Leonard gets the call to run for England at World Schools’ XC

Rory Leonard (Morpeth Harriers) wins the mens under-17s 2018 Northern Cross Country Champs., Harewood House, Leeds. Photo: David T. Hewitson/Sports for All Pics
Rory Leonard (Morpeth Harriers) wins the mens under-17s 2018 Northern Cross Country Champs., Harewood House, Leeds. Photo: David T. Hewitson/Sports for All Pics

Morpeth Harrier Rory Leonard has been selected to run for England in the highly prestigious ISF World Schools Cross Country Championships.

The event is being held in Paris between April 2-7, and news of his selection came just 24 hours after the North East Counties U17 Men’s, and Northumberland Senior Boys Cross Country Champion took a terrible fall in last week’s English National Championships in London.

It is a richly deserved great honour for Leonard, who despite his London mishap, has maintained great form throughout the season, and this was a timely boost for him, and a reward for all the hard work he has put in over recent weeks.

Morpeth Harriers are very pleased for Rory and wish him well in fulfilling the honour.

Rory will be in action for the North East at this weekend’s Inter Counties Cross Country Championships, being held at Prestwold Hall, near Loughborough.

* The final fixture of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League, scheduled to be held on the pastures, near to Alnwick Castle on Saturday, became an early victim of the week’s wintry avalanche, termed nationally as “The Beast from The East.”

Event organisers were forced to cancel on the Wednesday as conditions in the county worsened.

It is hoped that the fixture may be able to be completed however, either by late March or Early April.

However, it is an already crowded fixture list, and local land requirements that will eventually decide the issue, and it is now very much a case of watch this space over the forthcoming weeks.

Although the planned course for Saturday may have proved raceable with care, it was very much the event infrastructure which decided the issue.

It was already very well known that road conditions were not in the events favour, with several roads viewed as impassable in the area, and there would have been several parking problems to overcome for competitors.

Local organising club Alnwick Harriers are currently in discussions with Alnwick Castle regarding any future plans.

So regionally, it was very much a blank sheet on the competitive front, that is apart from two Park Run events, which took place at very cold Newbiggin by the Sea, and Newcastle’s Exhibition Park.

The former event attracted 129 finishers, including four members of Morpeth Harriers.

Under 15 Boy Tom Balsdon was the first of these, finishing second in the 5k event in 18m54s, nearly 80 seconds adrift of race winner Kurt Heron of Ashington Hirst Harriers.

Other Morpeth performances came from Susan Smith (36th) (3rd Woman) 25m37s, Gary Mason (48th) 26m51s, and David Gray (102nd) 32m18s.

Meanwhile over in Newcastle, four Morpeth Harriers were in action.

First home in the quartet was Mark Snowball, who finished in eighth place in 19m18s.

Other club performances came from Paul Banks (13th) 19m46s, Mike Steven (86th) 24m45s, and Richard Kirby (87th) 24m46s.

* County squad selections have now been fully named on the English Schools Athletics Association website for the forthcoming National Cross-Country Championships, scheduled to be held at Temple Newsham Park, near Leeds on Saturday, March 17.

Northumberland are amongst those squads, and seventeen of their named athletes belong to the ranks of Morpeth Harriers.

There are 12 named in each age group, from which only eight in each will be eligible to travel and run on the day, so it is hoped that those from the club meet the selectors’ final needs and receive their richly deserved honour.

Most of the clubs contingent, are in the Senior Boys section, where no less than six are formally named.

They are Rory Leonard, who is Northumberland Champion, Kieran Hedley, Northumberland silver medallist, Taylor Glover, a Northumberland bronze medallist, Matthew Waterfield, Matthew Briggs, and Alex Cunningham.

In the Intermediate Boys squad, three Morpeth Harriers have made the final twelve.

They are Ross Charlton, Daniel Melling and Tom Balsdon.

There are also three from the club named in the Junior Boys final twelve.

Euan Duffin, Dylan Davies, and Dylan Gooding have met the selectors requirements.

Five Morpeth Harriers are named for the Girls events and four are included in the Intermediate Girls line-up.

Northumberland Champion Holly Peck heads the squad, and is joined by her club colleagues Lily Heaton, Ella Duffield, and Kirsty Duffield.

Gracie Hufton is included in the Senior Girls squad.

Further information regarding final selection will reach athletes a few days prior to the event.