Harriers grab Cathedral title after late nail-biter

IN a superb, nail-biting finish, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men managed to reverse the 2011 result by winning the title at the 28th renewal of the Durham Cathedral Cross Country Relays on Sunday, writes George Patterson.

After holding a close second place throughout the first two legs, courtesy of Lewis Timmins (8m52s) and Ross Floyd (9m11s), it was very much thanks to an excellent final leg by Matt Nicholson (8m55s), who courageously fought out a very close battle with New Marske youngster Mark Shaw, to come away eventually to secure a three-second-margin victory, with Gateshead A, a further 28 seconds adrift in third place.

In the final leg battle between Nicholson and Shaw, Shaw had tried to shake the Morpeth man off at half-way, however, Matt was having none of it and eventually managed to gain a slender lead as the pair returned to face the wind as they entered the final lap of the two-lap effort, which he maintained all the way to the finish line.

Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s B team, very much spurred by Jonny Nisbet’s first leg clocking of 9m35s, which saw him in 10th place at the stage, came through to finish an excellent sixth and as first B team, with further good efforts coming from Gary Jones (10m00s), and David Swinburne (9m53s).

Neil Gunstone clocked 10m04s for an incomplete Morpeth Harriers C team in the Senior Men’s relay.

An excellent first leg clocking of 10m32s, the fastest of the day, by Ashley Gibson, set Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s A team well on the way to an outstanding victory in their three-stage relay.

The victory was so outstanding, that the legs of Jane Hodgson (10m42s) and Sarah Wikinson (10m56s), second and third fastest on the day, saw them take victory by a handsome 160-second margin over Durham University A team, and a retention of the title that they had won 12 months previously, with the Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s B team coming home in third spot, a further 60 seconds adrift.

Morag Stead, who had been in the victorious A team 12 months previously, clocked the B team’s fastest time of 11m15s and that was well supported by Abbie Bagshaw’s 11m55s and Kate Chapman’s 12m40s on the final leg.

Morpeth Harriers Women’s C team of Jane Briggs (12m56s), Claire Bruce (14m12s) and Marie Drosdowicz (13m20s), finished in 19th place.

The Veteran Men’s relay saw an excellent battle being fought out at the front by North Shields Poly and Sunderland Harriers, with the North Tyneside outfit eventually gaining victory over the Wearsiders by 21 seconds.

However, a lot of eyes were very much on the battle for third place, with Morpeth Harriers Veteran Men’s B team eventually winning the day over the B team by a slender seven-second margin.

Indeed, it was a battle all the way from first leg, when Paul Waterston (10m27s), for the B team, came home in fifth place and three places ahead of his A team colleague Terry Wall (10m41s).

On second leg, B-team runner Phil Walker (10m43s) progressed up to third, while A team runner Michael Thomsen (11m01s) also made progress by moving into fifth.

A very impressive last-leg clocking by Chris Waugh (10m15s), fastest Over 50 Veteran Man, managed to fend off the advances of Morpeth A team runner Neil Wilkinson, who moved into fourth, following his equally impressive 9m50s, which eventually emerged as the second fastest overall time, behind North Shields Poly’s Ian Twaddle (9m39s), clocked when he was scenting final-leg victory.

l MORPETH Harriers provided two new champions at the Northumberland Schools Cross Country Championships, held at Temple Park, South Shields, on Tuesday, January 17.

Ryan Green was a very clear winner of the Junior Boys’ event, coming home ahead of Alnwick’s Adam Weightman, with Green’s clubmate and training partner Jacob Hopkins, securing a well-earned third place.

Another Morpeth Harriers winner on the day was Minor Girl Teegan Dryden.

In the Minor Boys’ event, Kieron Hedley just lost out for victory in the final run-in, with his Morpeth Harriers clubmate Philip Kirby bearing down on him at a fast rate of knots, taking a well-earned third place.

Other well-placed Morpeth Harriers were Alison Brown, who took third place in the Intermediate Girls, and Philip Winkler and Elliot Kelly, who finished third and fifth respectively in the Intermediate Boys.

In the Senior Boys’ event, Philip Caldwell produced an excellent run to finish fifth and his Morpeth Harriers clubmate Jack Hepple did well to come home in ninth place.

Additional performances from athletes from Morpeth Harriers.

Minor Boys: Mitchell Green (55th).

Junior Boys: Jarod Lewis (Ninth), Sam Foster-Beattie (20th), Leon Craggs (39th), James Heppell (43rd), Kieron Smith (54th).

Intermediate Boys: Henrik Paulsen (35th).

Minor Girls: Chloe Robertson (sixth), Lizzie Rank (seventh), Kate Walker (47th), Natasha Fleming (52nd).

Junior Girls: Charlotte Jewell (19th), Ria Fairnington (28th), Abby Elliot (33rd), Kirsty Lang (71st).

Intermediate Girls: Beth Woolley (ninth), Helen Sheerin (10th), Sarah Wilkes (14th), Josie McCreton (15th), Paige Capstaff (16th), Alice Kelly (18th), Lucy Pargeter (26th).

Senior Girls: Ailsa McGregor (fifth), Hannah Rank (sixth).

l MORPETH Harriers’ best Park Run performance of the weekend was undoubtedly by Andrew Lawrence, who won at Bushy in Hertfordshire by a slender three seconds over Belrave’s Will Cockerell, when he got round the 5k circuit in 16m31s.

l AT the Gateshead College Indoor meeting, held on Thursday, January 19, Morpeth’s Alex Nesbit set new figures of 8.02s in the U15 Boys’ 60m.

l A HIGH calibre 10.79m cross country race in Elgoibar, Spain, on Sunday, won by leading Kenyan Paul Tanui in 32m25s, also saw Morpeth Harrier Jonny Taylor clock 34m19s, when finishing an excellent ninth of a 56-strong field, that also included fellow Brit Jon Pepper of Enfield, who finished 15th in 35m01s.