Morpeth Harriers U17s strike gold at cross-country relay

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The 33rd running of the annual Leeds Abbey Dash saw over 8,000 athletes gathered in the centre of the city once again to pound the streets of the city of Leeds and, among them, inevitably, a good sprinkling of Morpeth vests.

This year’s race again included an inter-area match with athletes drawn from all round the UK and also included the combined armed services championships, with athletes representing the Army, the Navy and the RAF.

The 2018 Dash was won by Adam Craig of Inverclyde and Scotland in a time of 29 minutes and 8 seconds, with Sunderland lad Jack Martin, now representing Stockport, in second (29m 27s) and Lucian Allison of Lincoln Wellington in third (29m 33s).

In the women’s race, Morpeth’s Mhairi Maclennan, representing the Scotland team, was narrowly second in a time of 33m 36s to Fionnuala Ross of Shettleston, whose winning time was only some six seconds faster. It was, nevertheless, a personal-best time on the roads for Maclennan, who, while disappointed to be beaten into second place, was pleased overall with her run.

First Morpeth Harrier home on the day was U17 athlete Daniel Dixon who, in his first ever outing over the distance, managed to finish under the 32-minute mark in a time of 31 minutes 57 seconds for 72nd place, with Andrew Lawrence, who regularly targets the race, just missing out on the top 100 (106th, in fact) next in 32m 40s.

Having a good run behind them was Leeds University-based Philip Winkler (155th in 33m 26s), with Ali Douglas, who had opted for a very early start from the North-East rather than an overnight stay, 178th in 33m 49s.

Three Harriers from the Chris Waugh stable recorded personal bests on the day: Richard Johnson (231st in 34m 51s), Tom Innes (256th in 35m 8s) and Andrew Hebden (329th in 36m 5s).

* Morpeth Harriers were one of only two Northern clubs who secured gold medals at the annual English Cross-Country Association National Cross-Country Relays, which were held at Berry Hill Park, Mansfield, on Saturday.

On Saturday, disappointingly, Morpeth had no females in action, with most of their younger athlete absentees being brought about by the half-term holiday.

However, there were some successes in the male events, with the major highlight being the gold team medals secured by the club’s Junior Men.

It also brought a first national medal to Alex Brown, a summer signing from Houghton Harriers, who eventually fought his way through a crowded first leg field to finish an excellent 11th, and only 26 seconds adrift of early leaders Birchfield. He was only 14 seconds adrift of early bronze medal placers Middlesbrough AC.

Brown handed over to Morpeth’s second-leg runner Taylor Glover, who very quickly set about making ground on those in front of him. His run took him up into eighth place, only a few seconds adrift of the fifth, sixth and seventh placers.

These were quickly devoured by final-leg runner Rory Leonard, however, the Morpeth man certainly had his work cut out ahead of him, as Birchfield and fellow Northerners Liverpool AC had kept up their race-long battle for supremacy.

As the field emerged from the wooded area at the top of the course, the position had changed somewhat, as Tonbridge’s 2017 U17 National Cross-Country Champion James Puxty had grabbed the lead, and Leonard, and Cambridge & Coleridge’s Tom Keen were seen to be chasing strongly.

Leonard, however, was not to be denied and the Morpeth man certainly got something else out of himself, as he literally ripped past Puxty as if he wasn’t there, to claim a 10- second margin victory for his club and a handsome set of gold medals.

With Keen bearing down on him at a fast rate of knots, Puxty just managed to claim silver for Tonbridge by two seconds, with Keen having to settle for the bronze.

As Brown celebrated his first national medal, it was a second piece of glory for Leonard and Glover, who had been bronze medal team members in Morpeth’s U17 Men’s team 12 months previous.

A full round-up of Morpeth results is available on the club website.