Morpeth Harriers’ Senior Men won team gold in their 12k contest in the annual Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships at a very muddy Pontefract Park Racecourse in Yorkshire on Saturday, writes George Patterson.
It was the culmination of a three-year climb up the medals table. In the same event in 2013, they won team bronze and last year won silver.
It was the first time that they had taken the title since 1998, when they had forged a 13-point marginal victory over second placed Bingley Harriers, with Sale Harriers taking third place, in Heaton Park in Manchester.
That day, they had been led home by Ian Hudspith, who had finished seventh, with further team support coming from Mark Hudspith (ninth), Terry Wall (11th), Steve Platts (16th), Alan Shepherd (19th), and Gary Woods (44th).
On Saturday they were led home to team glory by Nick Swinburn, who finished fifth, and for most of the three-lap affair, very much looked as if he may secure an individual medal in addition to the team medal, only missing out by a mere six seconds at the end of his effort.
Richard Morrell produced one of his best runs since joining the club from New Marske, when he finished an excellent 11th in what was clearly a top class field, to record the clubs second count.
Only two places and nine seconds adrift of Richard, was Morpeth Harriers third counter Lewis Timmins, who although didn’t quite repeat his bronze medal North Eastern Counties Championship performance, nevertheless showed much determination in achieving the best result for his club, and team mates.
Another excellent Morpeth Harriers performer was Carl Avery.
The extremely heavy muddy conditions very much suited the some times triathlete, as he came home in 16th place to secure the fourth Morpeth Harriers count.
Nathan Shrubb produced an excellent run to come home in 20th place overall, and the clubs nine second margin winning count was very secured, when a superb Ady Whitwam performance saw him finish in 26th place.
Second team place went to Stockport Harriers, who had the event winner in Andrew Davies, with reigning team Champions Leeds City taking third team place, being led home by fourth placed Derek Hawkins.
The Senior Men’s field totalled 697 finishers, with all of the Morpeth Harriers squad getting inside the top 300.
Other Morpeth Senior Men’s results were as follows:-
Ross Floyd (61st), Thomas Straughan (83rd), Ian Harding (127th), Neil Gunstone (224th), Paul Waterston (236th), and Rob Hancox (256th).
Morpeth Harriers unluckiest team performers on the day, were undoubtedly their U13 Boys, who all very much battled their way round their 3k event, to just lose out on team bronze by a mere 14 points.
An excellent performer was Ross Charlton, who led the very young squad home, by finishing a superb 12th individually, and only just over 15 seconds adrift of the individual medals himself.
Further good scoring counts came from Daniel Dixon (36th), Thomas Cunningham (43rd), and Sam Yates, who in his very first competitive run for the club, performed excellently to finish 101st, in a total finishing field of 189, that also included Morpeth Harriers Lewis Eke (132nd), and Bobby Stone (140th), both of them also running for the first time at this level.
Morpeth Harriers best individual performer on the day was undoubtedly Kieran Hedley, who only just missed out by a mere 10 seconds for a bronze medal in the U15 Boys 4k event, when he finished fourth just behind Yorkshire Champion Alfie Manthorpe of City of Sheffield.
Hedley led his clubs squad home to seventh team place, with further excellent supporting efforts coming from Taylor Glover (15th), Adam Shewry (79th), and Joe Dowd (97th).
Other Morpeth Harriers in the 171 strong field of U15 Boys finishers were Alex Cunningham (118th), Jamie Duguid (142nd), and Matthew Waterfield (143rd).
Morpeth Harriers young team of U13 Girls, combined superbly to finish as 17th team in their 3k event.
They were led home by North Eastern Counties silver medallist Holly Peck, who produced a truly excellent run in atrocious conditions to finish in 19th place individually, and six places, and seven seconds ahead of North East Champion Grace Varley of Gateshead.
Further Morpeth Harriers team support came from superb runs by Rhiannon Hedley (68th), Lily Heaton (109th), and Nicole Teasdale (167th), all of whom are a year young in their age group.
Morpeth’s Emma Holt and Josie Cram kept up their excellent winter form when finishing 12th and 51st respectively in their tough two lap 8k Senior Women’s event, which had a total of 341 finishers.
Unfortunately Morpeth Harriers could not mount a team challenge in this event, which was truly disappointing considering the leading efforts produced by Holt and Cram.
Lack of a fourth runner also deprived Morpeth of team success in the U17 Women’s 5.3k event, which saw competitors run in relatively fresh conditions, as it was the first race on the 10 event programme.
The course very soon cut up, however, and nevertheless Morpeth’s three competitors Charlotte Jewell, Abby Sheldon and Amber Cormack all battled their way round to finish in 47th, 54th, and 83rd places, in a total finishing field of 96 finishers.
This event was followed by the Junior Women’s 5.8k race, which saw Morpeth’s Alison Brown finish 44th in a field of 61 finishers.
Injuries and illness robbed Morpeth Harriers of the bulk of their U17 Men’s squad, and only Adam Gibbs and Jacob Hopkins toed the start line in their 5.8k Championship.
Gibbs finished in 55th place, and Hopkins finished 92nd in a total finishing field of 119.
In the Junior Men’s 8k Championship, Morpeth Harrier Sam Hancox competed well to finish 27th in a field of 67 finishers.
Northern Athletics and their hard working team of officials led by former Morpeth Harrier Steve Gaines, are to be congratulated on their combined efforts to stage the championships during very difficult weather conditions throughout the days leading up to them.
Morpeth Harriers Jonny Taylor and Ashley Gibson had to miss out on the Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships in Pontefract.
Instead they were representing Great Britain in the latest Lotto Cross Cup Race Series event, held in Hannut, Belgium on Sunday.
In the Men’s 10,000m event, Taylor finished seventh in a time of 33m45s, and was first Brit home.
The event was won by Ethiopian Dame Tasama in 32m52s.
Ashley meanwhile finished 16th, and as fourth Brit home in the Women’s 6,000m event, with a finishing time of 23m56s, behind event winner Louise Garton of the host country, who clocked 22m04s.
Despite overnight temperatures plummeting, the annual Northumberland Schools Cross Country Championships went ahead as planned at Temple Park Leisure Centre, South Shields on Tuesday, January 20.
By the time competition got underway at midday, underfoot conditions on the course had somewhat softened, which made the going relatively heavy in certain areas, and only the interconnecting paths gave cause for caution, as they still showed signs of icy patches.
Nevertheless the seven race programme was completed on time without major incident, and athletes from Morpeth Harriers, competing for their respective school areas were amongst the prominent finishers.
The club actually provided the event with no less than four gold medallists, and also three minor medallists to add to an excellent club effort all round.
Scott Beattie (North Tyneside) was one of the outstanding gold medal performers, as he inflicted a rare defeat upon Tynedale’s star athlete Max Pearson in the Intermediate Boys event.
Beattie produced a superb performance, when he caught Pearson with just less than half a mile to complete, and managed to edge slightly further ahead in the closing stages to win by a three second margin.
Another Morpeth Harrier to produce an outstanding performance in this age group was Kieran Hedley (North), who took the bronze medal.
Other prominent Intermediate Boy finishers from the Morpeth Harrier ranks were, Daniel Ord (East) (sixth), Jacob Hopkins (East) (eighth), Adam Shewry (East) (11th), and Cameron Kirk (East) (16th).
Nathan Cox of North Northumberland was another gold medallist, after overhauling early leader, Gateshead Harrier James Cripwell (Tynedale), to win by a margin of 13 seconds in the Senior Boys event.
Morpeth Harriers clubmate Adam Gibbs (North Tyneside) also ran well to take the bronze medal.
Phillip Winkler (North) and James Young (East) were other prominent finishers in this race from the club, after coming through to place an excellent fifth and ninth respectively.
A hat-trick of Morpeth Harriers male gold medals was achieved when Taylor Glover (East) won the Junior Boys event by 20 seconds from Tynedale’s Alex Wood, with his Morpeth clubmate Ross Charlton coming through to take an excellent bronze medal, a further 10 seconds adrift.
Not far behind Ross in sixth and seventh places respectively were clubmates Joe Dowd (East), and Daniel Dixon (East).
Another prominent finisher from Morpeth Harriers was Alex Cunningham (East), who finished 16th.
One of the biggest marginal gold medal victories on the day was achieved by Holly Peck (East), who won the Minor Girls event by 29 seconds.
Other prominent finishers from Morpeth Harriers were Lily Heaton (East) (ninth), and Nicole Teasdale (East) (24th).
Morpeth Harrier Abby Sheldon (North) produced an excellent run to finish sixth in the Intermediate Girls event.
Clubmate Lizzie Rank (East), finished in 17th place.
In the Senior Girls event, Alison Brown (North), was the first Morpeth Harriers finisher, when she finished seventh.
She was followed home in quick succession by clubmates Emma James (East) (eighth), Charlotte Jewell (East) (ninth), and Louise Brett (East) (10th).
Further down the field in 17th and 19th places respectively were Alice Kelly (East), and Beth Woolley (East).
Thomas Cunningham (East) of Morpeth Harriers, produced a good performance to finish eighth in the Minor Boys event.
In the Junior Girls event, Kate Seymour (East) finished in 12th place.
Further Morpeth Harriers results are as follows :-
Minor boys: Matthew Heslop (East) (22nd), Finlay Deakin (North) (65th).
Junior boys: Connor Marshall (East) (32nd), Elliot Cowie (East) (33rd), Daniel Melling (Newcastle) (34th), Matthew Waterfield (East) (40th), Jordan Hedgecock (North) (52nd), Cameron Dick (East) (53rd), Lewis Eke (East) (73rd).
Intermediate boys: Will Kelly (North Tyneside) (30th), Jamie Duguid (East) (32nd), Patrick Smith (East) (48th).
Senior boys: Tom Metcalfe (East) (32nd).
Junior girls: Gracie Hufton (East) (27th), Monet Wendt (East) (31st), Harriet Priest (East) (32nd), Eire Marshall (East) (56th).
Intermediate girls: Lois Scott (East) (35th).
(Since this event, unfortunately Will Kelly has suffered a broken leg, and all of his colleagues at Morpeth Harriers offer their sincerest and best wishes for a speedy recovery).
Morpeth Harriers sprint supremo Jack Hepple had his first outing of the winter season on Thursday, January 22, when he competed at the final Gateshead College Indoor meeting.
Hepple ran two races in the Senior Men’s 60m, where he ran identical best times of 7.03s, making him the fastest performer on view over the two events.
Club colleague Daniel Moore also competed, and he clocked a best of 7.30s, making him third fastest.
In the U20 Men’s section, Morpeth Harrier Henrik Paulsen clocked a best of 8.14s, making him eighth fastest overall.