Some excellent performances saw Morpeth Harriers emerge as the region’s sole medallists at the Northern Athletics Road Relays, held at Stanley Park, Blackpool.
The club’s best performers on the day were their under-13 girls, who, following three excellent legs that saw them remain within the top three, eventually came through, courtesy of an energised Holly Peck on the final third leg, to grab silver medals.
Peck’s second fastest time of the leg of 12m11s over the 3.2k course was enough to give them nearly a minute of daylight over third-placed Keighley and Craven, who had led throughout the first two legs but slipped back when it mattered.
Holly’s time was seventh fastest of the day, but she was just unable to get to level terms with the Salford Harriers runner in front of her as she only lost out on gold by a margin of 25 seconds.
Lily Heaton, on first leg for Morpeth, undoubtedly had the club’s run of the day, clocking 12m04s on the first leg, the fourth fastest overall, which speaks volumes about her performance improvement.
Rhiannon Hedley produced a very stable performance on the second leg to hold on to third place with her clocking of 12m58s.
The efforts of this squad on the day were warmly applauded by their coach and team manager, Mike Bateman.
Another Morpeth team manager in high spirits after his squad’s performance was David Swinburne, whose army of senior men ended up winning bronze medals behind Derby AC and Liverpool Harriers.
Derby AC had led for five of the six legs, but Morpeth had a running battle throughout with the Merseysiders for the minor placings, and an early challenge also from Salford in the medal quest was carefully extinguished.
Morpeth Harriers A team began their challenge courtesy of Lewis Timmins on leg one, finishing 10th in 20m33s.
Ironically, at that stage, he was two places and five seconds behind the Morpeth B team first-leg runner Ryan Stephenson, who put in an excellent effort.
Morpeth A team second-leg runner Ross Floyd re-addressed the situation as he got by his B team colleague Karl Taylor. Floyd’s 20m46s for the 6k course took him up to eighth place, while Taylor’s 21m02s saw him drop one place to ninth.
The Morpeth A team, however, on third leg, courtesy of Carl Avery’s excellent 19m53s, got up to third place, a position they were to hold over the final three legs. Avery’s clocking was easily the fastest over the leg and also ninth fastest overall on the day.
Meanwhile, Sam Hancox’s excellent 21m05s on the third leg for the Morpeth B team, saw them maintain ninth place. The final three legs for the Morpeth A team saw excellent performances being achieved by Thomas Straughan (20m34s), Ady Whitwam (20m42s), and Ian Hudspith (19m38s).
Ian was very unlucky not to snatch silver, finishing only a second adrift of Liverpool Harrier Harry Harper in a nailbiting finale. They were also only 42 seconds adrift of winners Derby AC.
The nearest rivals behind the Morpeth A team were Sale Harriers, who were 49 seconds adrift in fourth place.
Meanwhile, the Morpeth Harriers men’s B team continued their fight by finishing 28th in 2hrs 14m 20s, and they were fourth B team.
Further performances of note came from Elliot Kelly (22m30s), Steve Haswell (26m00s) and David Swinburne (23m15s).
To gain qualification for the National 6 Stage Road Relays, to be held at Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield, on Saturday, October 3, clubs had to finish within the top 25.
On that basis, Morpeth Harriers will be joined in that competition by North East rivals Gateshead Harriers, who finished 10th, and Tyne Bridge, who were 22nd.
Morpeth Harriers’ under-17 men finished an excellent seventh in their 3 x 3.2k relay, no doubt boosted by the performance of final-leg runner Scott Beattie, whose 11m39s was not only the fastest of the leg but also the fastest of the day by a 10-second margin.
Jacob Hopkins had the squad in 27th place on leg one with his clocking of 13m27s, but Kieran Hedley, already having witnessed his younger sister’s medal-winning efforts, ran well to climb a further 11 places on the second leg, his clocking of 12m18s proving to be the third fastest of the leg.
It was then left to Beattie to provide the final-leg flourish, and he certainly carried out his duties to the letter.
Morpeth Harriers had two squads who lined up to face the starter in the under-15 Boys 3 x 3.2k event.
The club’s A team finished 13th, and the B team finished 31st. Ross Charlton had the A team in 26th place in 11m13s as he handed over the reins to Joe Dowd, who managed to climb an excellent nine places, as he got round his leg in 11m15s, the 11th fastest overall on the leg.
Third and final-leg runner Connor Marshall also produced an excellent run of 11m18s to gain a further four places.
The Morpeth under-15 boys’ B team had Daniel Melling on lead-off leg, and he managed a clocking of 12m08s, as he came home in 37th place.
Second leg saw Matthew Waterfield improve by four places as he got round the course in 12m24s. Final-leg runner Sam Bradley took the squad home to 31st spot, with his clocking of 13m19s.
Morpeth’s very young and relatively inexperienced under-13 boys’ squad produced some excellent performances collectively to get a final placing of 16th in their 3x3.2k event. Andrew Hudspith ran a superb first leg of 11m53s, to come home in 20th place.
Dylan Davies improved by two places on the second leg with his clocking of 12m19s.
Ben Walker gained a further two places on the third and final leg, when he clocked 12m24s.