Harriers shine in the sun at Inter-Counties Cross-Country

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Glorious sunshine, and relatively dry conditions in most parts, was certainly welcomed by athletes competing at Saturday’s annual British Athletics Inter Counties Cross Country Championships.

The event was held at Cofton Park, near Birmingham for the seventh consecutive occasion.

This was in contrast to conditions experienced throughout a good proportion of the six month long Cross Country campaign, and provided a fitting finale to National events, and also the UK Cross Challenge series, which saw athletes also competing for added lucrative honours in the various age groups.

Despite some late drop outs, including Morpeth Harriers Ross Floyd and Peter Newton, because of work commitments, the North East Counties Senior Men’s squad still managed to win the Inter Counties Team title for a record sixth consecutive time.

The last time North East had produced an individual winner in the Senior Men’s event, was in 2006, also at Nottingham, when Shaftesbury Barnet’s Dominic Bannister had triumphed.

On Saturday however, the region produced an excellent team victory, winning both the six man and nine man sections by having all of their squad inside the top 100.

The North East winning margin in the six to count was 161, with Scotland East claiming second place, fifty five points ahead of third placed Middlesex.

Leading the North East home was Morpeth’s Jonny Taylor, who after close battling over the first two laps of the three lap 12k course with eventual winner Dewi Griffiths of West Wales, and Essex’s Adam Hickey, comprising a total of nine steep climbs, eventually was forced to settle for third place, even after trying to ease away from them as early as the first lap.

Second and third counters for the region were Cheltenham’s Phil Wylie (8th) and Gateshead’s Callum Johnson (11th).

Morpeth Harrier Carl Avery, who had battled closely with Wylie over the first two laps, where he had been in the Top 10, eventually finished 14th, and was the regions fourth to score.

The winning North East count was completed by Middlesbrough & Cleveland’s Greg Jayasuriya (19th), and Durham City’s Dan Jenkin (23rd).

Completing the nine man scoring count were Morpeth’s Lewis Timmins, who battled hard throughout, only to slip back to 51st in the later stages, Robert Balmbra, also of Morpeth, who marked an excellent Inter Counties debut as a late replacement for Morpeth club colleague Floyd, by producing a solid performance to finish 57th, and Wallsend Harrier Harry Coates, also an Inter Counties debutant, as replacement for Newton, who did well to finish in 86th place in a total finishing Senior Men’s field of 260.

It was also an excellent day for the North East Counties Senior Women, who although were dominated in team affairs by Yorkshire, still managed to finish as second team, with Surrey a little further adrift in third place.

Winning her first ever Inter Counties title, Shildon’s Kate Avery, the Double European Silver medallist, led the region home.

Avery won by fourteen seconds from Stockport’s Elle Vernon, with Hampshire’s Louise Small a further forty one seconds adrift in third place.

The last time Avery had won at Cofton Park, was as an Under 13, when she had won the National title in 2005.

Second counter for the region was Rosie Smith, who had originally withdrawn from the squad because of work commitments, however when those circumstances changed, to the delight of Team Manager Lynn Cooper (formerly Harding), she had made herself available.

Smith ran an excellent race in the circumstances, finishing seventh overall.

Third and fourth counters were Birchfield’s former Wallsend Harrier Danielle Hodgkinson and Morpeth’s Emma Holt, who both ran in close contention throughout on the two and a half lap 8k course, to finish in 32nd and 33rd places respectively.

Closing the North East scoring counts were Gateshead’s Mary Ferrier and Alison Dargie of Tyne Bridge Harriers, who both competed well, to finish in 64th and 66th places in the 248 strong finishing field.

Other North East athletes competing in the Senior Women’s 8k event were Jarrow & Hebburn’s Georgia Campbell and Morpeth’s Josie Cram, who finished in 147th and 181st places respectively.

Another excellent result from the North East Women, was that of the Under 20 age group, who also finished as second team in their one and a half lap 6k event.

They very nearly clinched Gold, only eighteen points adrift of Scotland West.

Sophie Burnett of Birtley AC finishing 24th led the squad home, with further scoring counts coming from Jacqueline Penn of North Shields Poly (29th), Birtley’s Amber Leigh (34th), and Durham City’s Laura Lee (35th).

Other North East performances came from Sunderland Harrier Jessica Fox (44th), Morpeth pair Alison Brown and Charlotte Jewell, who ran well to finish 97th and 115th respectively, and Elvet’s Sally Hughes finished one place behind Charlotte to complete the North East tally in a finishing field of 146.