Recent rainfall made running conditions extremely heavy for all competitors who took part in the fifth and penultimate NE Harrier League Meeting, held at Thornley Hall Farm, near Peterlee, County Durham on Saturday.
Amongst those hardy competitors were athletes from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers, who on the day between them, managed to pull off three individual victories, and two team wins, along with a good number of highly placed individual and team performances.
Although there were a few names missing from the various line ups, those who did take part on the day, are certainly to be praised for their efforts.
Led by Karl Taylor, who used his Slow Pack advantage to ease away from the chasing field of just over 400 runners, to win the Senior Men’s event, Morpeth Harriers won the on the day team race in Division 1 for the third occasion this season, and now have a six point cushion over second placed Tyne Bridge Harriers, with one fixture remaining at Alnwick, at the beginning of next month.
Supporting Taylor in the Morpeth victory was Andrew Hebden, having his first Morpeth Harrier League outing, having previously run for Heaton Harriers.
Hebden, also used his Slow Pack start to finish fourth, with further good support coming from Jordan Scott (14th) (Fast Pack), Will Clark (15th) (Medium Pack), his second time as a club scorer, Kris White (78th) (Slow Pack), having his first ever run in a Morpeth Vest, and Richard Castledine (84th) (Fast Pack), who closed the clubs scoring account with an excellent battling individual performance.
Although outside the scoring six, three other Morpeth Harriers Senior Men, also battled their way through the testing conditions to produce good performances.
Thomas Innes was the first of these, finishing 125th from the Fast Pack.
Another Morpeth Senior Man making his club debut was Steven Major, who finished 234th from the Slow Pack. Paul Bellingham finished exactly forty places behind Major, running also from the Slow Pack.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Women maintained their lead in Division 1 of their competition, by finishing third on the day behind Elvet Striders, and South Shields Harriers.
Elvet have now leapfrogged over Tyne Bridge Harriers for second place, who could only finish a lowly eighth on the day.
Morpeth were led home by Emma Holt, who also was having her third Harrier League victory of the season, having previously won at Wrekenton and Druridge, which guarantees her the Senior Women’s Grand Prix title for the second year in succession.
Holt won by a twenty-one second margin over her club colleague Jane Hodgson, who also has a hundred percent record this season, having finished as first Veteran Woman on all four previous Harrier League meetings, and will now also undoubtedly retain the individual crown that she won last year.
Further Morpeth Senior Women’s team support on the day came from superb runs by Alison Brown (42nd) (Fast Pack), and Gwenda Cavill (77th) (Medium Pack).
Going into next month’s final fixture at Alnwick, only Elvet pose a realistic threat to Morpeth for the Senior Women’s Division 1 team title, however, they are still five points adrift.
On paper, an absolute disaster would seem to be able to prevent a Morpeth success, however they will have to reckon without leading light Holt on this occasion, as she will be unavailable.
Another team title very much looking to come to Morpeth, is in the U17 Men. On Saturday the club enjoyed their fourth win of the season in this age group, led by Northern and Regional Champion Rory Leonard, who on his first ever visit to Thornley, won with eighty-five seconds to spare over fellow Fast Pack athlete Charlie McMillan of Gateshead Harriers.
The Morpeth winning team count was completed by third and fourth placed Taylor Glover and Daniel Melling, who were also running from the Fast Pack.
Three fit men standing should see the title won at Alnwick in the final fixture.
Morpeth very nearly had their fourth individual winner on Saturday, in the Under 15 Boys event.
Running from the Fast Pack Tom Bailsdon chased Houghton athlete Will Bellamy all the way to the finish line, only to lose out by a mere ten seconds.
Morpeth finished second to Durham City Harriers in the on the day team race, with further team support coming from excellent runs by Alex Porteous (9th) (Slow Pack), and Ben Walker (20th) (Fast Pack).
Other Morpeth performers in this age group were Andrew Hudspith (25th) (Fast Pack), and Jack Findlayson (28th) (Slow Pack).
Although Durham City won on the day by eight points, Morpeth still hold a one-point lead over them cumulatively going into the final fixture, which means that another team title is all to play for.
Unfortunately, a low finishing placing of eighth on the day may have scuppered any chance of Morpeth’s Under 13 Boys figuring in any team challenge that may arise.
Following Saturday’s performance, they lie in third place, four points behind Blackhill, and one point adrift of Gateshead Harriers. Prior to Saturday they had a slender lead, however their closest rivals were much stronger.
Nevertheless, the runs of Joseph Hudspith (24th) (Fast Pack), Ryan Davies (27th) (Fast Pack), and Callum Rowell (39th) (Fast Pack), did bring some valuable points to the table.
In the Under 15 Girls event, Morpeth for once were minus Holly Peck, who is currently nursing a neck problem, however her club colleague Lily Heaton finished 20th from the Fast Pack.
Sam Dent and Ashton Glover competed in the non-scoring Under 11 Boys event, finishing in 12th and 39th places respectively.