There were team gold, silver and bronze medals for Morpeth’s Over 35 women and Over 45 and 55 men respectively at the annual North East Masters Athletics Association Championships held at Bedewell Park, Jarrow, last Wednesday evening.
Highlight of the night was certainly the comprehensive victory of Morpeth’s women, who beat their nearest rivals, Darlington Harriers, by a margin of exactly two minutes.
Helen King got the team off to a strong start on leg 1, trailing early leader Bernadette Laygill of Darlington by some 12 seconds, but Gemma Floyd had Morpeth up to first after leg 2 (11m 41s), and it was left to Jane Hodgson to conclude the good work. This she did in her customary emphatic fashion, posting the fastest women’s time of the night (11m 5s) and leaving other clubs trailing in her wake.
This was Morpeth’s women’s second relay victory in a matter of weeks following their success at Elswick over the Easter weekend, and they will be in confident mood to hold on to another relay title at the Gordon Smith Relays next Wednesday.
In the second race of the night, Sunderland Harriers men’s teams dominated in both Over 35 and 45 categories, their 0/35s finishing narrowly ahead of Gateshead Harriers in a time of 29m 50s for overall 1st place with their O/45s in overall 3rd just over a minute behind. Conrad Franks of Gateshead, however, did run the overall fastest time of the night, 9m 43s.
Morpeth’s O/35s had new recruit Carl Donaldson on leg 1 for a highly respectable 10m 32s and O/50 Rob Hancox stepping down a category to run 11m 21s on leg 2. Sadly, 3rd leg runner Dave Swinburne was hit by a reoccurrence of a calf injury on leg 3 and was forced to drop out.
There was better luck in the O/45s, however, with a great result for the A-team of Graeme Thorpe (10m 45s), Fergus Bates (10m 40s) and Lee Bennett (10m 27s), who were 7th overall on the night and second in their age category.
In the O/55 category, with Guy Bracken running for NSP Harriers, everyone else was running for 2nd place and in the end it went to Tyne Bridge, with Keith Smith, another quality veteran, turning out. Morpeth’s team of Neil MacAnany, Paul Bellingham and Dave Nicholson did pick up a good bronze, however.
* Morpeth Harriers Athlete of the Month Award for March 2019, sponsored by Reeves the Pensions Specialist, went to talented Under 17 woman throws specialist Jessica Gardiner, who broke a meeting record at the North East Throws Festival at Whitley Bay on Saturday, March 30.
Her record came in the Under 17 women’s hammer competition, which saw her win with a best throw of 39.81m, bettering her previous figures by a whole 1.53m (five feet in old money), which also now sees her ranked No 1 in the region, and eighth in the UK.
Later in the competition, she also won the discus with 31.33m, again a new personal best. Gardiner now also sits at No 3 in the UK for discus, and 1st in the region as a result of her splendid efforts.
Jessica is pictured receiving her well-earned Certificate of Achievement from Morpeth Harriers Official George Patterson at the opening NEYDL meeting held at Middlesbrough.
* Morpeth Harrier James Young, currently studying at Lancaster University, gained his first England vest on Saturday, April 27, when he took part in the 35th annual Attnanger Spitz Mile in Austria as one of a team of three English runners.
In an event won by Viktor Singal of the Czech Republic in 4m 08.97s, Young finished seventh in 4m 18.44s as second counter, but was unfortunate in hitting a patch of rough ground forcing him to stumble slightly on the final bend.
On his England debut, Young remained positive about his performance, despite the hiccup near the end.
Unfortunately, however, he will be unable to defend his North Eastern Counties 800m and 1500m senior titles at Middlesbrough this weekend, as he is having to return to Lancaster for his studies, with exams pending.
* Finishing second in their opening 2019 North East Youth Development League Division 1 match, Morpeth Harriers made a pleasing start to their track-and-field season despite some difficulties in turning out numbers.
The 39 athletes – 25 girls and 14 boys – who took part at Middlesbrough Sports Village on Sunday, April 28, clearly gave their all in achieving a good opening result, finishing 135½ points adrift of runaway winners Harrogate Harriers, who, on strength alone, clearly look set to retain their Division 1 title that they successfully won for the first time in 2018.
Morpeth will need to build on their first match result, however, where they scored 654 league points, to maintain their divisional status over third, fourth and fifth placed rivals Gateshead Harriers (622), North Shields Poly (612), and New Marske (466), with newly promoted Durham City in bottom spot on 372.