The gold won by Morpeth Harriers’ U17 boys was the highlight of the Northern Athletics Young Athlete and Senior Road Relays held in Manchester on Saturday.
The club’s senior men – after finishing in a commendable fourth place - were later upgraded to a bronze medal on Sunday following analysis of the results.
The afternoon had got under way with initial difficulties when Morpeth’s U13 boys suffered the enforced drop out of first leg runner, Joe Hudspith with a severe asthma attack. Fortunately, he later recovered and team mates Dylan Davies and James Tilley were allowed to run their later legs, but had to contend with the difficult situation of running with few other runners around them. Hopefully, all three will be able to move on from the disappointment in their next race.
In the U15 boys event, Morpeth finished in a respectable 20th place with first leg runner Tom Cunningham coming in 12th and clocking 11 minutes 26 seconds; Andrew Hudspith running 12:10 in 20th; and Jonny Kidd 12:19 for an overall time of 35 : 55. An incomplete ‘B’ team also saw strong runs from Dylan Davies (11:53) and Ben Walker (12:03). The event was won by Blackburn Harriers in an overall time of 33:21.
Highlight of the afternoon, however, was undoubtedly the performance of the U17 boys team of Dan Melling, Taylor Glover and Rory Leonard. Melling ran 11:39 on leg 1 to come home in 10th position, and he was followed by Glover who was now able to work off the athletes ahead of him.
By the end of his leg (11:23, the 9th fastest time of the day) Morpeth had moved up to second place and it was down to last man Rory Leonard to battle it out with his nearest contenders from Vale Royal and Preston Harriers.
This he did with aplomb, his clocking of 11:07 the second fastest of the day and the team finishing with a lead of some 12 seconds in 34:09 overall. All three can be justifiably proud of their achievements against the best of the rest of the North of England.
In the Senior Men’s six-stage relay, Morpeth coped more than adequately with the absence of a number of their leading runners to post a very solid performance when finishing in an initial fourth place.
Tom Straughan got the club off to a respectable 14th place on a hotly contended leg 1 (20:03) with Carl Avery moving the club up to fourth on the second (19:46 ). Ian Hudspith’s clocking of 19:43, Morpeth’s fastest of the day, got Morpeth back up to sixth on leg four after Andy Lawrence’s third leg of 21:36 had seen the club drop back to 16th.
Jordan Scott moved up one more place on leg five (20:46) and it was then left to his Amble-based colleague Ian Harding to anchor the team home in a time of 20:21, moving the club up to fourth place with an overall time of 2.02.55
Using the event to gain experience, U20 athlete Jake Masterman also ran leg 1 in a time of 22:09 as a sole ‘B’ team representative. The event was won by Lincoln Wellington in a time of 1:58:32 with Salford Harriers placed second and Liverpool Harriers third.
Events took an unexpected turn on Sunday morning, however, when a number of teams were later disqualified for irregularities in registration of athletes.
As these teams included Salford Harriers, Morpeth were upgraded to an unexpected bronze medal, though as Straughan later commented, it was not perhaps the way they would like to have won it.
Nevertheless, Morpeth can take pride in their team performance which placed them not only third – or fourth, as the disqualifications are likely to be appealed – but also meant that they were once again first club home from the North East, ahead of Tyne Bridge Harriers (eighth, later upgraded to fifth) and Gateshead (21st).