AN excellent turnout, linked with some equally fine performances from the male athletes of Morpeth Harriers, brought about its first cross-country success of the season on Saturday, writes George Patterson.
The club won the Sherman Cup, held at the new venue of Hedley Farm, Tanfield, County Durham.
The athletes were very quick to heap praise on the organisers for their choice of venue for the North Eastern Counties Harrier League to hold its opening fixture, once again sponsored by Start Fitness.
None more so than Morpeth Harrier Nick Swinburn, who, running in what could easily be termed his own back garden, as the land is owned by his father, convincingly won the senior men’s event by a margin of 34 seconds from Elswick Harrier Tadele Geremew, recent winner of the Blaydon Race, the Morpeth 10k and numerous other major races in the region.
Obviously oozing with confidence and knowing every blade of grass beneath his feet, Swinburn stole away in the warm autumn sunshine as early as the end of the second of three laps and, from there, was never troubled.
He took the Senior Men’s Sherman Cup individual Gold Medal with more than a little pride.
Twenty seconds behind Geremew in third place was Swinburn’s club colleague Karl Taylor, who had one of his best runs so far in a Morpeth vest, despite almost losing a shoe in the early stages, and more than fully deserved his individual bronze medal for his efforts.
Morpeth Harriers were easy winners of the Senior Men’s team race, ahead of Gateshead Harriers and Sunderland Harriers, and this was further confirmed when Ross Floyd finished an excellent fifth to close their team score.
Not far behind Ross in eighth place was Michael Dawson, who produced a superb run, and not far behind him was Jordan Scott in 12th spot.
The club’s other Senior Men’s performances came from James Taylor (45th), Mick Thomsen (46th), Sam Hancox (60th), and Tony Holt, making his club debut, finishing in 154th place.
Morpeth Harriers also did well in the Veteran Men’s section (now scored separately), finishing sixth behind Tyne Bridge Harriers.
They were led home by Fergus Bates, who finished 26th overall, and was seventh Veteran Male.
He was supported in the team by Rob Hancox (60th, 24th Veteran Male) and Jim Alder (108th, 46th Veteran Male).
Morpeth Harriers other Veteran Male finisher was Peter Scaife who finished in 176th place overall.
The club’s next best male performance belonged to the Under 15 Boys, who had a seven-point victory over Sunderland Harriers.
This was indeed a bonus, as the club were forced to reckon without the services of Kieran Hedley (away on a family visit). However, Jacob Hopkins produced one of the runs of the day to finish eighth, to lead them home, with excellent supporting runs coming from Euan Jones (12th) and Adam Shewry (18th).
One place behind Adam, came clubmate Josh Burton, who also produced a superb run.
Lewis James also produced an excellent run to finish in 34th place.
Morpeth Harriers band of young Under 13 Boys very nearly pulled off a team victory in their event, just losing out to Low Fell Running Club by the margin of two points.
They were led home by the ever-improving Alex Cunningham who finished in ninth place, and was only 15 seconds adrift of an individual medal, such was the close proximity of the leading athletes.
Cunningham was further well supported in the team effort by newcomer Will Sibson, who had a superb run to finish 11th, and only a further two seconds adrift, and Matthew Waterfield, who did well to finish 13th.
Not far behind Waterfield was club colleague Joe Dowd, normally a sprinter, who was 14th.
Other good placings in the Under 13 Boys’ squad came from Ross Charlton (19th) and Matthew Dodds (28th). Robbie Dunlop, also making his debut, will take great experience from finishing 44th.
Morpeth Harriers Under 17 Men also added to their club’s successful Sherman Cup tally when they finished as second team to Gateshead Harriers.
Without key runners Ryan Green and Phillip Winkler, the remaining squad of Adam Weightman (7th), Elliot Kelly (10th), Jarod Lewis (15th) and Joe Elder (21st) did well to achieve a good result all round and their overall spirit is to be commended.
This squad really promise to deliver rich dividends upon the return of Green and Winkler, if they can achieve this result without them.
The combined efforts of wins by the Senior Men and Under 15 Boys, along with second places achieved by the Under 13 Boys and Under 17 Men, linked with sixth by the Veteran Men, saw Morpeth Harriers claim Sherman Cup victory ahead of second-placed Sunderland Harriers and third-placed Durham City, with Gateshead Harriers coming fourth.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the club’s female athletes, who could only finish as a team in three of the five age group races on offer.
The club’s best individual women’s performer was Emma Holt, who fully earned her silver medal in the senior event when finishing second to Jarrow and Hebburn’s Alex Snook, losing out by a 27-second margin over the two-lap event.
Morpeth Harriers’ only other Senior Women’s athlete to compete was Kate Chapman, who finished 41st overall.
The club did, however, have the three required athletes finishing in the Veteran Women’s section.
They were led home by Shuna Rank, who was 89th overall, and 57th Veteran Woman.
Shuna was supported by Claire Bruce (95th, 61st Veteran Woman) and Clare Walker (138th, 93rd Veteran Woman).
Morpeth Harriers’ best women’s result came from their Under 17s, who very nearly won, finishing only one point adrift of winners Birtley.
They were led home by Charlotte Jewell, who looks very much at home on the cross-country surfaces and she can feel well pleased with her placing of sixth.
One place behind Charlotte came her Morpeth Harriers clubmate Amber Cormack, who also performed well.
Hannah Sheerin worked feverishly throughout, to finish an excellent 10th to close the Morpeth team count.
Kate Seymour produced an excellent individual performance to finish seventh in the Under 13 Girls’ event, and led her club to seventh team place, courtesy of added team supporting runs from Harriet Priest (24th) and Ailsa Jones, who despite feeling unwell during the event, carried on bravely to finish 51st, after having to stop twice or thrice to draw breath during proceedings.
Unfortunately, after promised turnouts Morpeth Harriers, could only manage to field two athletes in the Under 15 Girls’ event.
In her very first Harrier League event, Abby Sheldon produced an excellent run to finish 10th.
Hannah Rank, who is not at her best at the moment, to her credit performed well to finish 17th.
If some of the club’s female athletes had turned out as promised, there may well have also been medals to show in this section for achievements, as they finished fourth on the day, but not very far adrift of leading opposition.
In the non-scoring Under 11 Boys’ and Girls’ event that accompanied the Sherman Cup and Davison Shield competition, Morpeth Harriers Thomas Cunningham and Bobby Stone had superb runs to finish sixth and eighth respectively.
On a closing note, thanks must go to Mr Swinburn for the use of his excellent land for the event and there is no doubt that the venue will be used at some date, with the promise of some additional facilities being provided.
• Ian Harding of Morpeth Harriers finished third in Sunday’s Redcar Half-Marathon in a time of 70m55s.