DESPITE a very genuine all-round squad effort, Morpeth Harriers senior men narrowly missed out on medals at the annual Saucony English National Cross Country Relay Championships, in their 4x5k race, held at the event’s traditional venue of Berry Hill Park in Mansfield.
The club’s A team finished 45 seconds adrift of third placed fellow Northerners Stockport Harriers, who had been somewhat boosted by the first leg effort of 15m17.15s, which proved to be the fastest overall time of the day.
Morpeth Harriers’ fastest performer on the day was their Olympic 5000m representative Nick McCormick, whose 15m38.75s moved the squad through to their final fourth placing.
The earlier legs of Nick Swinburn (15m54.60s), Ian Hudspith (15m54.45s), and Lewis Timmins (15m57.95s), had seen the squad progress from 12th to seventh, leaving McCormick well in the frame to attempt a genuine medal challenge.
Jonny Taylor, last week’s fastest performer at the North Eastern Harrier League, was unavailable to take his place in the squad due to a forthcoming international commitment in Spain, and a further blow came from the unavailability of Peter Newton because of work duties.
The senior men’s event was clearly won by southerners Belgrave Harriers, who were very much boosted by the appearance of two unheard of Spaniards, which raised quite a number of eyebrows on the day.
Second place went to solid performers, and fellow northerners, Leeds City.
Morpeth Harriers also had B and C teams in the event, who placed 25th and 68th respectively.
The B team’s fastest performer was their first leg runner Ross Floyd, whose 16m22.25s saw him finish 37th.
They then progressed to their final placing courtesy of Andrew Lawrence (17m26.70s), Nathan Shrubb (16m26.70s), and championship debutant Graeme Taylor (16m54.70s).
Likewise the Morpeth C team’s fastest performer was their first leg runner Michael Dawson, who clocked 17m13.40s.
Other efforts came from Ben Harrison (17m34.85s), Thomas Straughan (18m13.30s), and Michael Thomsen (18m32.15s).
Morpeth Harriers senior women’s road and cross country team manager Sarah Wilkinson was well rewarded by seeing her charges finish a much-acclaimed ninth of 102 complete teams in their 3x3k event.
After their first leg runner Ashley Gibson had the squad in 13th place with her clocking of 10m34.65s, which was just outside some of the fastest times, the veteran Wilkinson, more or less led by example on the second leg, as she climbed six places to get her club among the top 10 performers on the course.
Although she has been out of competition in recent months, fellow veteran Morag Stead clearly showed an appetite for battle on the final leg, and despite losing a couple of places to slightly faster opposition, was still relatively upbeat with her personal clocking of 11m00.95s.
In the younger age group events, Morpeth Harriers’ best performance came undoubtedly from their U13 boys, who fielded two in the second year level, and one from the first year in their 3x2k event.
First leg fell to Kieran Hedley, who did well to come home in 12th place, with a very enthusiastic 7m26.80s.
Second leg runner Philip Kirby ran a superb 7m45.65s, to maintain 12th place throughout, despite a number of serious challengers around him.
Alex Cunningham, who was the lesser experienced in the squad, did his very best to ensure damage limitation on the final leg, and can feel well encouraged that his 8m28.70s only saw him lose 13 places, to a final 25th spot.
Next best for Morpeth Harriers were their U17 women, who finished their 3x3k event in 49th place.
On the first leg, Alison Brown came home in 32nd place in 10m04s, which was around a minute adrift of the 10 fastest times.
Hannah Sheerin slipped to 44th on the second leg, with her clocking of 11m10.85s, and Molly MacDonald on the final leg finished 49th in 12m04.60s.
Perhaps the most disappointing result for Morpeth Harriers came in the U15 Boys 3x2k event.
Unfortunately Jarod Lewis was unavailable, which definitely weakened their chances.
On the first leg, Jacob Hopkins ran with a lot of caution because of the conditions, and his particular current level of fitness, and came home a little further down the field than expected.
He finished 73rd with his personal clocking of 7m37.50s, leaving second leg runner Ryan Green with the unenviable task of having to chase down a strong opposition in front of him.
Green did, however, manage to claw back a mammoth 31 places with his clocking of 7m06.05s, leaving final leg runner Sam Williams, the less experienced in the squad, with the task of completing their effort.
Williams did give battle, but unfortunately slipped to 56th with his clocking of 8m29.60s.