Harriers strike gold and silver in road relay event

IT was certainly a good day at the office for Morpeth Harriers’ senior athletes at Birchwood Business Park in Cheshire on Saturday, writes George Patterson.

Their women won gold medals for the first time ever in their North of England Four Stage Road Relay, and their Senior Men just lost out on gold by nine seconds in the Six Stage Championship.

The Women’s team comprising of Melissa Turner (16m39s), Jane Hodgson (17m05s), Maxine Czarneka (17m11s) and Sarah Wilkinson (16m51s) eventually triumphed over early leaders Stockport with a healthy winning margin of 29 seconds.

Turner’s first-leg effort saw her finish in fourth place, and the sixth-fastest clocking of the day, then Hodgson’s second-leg effort saw them closer to the medals as she clocked the day’s 12th fastest time when she came home in second place.

Despite Czarneka’s determined third-leg run, which was 15th overall fastest, she unfortunately slipped a place but Wilkinson removed all doubts towards the Morpeth Harriers’ achievement when she grabbed the lead by clocking the eighth fastest time.

Not only was it a great club achievement, it was also a tremendous coaching achievement by Lindsay Dunn — who in addition to advising Turner, Czarneka and Wilkinson also coaches Sarah’s husband Neil, Nick McCormick, Lewis Timmins and Matt Nicholson.

He will undoubtedly take extra delight in that Timmins and Nicholson were very much part of a Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s team that eventually came through to take silver medals in their Six Stage race.

It was firstly Nicholson, followed by Timmins, that set Morpeth very much on their way in this contest by establishing placings that eventually saw the latter reach fifth place.

Their respective clockings of 18m34s and 17m51s had left them very much up with the challenge for team medals.

Although Michael Dawson lost a little bit of ground on the third leg with his clocking of 19m00s, Ian Harding restored the hopes of the faithful when he came home on fourth leg in third place with a very respectable 18m24s.

Northern 10,000m track champion Peter Newton maintained this position throughout the fifth and penultimate leg by clocking an excellent second fastest of the leg, and seventh fastest overall of 17m38s, making way for birthday boy Ian Hudspith to make the final challenge for Morpeth glory.

The 41-year-old, who is enjoying his current good form which included an excellent performance at last week’s Great North Run, got up to second and at one stage the margin to leader Leeds City was down from 25 seconds when he started to around six seconds.

However, being aware of the challenge, Wilkinson eventually rallied and managed to slightly increase the leading margin at the finish line to nine seconds, despite Hudspith recording the third fastest leg of the day of 17m21s.

Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men’s achievement was also very much down to good team management by David Swinburne, who may also have Jonny Taylor and McCormick available for selection when it comes to the National Six Stage event at Sutton Park next month.

The North of England Young Athletes Road Relays were also held at the same venue and Morpeth Harriers were represented in the Under 13 and Under 15 Boys, and Under 15 Girls events.

Best results came in the Under 13 and Under 15 Boys, where each managed to finish in 12th position, and the Under 15 Girls eventually finished in a well-achieved 24th place.

High hopes had been expected of the Under 15 Boys, however those hopes were somewhat dashed when leading light Philip Winkler was forced out through illness on the eve of the event.

The team still managed to rally however, and credit goes to Ryan Green (10m17s), Elliot Kelly, making his championship debut for Morpeth (10m13s), and a gutsy replacement for Winkler, Jarod Lewis (10m40s).

Kelly actually lost several seconds due to a judging error in the changeover melee, which could have cost them a place in the end.

Jacob Hopkins (11m05s), Euan Jones (12m06s), and Kieran Hedley (11m27s) all very much played their part in what turned out to be a very creditable Under 13 Boys performance by what was a relatively-inexperienced squad at championship level, and the final placing of 12th was a well and truly-deserved achievement.

Alison Brown’s 18th fastest overall clocking of 11m12s was very much the high point of Morpeth Harriers’ Under 15 Girls performance, which in turn saw her finish a well-accomplished ninth on the first of three legs that eventually saw the squad come home in 24th place, with further help coming from Sarah Wilkes (12m34s) and Charlotte Jewell (13m10s).

Credit goes to Team Manager and Club Secretary Mike Bateman for ensuring the continued competitive health of Morpeth Harriers’ Young Athletes squads.

• Morpeth Harriers began their series of 2011 Young Athletes Road Championships on Monday night, with their Under 11 youngsters being the first to test themselves over the Lancaster Park 1.25-mile circuit.

First home in the Boys event was Alex Cunningham, who completed it in 9m08s, and the first girl to finish was Ailsa Jones, who when finishing in an excellent 9m42s would have placed fourth in the Boys race.

Second and third Boys were Luke Wareing and Joseph Dowd, with respective times of 9m23s and 9m33s.

Eleni Woodvine and Jane Armstrong were second and third in the Girls event, finishing in 10m34s and 11m54s respectively.

The other results are as follows: Boys race — 4th Ethan Howe (9m42s), 5th Matthew Waterfield (9m59s), 6th Matthew Dodds (10m00s), 7th Mark Booth (10m23s), 8th Tom Colvin (10m29s), 9th Oliver Bultitude (10m35s), 10th Robbie Elder (10m39s), 11th James Dibbon (10m43s), 12th Matthew Briggs (10m58s), 13th Brodie Willis (10m59s), 14th Alex Colvin (11m03s), 15th James Colvin (11m04s), 16th Evan Gibb (11m05s).

Girls race — 4th Lauren Robson (11m57s), 5th Kathleen Swindlehurst (11m59s), 6th Abbie Willis (13m43s), 7th Harriet Priest (13m44s), 8th Chloe Priest (13m48s), 9th Charlotte France (14m19s).