Morpeth Harrier Rory gets the call to run for GB & NI in Spain

Rory Leonard brings Morpeth Harriers home to victory in the under-17 mens 3 stage relay, Northern Senior 6 and 4 and Junior Stage Road Relays, SportsCity, Manchester. Photo:  David T. Hewitson/Sports for All Pics
Rory Leonard brings Morpeth Harriers home to victory in the under-17 mens 3 stage relay, Northern Senior 6 and 4 and Junior Stage Road Relays, SportsCity, Manchester. Photo: David T. Hewitson/Sports for All Pics

Morpeth Harrier Rory Leonard has received a terrific boost in his first season as an U20 athlete, by being selected to run for Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the opening IAAF Cross-Country Permit competition, being held in Burgos, Spain, on Sunday, November 11.

Last season’s UHarrier17 Inter Counties Champion has already shown superb early season form, by finishing second to Cardiff’s Jake Heyward in the opening UK Challenge fixture a couple of weeks ago.

Two weeks after Leonard’s date in Spain, he will be heading for Liverpool’s Sefton Park, hoping to race well to gain selection for the European Cross-Country Championships, scheduled to be held in Tilburg in the Netherlands on Sunday, December 9.

* For the first time in a good number of years Cross Country racing returned to Gosforth Park on Saturday, when local club Gosforth Harriers hosted the third Start Fitness sponsored North Eastern Harrier League.

It was certainly a good day for Morpeth Harriers, and their hard-working athletes, who competitively secured no less than four team victories, and two individual wins for their combined efforts.

In addition, the club also individually managed some of the fastest times over the new circuits, which by comparison to other venues, were fairly flat, yet undulating and testing.

Making his Harrier League debut as an U20 Man, Morpeth’s Matthew Briggs clearly made hay in the sunshine from his five-minute handicap Slow Pack start, as he quickly stole away from the rest in the three lap Senior Men’s event, to eventually win by a 27 seconds margin, from fellow U20 athlete Findlay Johnstone of Newcastle University.

Briggs also had the added pleasure of leading his club to a 15-point margin team victory. Morpeth now have a two-point lead at the top of the table after three fixtures.

Although she was not the first to cross the finish line, Morpeth’s Rhiannon Hedley was awarded a win in the U 15 Girls one lap event in the judges’ room.

Gateshead’s leading light Ines Curran, running from the Fast Pack, and posting by far the days fastest time, found herself subsequently disqualified for failing to wear the correct number.

Hedley, who was the closest finisher to her, six seconds adrift, but having a hundred seconds start due to her Slow Pack start, found herself elevated to event winner, with every athlete behind her promoted by one place.

Those athletes, all 53 of them, included Hedley’s Morpeth club colleagues Abbi Leiper, and Laura Melling, whose placing of ninth and 19th respectively, gave their club a narrow one-point margin team victory on the day, over second placed Birtley.

Morpeth U13 Boy Bertie Marr produced an absolutely superb performance to lead his club home an excellent team victory in their single lap event.

Giving 100 seconds away to many of his 71 rivals, he chased Blackhill leading light Tom Slane all the way to the line, to finish an excellent second, only losing out for victory by a mere seven seconds.

Marr was joined in the winning Morpeth team count by Adam Howliston (4th) (Slow Pack), and Ryan Davies (8th) (Fast Pack), who was an excellent sixth fastest on the day.

Because of this team victory, Morpeth Harriers U13 Boys currently lead their league table by four points over North Shields.

Finishing tenth from the Fast Pack, and posting the fifth fastest time of the day, Morpeth’s Tom Balsdon led his club to a 12-point margin team victory on the day over Houghton in their two medium lap event.

Balsdon had on the day team support from Brad Brown (12th) (Slow Pack), and Rowan Bennett (15th).

For the second meeting in succession Morpeth’s Holly Peck proved herself to be the fastest performer in the combined U17/U20 Women’s two medium lap event.

Running from the Fast Pack and giving 150 seconds to many of her rivals in the 38 strong field, she worked he way through the masses brilliantly to finish in an excellent ninth place and was 18 seconds faster than her closest rival in terms of time Eva Hardie of Houghton Harriers.

Peck also led her club to third team place on the day behind Newcastle University and Houghton Harriers, with further team support coming from an excellent Kirsty Duffin, who was one place behind her, running from the Slow Pack, and Laura Cummings, who finished 14th.

Finishing as third team on the day behind Gateshead Harriers and North Shields Poly, Morpeth Harriers managed to leapfrog to the top of the U15 Boys league table, albeit by the slender margin of one point ahead of Durham City, who only finished fifth.

They were led home by Euan Duffin, younger brother of Kirsty, who finished in fourth place by virtue of the first finisher from Tynedale Harriers being disqualified for failing to wear his club vest.

Duffinposted the second fastest time overall, only two seconds and one place adrift of Tynedale’s Charlie Daley.

Further Morpeth scoring counts came from an excellent run by Matthew Walton, who finished fifth from the Slow Pack, and James Tilley (36th) (Slow Pack).

The Senior Women’s field had a total of 460 finishers, which included an excellent ten from Morpeth Harriers, whose combined performances saw them finish sixth in Division 1 on the day.

They were led home by Emma Holt in15th from the Fast Pack, posting the second fastest time overall. Holt was joined in the Morpeth team count by Victoria Gibbs (37th) (Medium Pack), Rachelle Falloon (40th) (Fast Pack), who posted the sixth fastest time of the day, and Jilly Bell (122nd) (Slow Pack).

Making his Morpeth Harriers debut, Aaron Hayes finished a superb second in the U 11 Boys single short lap non-scoring event that preceded the Harrier League competition. He only just lost out to North Shields Poly’s Zac Brannon by a mere eight seconds for a debut win.

Also running well was Oliver Tomlinson, who followed up his fourth place at Wrekenton in the opening fixture, by finishing a very close sixth.