, despite the cold and severely-testing conditions, there was an excellent Morpeth Harriers turnout for the non-scoring U11s Mixed 1k event.

First home for the club was the ever-improving Daniel Dixon, who ran excellently to finish as fifth boy in sixth place overall.

Next home from the club was Ross Charlton, who was eighth boy finisher in 10th spot. Thomas Cunningham was third home for the club in 13th place and was 10th Boy.

Other Morpeth Harriers finishers were as follows: Sam Bradley (20th and 15th boy), Bobby Stone (23rd and 17th boy), Joseph Gair (27th and 19th boy), Rhiannon Hedley (35th and 13th girl) and Faye Archbold (41st and 17th girl).

The club would wish to thank all of its members who turned out throughout the season to contribute to some excellent squad successes.

Richard Morrell of Morpeth Harriers won himself a place in England’s Senior Men’s four-man squad for the UK Home Counties Cross Country International held in Dinefwr Park, Llandello, Wales on Saturday.

Morrell finished 13th in a 24-strong field that competed over 10.2k.

MORPETH Harrier Jonny Taylor fully earned his place in GB and Northern Ireland’s World Cross Country squad, when finishing 31st and led the squad home to 11th team place behind Ethiopia in the Senior Men’s 12k event in Bydgoszcz, Poland on Sunday.

Fellow Brits Steve Vernon (Stockport), Frank Tickner (Wells City), Mike Skinner (Blackheath), and Phil Nicholls (Tipton), finished in 39th, 45th, 51st, and 68th places respectively.