Harriers on the biggest stage of all

TWO weeks ago, Morpeth were celebrating the arrival of the Olympic Flame. This week, its home-town athletics club Morpeth Harriers is hailing the fact that three of their athletes will be competing in the main event in London, writes George Patterson.

Mongolian Serod Batochir had already penned his name into the men’s marathon field following his achievements over the past year, which saw him achieve his fastest time of 2hrs 11mins 06secs in Japan.

He will now be joined on the Olympic platform by home-bred athletes Laura Weightman and Nick McCormick, following their superb achievements at the Aviva Trials and UK Championships, held at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Weightman for her part ran a superb race tactically in the women’s 1500m and crossed the finish line in 4m18.83s to take the UK title (full story, right).

McCormick also saw his Olympic ambitions achieved when he finished second in the Men’s 5000m in 14m00.61s.

Leading at the bell, he found himself passed with 200m remaining by Stockport Harrier Ross Millington, who took solace in the fact that he had snatched the UK title in a last-gasp effort. Lindsay Dunn, coach to McCormick, said that although his charge was a little disappointed to lose out on the title, he was absolutely delighted to confirm his Olympic place.

Elsewhere in the championships, Ashley Gibson of Morpeth Harriers finished seventh in the second heat of the women’s 1500m in 4m23.75s, and Jonny Taylor finished fifth in the final of the men’s 3000m Steeplechase in 8m53.65s.

l Six of the seven Morpeth Harriers who competed in the BMC Track Meeting held at Durham on Monday, June 18, 2012, achieved personal best performances.

Michael Dawson finished eighth in the 1500m B race in 4m07.5s and in the 1500m C Race Jonnie Nisbet in an excellent new personal best of 4m10.7s. Philip Winkler also set new figures of 4m13.3s for himself, when he finished sixth.

In a Mixed 1500m D Race, Ashley Gibson clocked new figures of 4m21.1s when finishing fifth. Elliot Kelly enjoyed a victory in the Mixed E Race, clocking a new best of 4m25.2s. In the same race Jacob Hopkins finished seventh, however he was just adrift of his personal best.

Morpeth’s youngest competitor on the night was Kieran Hedley, and he set new figures of 4m54.6s in the Mixed F Race, when placing fifth.

l Matthew Nicholson’s outstanding win in the Stan Long Mile at the third meeting of the Start Fitness sponsored North Eastern Athletics League, held at Gateshead’s International Stadium on Wednesday, June 20, was one of the highlights of some equally excellent performances from Morpeth Harriers athletes on a superb night bathed in sunshine.

Nicholson really attacked at the bell and won with plenty to spare in a time of 4m18.16s, and gratefully accepted his winner’s trophy afterwards from Joan Long, widow of the legendary Gateshead Harriers coach. Another Morpeth Harrier competing in the Mile was Michael Dawson, exactly two days after he had clocked a new personal best for 1500m in the BMC meeting held at Durham. Dawson managed to finish sixth in 4m28.66s.

Three other Morpeth Harriers who had featured at Durham also competed at Gateshead, notably Elliot Kelly who further improved his 1500m time to 4m24.69s when placing second in the Under 17 men’s event. Fellow Morpeth Harrier Joe Elder continued his comeback from injury when finishing eighth in 4m48.76s.

Jonnie Nisbet just lost out in the finishing straight to Birtley’s Adrian Bailes in the Under 20 men’s 1500m, as he finished second in an excellent 4m15.43s.

Jacob Hopkins finished second in the Under 15 Boys’ 1500m in 4m44.2s, and Sam Williams finished eighth in 5m47.1s.

In the Under 17 women’s 1500m, Alison Brown clocked an excellent 5m06.96s to finish third.

Morpeth Harriers enjoyed two excellent victories in the 200m events. Jack Hepple got the nod of the finish judges and the photo finish in the closely run A race, and was first Junior in 23.06s.

Henrik Paulsen won the Under 17 Mens race in 26.26s, knocking more seconds off his personal best.

In the Under 13 Girls’ 100m, Morpeth Harrier Naomi Arkle continued her improvement level, finishing second in 14.99s.

In the Under 13 Boys’ 100m, Mitchell Green finished third in 14.7s, green also went on to perform well in the long jump, with a best of 3.89m.

Another Harrier to perform well in the field events was Rea Fairnington, who had a best of 4.09m in the Under 15 long jump and cleared 1.40m in the high jump.

l Pre-race entry is now being taken for the annual Morpeth 10k Road Race, which is being held on Tuesday, July 31, at 7.30pm. This year, the event is once again being sponsored by Benfield, Silverlink.

There is additional sponsorship being provided by Phil Walker Financial Planner and C Dentice, Stanton Hall Gardens.

Also there is support from Start Fitness, and Piramal Health Care, whose factory on the Whalton Road are supplying Official Race Parking. Entrants will be directed to the Race Headquarters on the night.

Pre-race entry is £8 for club athletes and £10 for unattached athletes and are to be sent to Mrs V M Gill, 104 Ringwood Drive, Cramlington, Northumberland, NE23 1NP. First 300 entries will receive a Morpeth 10k commemorative mug.

Advance entries close on Monday, July 23, and cheques/postal orders are to be made payable to Morpeth Harriers & AC.

Entry forms are also downloadable as a pdf from the Morpeth Harriers website at www.morpethharriers.freeservers.com

Late entry on the night, from 6pm to 7.15pm, is also available at rates of £11 and £13 respectively. Minimum age of entry is 15 on day of race.

The event also incorporates the NECAA Championship, and all entrants are asked to declare eligibility.

The race follows a two lap course round Tranwell Woods to the South West of Morpeth, and there are prizes from 1st to 8th in the Men’s event, 1st to 5th in the Women’s event, and there are veteran prizes for men and women.

Drinks are available en-route and at the finish.