Morpeth Harriers’ men and women both retain relay titles

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Morpeth Harriers retained both their Women’s and Men’s titles at the Gordon Smith Relays on a wet and windy Wednesday evening in Wallsend last week.

Gordon Smith was a former chairman of host club Wallsend Harriers and the event is named in his memory, the course comprising a two mile leg circuit round the Cobalt Business Park for teams of three, each team including at least one Over 35 runner for the women and an Over 40 for the men.

Gateshead Harriers made the early running in the women’s race, with Brigid Dennehy recording the fastest senior female time of the night (11 minutes and 39 seconds), but Morpeth’s Rachelle Falloon hung in gamely, despite a troublesome nose-bleed, to finish only 16 seconds behind her in third.

Second leg runner Gemma Floyd had soon caught Gateshead’s leader, and came home in first place with a run of 11m 46s, leaving Jane Hodgson once again to close the victory. This she again did convincingly, running what was not just the fastest veteran time of the night – 11m 35s – but the fastest overall women’s time. The final margin of victory over Gateshead was nearly a minute, with Tyne Bridge in third.

Morpeth’s B team of Alison Brown, Claire Calverley and Jane Briggs also finished in a respectable sixteenth position out of sixty five complete teams.

In the men’s race, there was again stiff competition but this time from Tyne Bridge Harriers, keen to take back a title Morpeth had taken off them last year. A returning Sam Hancox, now getting closer to his best after a frustrating few months of injury, got the club off to a flying start with a fine 9m 51s with Tyne Bridge’s lead runner only some seven seconds behind.

On leg two, it was down to Morpeth’s veteran Lee Bennett, currently in fine form, to stay ahead and this he did, clocking 10m 40s and maintaining the exact margin of lead.

Adam Pratt went out on leg 3 with the advice and encouragement of his coach Jim Alder ringing in his ears, and clearly he must have listened, running a finely measured 10 minute last leg, despite all the best efforts of Marc Fenwick of Tyne Bridge to close him down. Fenwick had in fact got to within ten yards at one point, but ‘I always had a bit left in the tank’, Pratt said himself at the end.

The final overall time of 30m 31s was some nine seconds ahead of Tyne Bridge, with host club Wallsend in third. Of note was the extraordinary run of Wallsend youngster Sam Charlton, still at school, who broke the course record for a fastest leg by running 9m 23s and confirmed the great promise he has already shown over the cross country season this winter.

Morpeth’s dominance was reinforced with further top ten placings by their B team of Jordan Scott, Fergus Bates and Lewis Timmins (fourth overall in 31m 33s) and C team of Tom Innes, Graeme Thorpe and Karl Taylor (7th in 31m 37s).

* Morpeth Harrier Rory Leonard made a strong start to his 2019 outdoor track campaign, finishing an excellent third in a star-studded Men’s 1500m field in the opening BMC Gold Standard Meeting held at Birmingham University last week.

The KEVI sixth former, only weeks from his final exams, clocked a new lifetime best of 3 minutes 48.93 seconds, with Shaftesbury Barnet Senior Mark Pearce, who clocked a new lifetime best of 3m 47.66 winning, and in second place Leonard’s Under 20 rival Thomas Keen of Cambridge and Coleridge, who also set new personal best figures.

The result means Keen and Leonard are now first and second respectively in the Under 20 Men’s rankings.

Leonard’s next outing is expected to be at the Loughborough International.