IT took a very determined squad effort by Gateshead Harriers to prevent reigning champions, and event hosts Morpeth Harriers, from achieving another rampant Senior Men’s Division One team victory at Saturday’s third Start Fitness-sponsored North Eastern Harrier League meeting, writes George Patterson.
It was held for the first time at the majestic Wallington estate.
Popularity surrounding the event resulted in unprecedented parking problems at the venue, which meant that, in the early stages, organisers were forced to call a temporary halt to affairs, to allow for traffic to be placed inside the course area.
Thanks must go to the staff of National Trust and Wallington Hall for their kind assistance and understanding during this difficulty.
In order to be able to complete the nine-race programme successfully, the organisers also had to shorten the U17 Men’s and U17/U20 Women’s events to one lap from two.
Eventually, the final event of the day, the Senior Men’s three-lap race, got under way at 2.55pm, some 40 minutes behind schedule. However, it did not take long for athletes to get well into their stride on the course which covered the pastures, woodland, and pond areas of resplendent Wallington.
It is doubtful whether many of the front runners would stop to take notice of the environment as they got round the three lap circuit in around 35 minutes.
One exception in terms of time was Morpeth Harrier Richard Morrell, who, from his Fast Pack start, came home in sixth place, and was easily the fastest man on the course, recorded as 33m55s, nearly one minute faster than the first man home, Cameron Boyek of Shildon, who had started from the Slow Pack.
Morrell led Morpeth Harriers to second team place on the day, with further support coming from Ade Whitwam, who has progressed to the Fast Pack from Slow in the first two fixtures.
Whitwam was third fastest on the day when he finished in ninth place overall.
Third counter for Morpeth Harriers was Ross Floyd, who was fifth fastest when finishing 12th from the Fast Pack.
Finishing in 15th place from the Slow Pack was Phil Walker, who is certainly returning to form.
He was Morpeth’s fourth counter.
Completing the Morpeth scoring six were Sam Hancox (46th, Medium Pack), and Fergus Bates (50th, Medium Pack).
Other Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s performances came from Mick Thomsen (55th, Medium Pack), Rob Hancox (74th, Slow Pack), Thomas Straughan (81st, Fast Pack), Geoff Whitman (118th, Slow Pack), Paul Waterston (141st, Medium Pack), Neil Gunstone (177th, Fast Pack), Jim Alder (183rd, Slow Pack), Tony Holt (241st, Slow Pack), Les Cavill (276th, Slow Pack), and Richard Kirby (300th, Slow Pack).
Running the second fastest time of the day from the Fast Pack, Morpeth Harrier Emma Holt finished fifth overall, behind International Alyson Dixon of Sunderland Strollers, and led her club to a superb Senior Women’s Division Two team victory.
Further team support came from Lorna MacDonald (11th, Medium Pack) and the returning Jane Hodgson, who ran excellently from the Medium Pack to finish 20th overall in her first race following the birth of her first child earlier in the year.
Other Morpeth Harriers Senior Women’s performances came from Rachel McCoy (148th, Slow Pack), Lesley Chapman (151st, Slow Pack), and Claire Walker (167th, Slow Pack).
Another team victory on the day for Morpeth Harriers came from their U13 Boys’ squad, who are really starting to blossom into a very useful squad.
They were led home by Daniel Dixon, who finished seventh from the Slow Pack.
Not far behind Daniel was clubmate Ross Charlton, who finished ninth from the Slow Pack.
Completing the Morpeth Harriers scoring trio was Joe Dowd, who produced undoubtedly his best performance of the winter, when he finished 14th overall from the Fast Pack.
He was fifth fastest in the race.
Other Morpeth Harriers U13 Boys’ performances came from newcomer Wilf Campbell, who finished 18th from the Slow Pack, Will Sibson (20th, Fast Pack, seventh fastest), Alex Cunningham (23rd, Fast Pack, ninth fastest), Cameron Dick (24th, Fast Pack, 10th fastest), Sam Bradley (44th, Slow Pack), and Adam Kirby (54th, Slow Pack), who unfortunately somehow missed the start of his race.
Led home by Josh Burton, who finished sixth from the Slow Pack, Morpeth Harriers U15 Boys finished as second team behind Tynedale Harriers.
Philip Kirby was second counter, when he finished 10th from the Slow Pack.
Both of these athletes will progress to the Fast Pack for future events as a result of these performances.
Morpeth Harriers’ scoring count was completed by Jacob Hopkins, who was 11th fastest overall, when placing 17th from the Fast Pack.
The club could take particular pleasure from the fact that, including Burton, Kirby and Hopkins, they fielded a total of seven athletes in this age group.
Other performances came from Sam Williams (32nd, Fast Pack), Euan Jones (33rd, Fast Pack), Adam Shewry (34th, Fast Pack), and Lewis James (37th, Slow Pack).
Running on a shorter course of one large lap, Morpeth Harriers U17/U20 Women’s squad placed third behind winners Birtley AC and second-placed Durham City.
They were led home by Alison Brown, who came through to finish 11th from the Fast Pack, and was ninth fastest in the race.
One place behind her was club colleague Louise Brett, who ran from the Slow Pack.
The Morpeth scoring count was completed by Charlotte Jewell, who was 14th from the Fast Pack and 11th fastest overall.
Other Morpeth Harriers performances in this event came from Beth Woolley (17th, Slow Pack), and Alice Kelly (24th, Slow Pack).
The U17 Men’s event, which also saw their course reduced to one lap, saw Morpeth Harriers finish as fourth team.
Clocking the fourth overall fastest time, Ryan Green led the squad home when finishing 11th from the Fast Pack.
Next home for the club was Phillip Winkler, who was 18th from the Fast Pack (eighth fastest) and Elliot Kelly completed the Morpeth count in 25th place from the Fast Pack and was 14th fastest in the race.
Two excellent individual Morpeth Harriers on the day were Abby Sheldon (U15 Girls) and Ailsa Jones (U13 Girls).
Sheldon finished ninth overall from the Fast Pack and emerged as sixth fastest in the event.
Meanwhile, Jones produced a solid performance to finish fifth overall from the Slow Pack, and as a result of that performance will see herself promoted to the Fast Pack for future meetings.
Unfortunately, both of these athletes had no other competing clubmates to share their triumphs.
The U11s Try it Cross Country event that accompanies the main Harrier League programme had a total of 113 finishers, including 11 from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers.
First home with an excellent performance was Thomas Cunningham, who finished fifth overall.
Next to finish from the club was Rhiannon Hedley, who was 12th overall and second girl.
One place behind Rhiannon, and a mere four seconds adrift, was clubmate Holly Peck.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the U11s event were Dylan Gooding (34th), Bobby Stone (51st), Josh Gair (52nd), Edward Kirby (56th), Harry Hoggan (62nd), Leah Ayres (73rd), Joshua Williams (75th) and Danny Dowd (107th).
Bobby Stone would normally have featured among the prominent finishers; unfortunately an ankle injury sustained during the event limited his mobility.
On a closing note, Morpeth Harriers would wish to once again thank the National Trust and the staff of Wallington, particularly Matthew Watson, who played a crucial role, for their valuable assistance given to the event. Also thanks to the club’s members and friends who helped with marshalling, car parking and course-building and disassembly, partly done in the dark.
Particular thanks and a great deal of credit must go to Kevin Flannery of Gateshead Harriers for his expertise and to Kevin Bray, who masterminded and oversaw the organisation both on the day and in its preparation.
Despite some of the unexpected problems, the event went well and the new courses were much appreciated by those who experienced them and were very much labelled as true cross-country courses and a true test of ability.
EUAN Jones and Henrik Paulsen of Morpeth Harriers both competed at the first Gateshead Indoor Standards Meeting, held on the evening of Thursday, November 21.
For Jones, it was his first experience of the indoor circuit and he could be quite pleased with his efforts, where his clocking of 8.19s was sixth fastest overall in the U15 Boys’ 60m, which in turn gave him a healthy two point start to his Indoor Grand Prix score.
Meanwhile, Paulsen’s 8.10s saw him through to the second round of the non-Grand-Prix-scoring Junior Men’s 60m, which also saw him as sixth fastest overall
MORPETH Harriers newest acquisition to their U17 Men’s Road and Cross Country squad, Nathan Cox, has certainly made his mark for the club and also subsequently the judges of the Benfield Athlete of the Month award, following his first outing for them in the opening Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League fixture at Blaydon.
Not only winning his event from the Slow Pack, he also clocked the fastest time of the day, a performance that fully justified him in being chosen as the recipient of the October award.