Morpeth Harriers took a superb and unexpected second place in the fourth and final round of the Northern Athletics Senior Track and Field Division 2 fixture at Middlesbrough Athletics Village on Saturday.
Although runaway winners City of York won by more than 100 match points and took the league title, Morpeth’s achievements were a highlight of the competition.
The on the day result achieved by Morpeth was largely unexpected because of the under strength squad that hard-working team manager Mike Bateman had at his disposal.
This was due to family holidays denying him key players, especially his young female sprinters, which meant having to persuade athletes to compete in relatively unfamiliar events.
But he was delighted with their response, which ultimately brought a better than feared result.
Thankfully rival clubs, with the notable exception of City of York, had similar problems and were not as strong as usual.
On this occasion, Bateman was also in charge of the men’s team, and regular team manager David Swinburne (currently on honeymoon), had left him with a relatively strong squad to muster to the cause in order to achieve the successful result.
By finishing second on the day, cumulatively the hard-working squad gathered a total of 18 league points, which put them firmly in third place overall, and a good five points ahead of fourth placed Skyrac, and one point behind second placed Gateshead Harriers, who on Saturday finished slightly adrift of Morpeth in third place.
In the men’s track events on Saturday, the best Morpeth results came in the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase.
Ady Whitwam certainly proved his worth as a good clubman by travelling up from his Army base in Shropshire to emphatically win the men’s 5000m, seven days after competing in a gruelling 3000m steeplechase at Bedford, where he had faced up to 18 other opponents.
Whitwam led from gun to finish line to win by a margin of just over a minute from his closest rival, albeit in a modest 15m41.7s by his own standards.
Robert Balmbra, of Morpeth, managed to eventually pass his City of York rival to take the B race in 17m30.2s.
In the 3000m steeplechase, Morpeth achieved another double victory, courtesy of Jake Masterman and Mark Snowball.
Masterman took the A race in 10m18.7s, which was a new lifetime personal best by a healthy 16 seconds. And although Snowball’s 10m31.9s was just a little bit adrift of his personal best, it was enough to see him take the B race.
Snowball also added more points to the Morpeth tally when finishing fourth in the 400 hurdles A race in 68.5s, and clubmate Oliver Bultitude made a more than satisfactory debut in the B race, placing third in 67.0s.
Morpeth Harriers also gained a good result in the men’s 1500m, where Balmbra finished second in the A race in 4m16.2s, and Karl Taylor was just behind him and won the B race in 4m18.2s.
Jordan Scott set new figures of 2m01.9s, when finishing fourth in the A race of the 800m, where Phil Winkler equalled his personal best from 2014, when taking second place in the B string in 2m00.2s.
In the 400m A race, Kenny Harrison posted a new personal best time of 55.8s when finishing fourth, and Winkler obliged again in the B race by finishing second in 53.9s.
Sean O’Hara finished third for Morpeth in the 100m A race in 11.6s, and second in the 200m in 22.9s.
Kenny Harrison was a good third in the B string 100m in 11.8s, and David Storey proved a winner in the B string 200m in 23.4s.
In the men’s track relays, Morpeth finished second in the 4 x 100m in 47.0s, courtesy of Storey, Harrison, David Thomas, and O’Hara, and in the 4 x 400m they finished third in 3m46.1s, courtesy of O’Hara, Winkler, Jordan Scott, and Taylor.
In the men’s field events, where for the first occasion due to work commitments Morpeth were able to call upon the services of Paul Appleby, in addition to regular throwers brother Steven, and newer recruit Craig Charlton.
Charlton provided Morpeth with their only men’s field A string win of the day in the shot putt, where he produced a best of 13.82m, which was 76cm clear of his closest rival Henry Fairclough of City of York. Steven Appleby’s 8.75m saw him finish second in the B string.
Charlton also performed well in the hammer, taking second in the A string by producing a lifetime personal best of 33.63m, which was just over two metres adrift of Skyrac winner Robert Russell. Paul Appleby finished as second B string with a best throw of 25.25m.
The two Appleby’s were the dual Morpeth force in the discus and javelin competitions.
Paul finished fourth in the discus A with 31.34m, and Steven threw 30.42m to finish as second B string.
In the javelin, Paul made a mark of 25.37m to finish as sixth in a very strong A competition, and Steven was fourth in the B string with 21.35m.
David Thomas was very much the Morpeth workhorse in the jump events.
He finished second in the A strings of the long and triple jumps, with respective bests of 5.68m and 12.76m, and fifth in the high jump with his clearance of 1.50m.
Morpeth B string support in the long and triple jump events came from senior debutant Oliver Bultitude, who won the long jump with a best of 4.42m, and finished second in the triple with 11.45m, two excellent debut efforts, and Jake Masterman cleared 1.40m for third place in the B string high jump.
Despite only having a total of eight athletes, including one debutant, Morpeth Harriers women managed to achieve some good performances to add to the club’s points tally.
Fresh from her midweek win in the Morpeth 10k, Emma Holt took on rigours of both the 1500m and 3000m events and won them both, posting respective times of 4m58.2s and 10m19.1s.
Giving excellent B string support in the 1500m for Morpeth was debutant Kate Seymour, who finished second in 5m51.2s.
Another Morpeth track winner was Josie Cram in the 800m, who after a late challenge on City of York’s Rebecca Wilkinson, went on to win in 2m18.3s.
Backing up Cram’s efforts in the B race for Morpeth was Abby Sheldon, who finished third in 2m31.7s.
Sheldon posted new figures of 66.5s when finishing third in the A string 400m, being well backed up in the B race by Seymour, who finished fourth in 68.7s.
Due to the absence of the usual Morpeth sprinters, Sheldon and Seymour gave their true support to the drive for vital points by lining up respectively in the 100m A and B races, finishing fifth and third in 14.6s and 15.1s.
Harriet Priest performed well in the 100m and 400m hurdle events for Morpeth, finishing third on both occasions, with respective clockings of 16.8s and 71.0s, the former being a new personal best.
Bekki Foster ran a superb 100m hurdle B race, winning in 18.7s.
In the women’s throws events, Claire Reid competed for Morpeth in all of the four competitions. She finished third in the A string hammer with 26.55m, second in the A string discus with 32.59m, second in the A string shot putt with 10.22m, and fourth in the B string javelin with 16.33m.
Reid is certainly to be admired for her service to her club, having to travel down from her Scottish home on each occasion for competition.
Bobbie Griffiths provided excellent B string support in the hammer, producing a personal best of 22.85m with the heavier implement to finish second.
Griffiths also gave excellent B string support in the discus, also placing second with her best throw of 26.39m.
However, she had her own moment of glory when she won the A competition of her more favoured javelin, producing a new personal best of 33.24m, with the heavier implement.
Abby Sheldon gave solid B string support in the shot putt for Morpeth, finishing fourth with a best of 5.22m.
Bekki Foster produced a new personal best of 4.03m, when finishing fifth in the A string long jump. She also finished third in the A string triple jump with 8.12m, tackling the event for the very first time.
Sheldon also showed her dedication to the quest for points when finishing fourth in the B string long jump with 3.49m, also tackling the event for the very first time.
To complete an excellent day’s work for the small band of Morpeth women athletes, Harriet Priest cleared 1.42m for second in the A string high jump, improving her own best by a whole centimetre.
Result (subject to scrutiny): 1st City of York 476.5pts; 2nd Morpeth Harriers 372; 3rd Gateshead Harriers 359; 4th Skyrac 356pts; 5th Wallsend/Blyth 245pts; 6th New Marske 219pts.