STRONG gusty winds accompanied by occasional wintry showers failed to dampen the spirits of hardy road runners who competed at the Royal Signals North Eastern Counties Road Relays Championships on Saturday, writes George Patterson.
The meeting at Hetton Lyons Park, Hetton-Le-Hole, County Durham, also saw a good day at the office for Morpeth Harriers, who won gold medals in the Senior Women’s Championship and bronze in the Senior Men’s event.
The club’s Senior Women were largely spurred by the excellent second leg by a returning Laura Weightman, who very easily clocked the day’s fastest time of 11m49s for the 2.25mile distance.
It was Weightman’s first competitive team outing for some time and she certainly showed everyone present what they had been missing, as she stormed into a superb 38-second lead, following Gemma Floyd’s first leg clocking of 14m04s, which had seen her come home in seventh place behind early leaders Durham City.
Closest to Weightman’s time was her Morpeth Harriers clubmate Morag Stead, who very clearly enjoyed the personal glory that brought them home to a final-leg victory, with a clocking of 13m00s, after Maxine Czarneka’s third-leg clocking of 13m39s, had seen the squad forge a 65 second marginal lead over early leaders Durham City, which Stead subsequently increased to over three minutes.
Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Women’s B team finished well in 12th place overall and were first B in the event.
Their fastest performer was Kate Chapman, who clocked 14m50s on the final leg, following on from Ailsa McGregor (15m28s), Maria Drosdowicz (15m50s), and Pam Woodcock (17m18s).
Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men’s team, who on the day were not as strong as they would have wished, put up a good sound performance by finishing third behind winners New Marske and 2011 title holders Gateshead Harriers.
The added fact that throughout the 6 x 2.25-mile event they were never outside the top four. David Swinburne’s faith in the squad that he had available to him was well repaid by their stringent efforts to achieve.
It also marked championship debuts for two Morpeth Harriers Eoun Everard and former Jarrow and Hebburn and Coventry Godiva Harrier Simon O’Donnell.
Everard got matters boiling along very nicely on the first leg, when coming home in third place, 18 seconds behind early leader Mark Shaw of New Marske and only three seconds adrift of Gateshead’s Callum Johnson, with his clocking of 10m55s, which would eventually give him ninth equal overall fastest on the day.
Morpeth Harriers’ second leg runner Michael Dawson swiftly took his club into second place at the expense of Gateshead and had cut New Marske’s lead now to a slender nine seconds following his excellent third fastest of the leg, clocking of 11m26s.
Debutant Simon O’Donnell tried to make some inroads on this, however he found tough young opposition around him in the form of Gateshead’s Lewis Hogg and Richmond and Zetland’s Doug Roberts, as he slipped back into fourth spot at the end of his 11m30s effort.
Morpeth Harriers’ fourth leg runner Lewis Timmins did redress the issue somewhat, however, as he managed to pull out an excellent run in getting round in 10m46s, fastest of the leg, which was also his club’s fastest performance on the day, as he stormed back into second place behind new leaders Gateshead, having disposed of New Marske.
This was all short-lived, however, as Morpeth’s fifth leg runner Ben Harrison had the international talents of New Marske’s Ricky Stevenson to match up to.
Harrison did fight, however, as he produced the leg’s fourth fastest time of 11m46s to come home in third place.
As runners went into the final leg, it was now New Marske holding just under a minute lead over Gateshead, with Morpeth just under a minute further adrift.
Matt Nicholson on Morpeth’s final leg, tried again to make some inroads on the leaders and, despite his strenuous ninth equal fastest clocking of 10m55s, he still couldn’t manage to gain any further ground and was forced to settle for bronze medal placing.
Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men’s B team produced a creditable performance to finish in 17th place overall and were third B team in the event.
Their fastest performer was Neil Wilkinson on first leg, whose clocking of 11m29s gave him ninth fastest on the leg.
Other B team performers were John Butters (12m27s), Thomas Straughan (12m32s), Steve Bradley (13m29s), Chris Waugh (15m58s) and David Swinburne (12m11s)
An incomplete Morpeth Harriers’ Veterans A team, saw Alistair MacDonald and Les Cavill clock 13m09s, and 15m52s respectively.
l AT the Gateshead College Indoor Athletics meeting, held on Thursday, February 16, Morpeth Harriers Alex Nesbit and Jared Lewis each clocked new personal bests of 7.90s and 8.67s respectively when finishing second and fifth in the U15 Boys’ 60m.
Lewis also set new figures of 1.35m, when competing in the high jump.