Organisers of the North Eastern Harrier League breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday, as they managed to complete the season’s fixtures at a wintry Alnwick Castle.
Despite a downpour, apart from one or two boggy areas on the already tough course on the Pastures, conditions were relatively good on the testing circuit, and the 10-race programme was completed without any major hitches.
All went well, especially for Morpeth Harriers, whose on-the-day efforts secured no less than four end-of-season team victories, along with a good number of notable individual performances.
One very notable individual performer was Jane Hodgson, who defied a 200-second handicap over most of her rivals, to win the Senior Women’s event from the fast pack by a margin of 1m43s over her second-placed club colleague Helen King, who ran excellently from the slow pack.
It also meant that Hodgson had a 100 per cent record in the six counting Harrier League fixtures, making her the leading Veteran Women in the Grand Prix competition incorporated into the event.
Running from the fast pack, Alison Brown finished in an excellent 19th place. Closing the Morpeth Harriers scoring count was Susan Smith, who finished 68th from the slow pack, which also secured an excellent Division 1 team title into the bargain.
Last season, Morpeth Harriers had won the Women’s Division 2 title to secure promotion, and to win the Division 1 title at their first attempt was a superb effort.
Other Morpeth Senior Women rallying to the club’s cause on the day were Carol Parry (135th, slow pack); Claire Hiscock (165th, slow pack); and Frances Naylor (166th, slow pack).
Running from the medium pack, Morpeth’s Karl Taylor came very close to securing his second Harrier League Senior Men’s victory of the season, having won from the slow pack at Thornley in the fifth fixture.
On Saturday, he just couldn’t catch the host club’s Daniel Leng, who had a 2m30s handicap advantage.
Leng reached the finish line with a 92-second margin over Taylor who finished second, marginally ahead of his Morpeth Harriers club colleague Sam Hancox who, when running from the fast pack, posted the fastest time in the Senior Men’s event.
It wasn’t long before Morpeth saw the emergence of their third counter Fergus Bates, who ran excellently to finish sixth from the medium Ppack.
The on-the-day winning team effort, which eventually resulted in Morpeth Harriers Senior Men taking the Division 1 league title, was further supported by Robert Balmbra (21st, fast pack); John Butters (42nd, fast pack); and Paul Waterston (52nd, slow pack.
A total of 345 finishers took part in the Senior Men’s event, and it is very much testament to the overall strength of the Morpeth Senior Men’s performance that all of their finishers were inside the top 100.
Other Senior Men in action were Thomas Innes (57th, fast pack); Andrew Hebden (61st, medium pack); Dean Lonsdale (69th, medium pack); Will Clark (85th, fast pack); and Richard Castledine (96th, fast pack.
Castledine is the only Morpeth Senior Man to have run in all six league fixtures, and has counted in two of them, and the added fact that none of the club’s leading runners figure highly in the Harrier League Grand Prix rankings, and it has been a good all-round club effort by some of their lesser knowns who have brought success.
The club’s younger age groups were weakened by the fact that several athletes were competing in the English Schools Cross Country Championships in Leeds. Nevertheless, their Under 15 Boys finished second on the day behind hosts Alnwick, which still saw Morpeth take the league title.
Scoring counts on the day came from Dylan Gooding (3rd, slow pack; Alex Porteous (4th, slow pack); and Ben Walker (14th, fast pack).
Other Morpeth Under 15 Boys performers were: Jonny Kidd (16th, fast pack) and Andrew Hudspith (17th, fast pack).
Finishing third on the day, saw Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys finish second for the season, only a mere three points adrift of Blackhill Bounders.
Scoring counts for Morpeth came from Bertie Marr (10th, fast pack); Ryan Davies (15th, fast pack); and James Tilley (20th, slow pack).
Other Morpeth Under 13 Boys performances came from Joseph Hudspith (24th) (Fast Pack), and Joe Dixon (27th) (Slow Pack).
Despite not being able to field any Under 17 Men on the day, due to runners being unavailable because of the English Schools Championships in Leeds, Morpeth still clinched the league title by a margin of four points over runner-up Durham City.
Morpeth’s Molly Ions finished 29th from the slow pack in the Under 13 Girls event, and in his first ever run in the Morpeth colours, Ryan Sample finished 40th in the non-scoring Under 11 Boys event.