Morpeth Harriers Senior Men missed out by a mere four points in their quest to retain their English Cross Country national team title at the weekend.
Morpeth won at Castle Donnington 12 months ago, but at Saturday’s annual Championships, held at Wallaton Park in Nottingham, the squad were forced to go into battle without Nick Swinburn, who had withdrawn at the last-minute with a form of food poisoning.
Parts of the 12k course very much resembled a quagmire, following on from the previous nine races of ten.
First to sample those testing conditions quite literally was Morpeth Harriers leading finisher Jonny Taylor, who at the end of his run, very much resembled a creature from the “Black Lagoon,” taking a tumble as early as the first short lap, which meant him having to complete the final three laps spewing out chunks of mud on his way to an excellent eighth place.
Taylor is certainly to be warmly commended for his individual tenacity in overcoming such difficult circumstances, as he led his club to a Silver medal placing, losing out to first time winners Tonbridge AC by those mere four points.
Joining a mud splattered Taylor on the podium were Carl Avery, who ran superbly to finish 18th, Peter Newton, in 25th place, Ady Whitwam 69th, and Ian Harding and Ross Floyd in 86th and 87th places respectively..
Just under 1800 competitors completed the Senior Men’s 12k event.
Because of illness and injury, only Emma Holt featured in the hotly contested Senior Women’s 8k Championship for Morpeth, run over two large laps.
The event had an outstanding yet surprising winner in Jessica Judd of Chelmsford, who took victory over Aldershot’s Louise Small by a margin of three seconds, with 2016 Silver medallist Claire Duck of Leeds City taking the Bronze.
For her part, Holt ran courageously to finish an excellent 24th.
Holly Peck was also a lone Morpeth runner in the U15 Girls 4k Championship, run over two small laps. Peck ran superbly throughout against tough opposition, and she came through well to finish 29th in a field of 426 finishers.
Harriers’ U17 Men had hoped to collect a set of team medals in their two lap 6k event. However, they were dealt a heavy blow by the late withdrawal of leading light Rory Leonard, and Alex Cunningham through illness.
Despite these disappointments however, they took seventh team placing. Morpeth’s leading finisher in this event was Kieran Hedley, in 54th in a total field of just over 300
Only two Morpeth Harriers managed to make the start line in the U15 Boys 4.5k race, run over one large lap.
Daniel Melling ran well to finish 76th in the field of 378, however North East Champion Daniel Dixon, despite feeling unwell in the days leading up to the event, bravely ran, but will be disappointed that he could only muster sufficient strength to finish 80th.
With a busy competitive period looming ahead of him, which includes the Inter Counties Championships, English Schools, and a possibility of a place in the Junior Men’s squad for the World Cross Country Championships, scheduled to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in Africa on 26th March, Morpeth Harriers Northern Champion Scott Beattie chose not to line up in his 10k Championship.
As a result of this, only Phillip Winkler and Jake Masterman faced the starter. Winkler got around to finish 95th, whilst Masterman, (minus a shoe lost on the first lap), bravely continued to eventually finish 155th.
Three Morpeth Harriers lined up in the U13 Boys 3k event First from the club was Ben Walker, who picked his way well through the crowded field to finish a very respectable 112th. Dylan davies was 128th and Ben Waterfield 332nd.
In the U13 Girls event Rhiannon Hedley finished 120th in a finishing field of 467.
Last but certainly not least competitively, Morpeth’s Gracie Hufton tested the fresh conditions well in the first event of the day, when she placed 147th out of 252 finishers in U17 Women’s event.