There were smiles well etched on the faces of Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men, and their faithful supporters, after pulling off a handsome team victory at the Saucony sponsored English National Cross Country Championships, held for the first time at Donington Park on Saturday.
It was also Morpeth’s third National title success in less than 12 months, a superb achievement in itself, which had begun with the English National 12 Stage Road Relay Championships last April, then the English Cross Country Relays in November, and now adding this title to the list is indeed a welcome reward for all of the hard work put in by the clubs athletes and coaches alike.
As daylight faded, and temperatures began to drop, the sight of six blue and white vests amongst the first 40 finishers in the final event of the day, the 129th Senior Men’s 12k Championship, certainly warmed the hearts of the club, because it meant that they had won the championship for the second time, the first being on relatively home soil, at Herrington Country Park, near Sunderland in 2013, on by comparison a very snowy slushy course.
Conditions at Donington were described as being fairly firm underfoot in most areas, as the ground was mainly untested; however, athletes described the course as tricky, with tight bends and short steep climbs, ideal though for a National Championship of that magnitude.
Leading Morpeth Harriers Senior Men home to team victory was Nick Swinburn, currently in the middle of high-mileage training in preparation for April’s London Marathon.
Swinburn showed, however, that he has good pace in his legs, as he kept up with the leading protagonists during the three laps, and only lost a little ground in the later stages, as the eventual winner Jonny Hay, of Aldershot and Farnham, and runner-up Adam Hickey, of Southend on Sea, locked themselves together in a relentless bid for ultimate glory.
The Morpeth man did hang on to take the individual Bronze medal, just ahead of Highgate’s Andy Maud, whom he had also battled closely with at the English Cross Country Relays at Mansfield in November, and at the European Trials in Liverpool a few weeks later.
Swinburn was also emulating his effort at a very muddy Parliament Hill in London 12 months previously.
Another very prominent Morpeth performer was Jonny Taylor, who eventually finished sixth.
Third home for Morpeth was North Eastern Silver medallist Carl Avery, who although was not quite up with the leaders, had an excellent run, which was well rewarded by a placing of 16th.
Next home for the club was North Eastern Bronze medallist Peter Newton, who ran steadily throughout, to finish in an excellent 30th spot.
Not far behind Newton were his Morpeth Harriers club colleagues Lewis Timmins and Ady Whitwam, who finished in 35th and 40th places respectively, to close their club’s winning count at 130 points, which saw them a good 177 points clear of Midland Champions Notts AC, who were second team, with Sale Harriers a further 26 points adrift in third team place.
Unfortunately, once again, Morpeth Harriers longest serving competitive Senior, Ian Hudspith missed out on a National Cross Country gold, the only domestic one he is short of in his collection.
Again producing an excellent run, he was the club’s seventh man home in 58th place, and only a few seconds adrift of being in their scoring six.
The club also had excellent runs coming from Ross Floyd and Robert Balmbra, who finished in 86th and 106th places respectively.
Morpeth youngest Senior Man, Sam Hancox was next home from the club, finishing in 177th place.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the 1,730 Senior Men’s field, were: Jordan Scott (252nd), Mark Cockburn (425th), Rob Hancox (803rd), Neil Gunstone (853rd), and Peter Scaife (1,213th).