Athletes competing in Saturday’s annual English Schools Cross Country Championships, once again sponsored by running shoe specialist New Balance, faced probably what were the worst conditions of their long and hard season, at Temple Newsam, near Leeds.
Slight overnight snowfall, along with progressively strong winds, eventually gave way to incessant rainfall, with very little change occurring in the wind condition throughout, which certainly made life difficult for competitors and spectators alike.
Amongst the competitors, were no less than 17 from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers, all of them competing in the Gold and Red of Northumberland.
The county had to wait till the very last event of the day however, the Senior Boys 6.7k event, to witness both their best team achievement, and best individual achievement of the day.
Wallsend’s Sam Charlton won the event, making him not only the North East, but also the National, Inter Counties, and now the English Schools Champion, and he led Northumberland Senior Boys to fourth team place behind Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire.
Supporting Charlton in the Senior Boys team were two Morpeth Harriers, namely Ross Charlton, who literally ploughed his way through oceans of mud, to finish as second counter in 29th place, and Daniel Melling, who followed up the previous weeks superb Inter Counties performance by finishing as third scorer in 42nd place.
Another Morpeth Harrier competing in the Senior Boys event was Taylor Glover.
Taylor has had a very unfortunate time with injury during this year, and was not expected to line-up at all, however, he was very competitive under the circumstances, and less than welcome conditions, when finishing as seventh home for the county in 136th place, out of a total of 309 finishers on the course, that resembled not much more than an absolute quagmire to say the least after the six events that had negotiated it throughout the rain-soaked windy day.
The next best individual Morpeth Harrier performance came from Tom Balsdon, who literally ploughed his way through to finish an excellent 38th out of 331 finishing competitors, to lead Northumberland Intermediate Boys home in their 5.22k event to 20th team place.
Amongst the Northumberland scoring sextet were fellow Morpeth Harriers Rowan Bennett (133rd) (3rd Counter), Dylan Davies (160th) (5th Counter), who was celebrating his fifteenth birthday, and Ben Walker (234th) (6th Counter).
Davies achieved his placing with a great deal of hard work, as he had taken an unfortunate tumble at the start, resulting in him losing a great deal of places in the early stages.
Another Morpeth Harrier competing in this event was Ben Waterfield, who was seventh home from the county in 270th place.
Although definitely one of the lightweights on the extremely heavy course, Morpeth’s Abi Leiper produced an excellent run to finish 69th out of 353 finishers, and was second counter for Northumberland’s Junior Girls, who finished as 20th team in their 3k event.
Three Morpeth Harriers were in action in the Junior Boys 4.1k event for Northumberland.
Ryan Davies, younger brother of Dylan, performed well by finishing as fourth counter for a very competitive squad, who finished as eleventh team, led home by North Shields Poly’s Josh Blevins, who secured himself an individual Silver medal.
He possibly may have finished a lot higher, had his chip for timing not become dislodged during proceedings, resulting in him having to re-strap it appropriately before regaining race momentum.
Meanwhile, back with Davies, he finished 109th in a 343 strong finishing field that also included fellow Morpeth Harriers Sam Tate (265th), who closed the scoring six, and Joe Dixon (307th).
Three Morpeth Harriers lined up in the Senior Girls 4.1k event, amongst 315 finishers, who were experiencing a course, which one well-manicured, now resembled a muddy scene of attrition.
The Northumberland team led by Gosforth Harrier Rhian Purvis, who finished an individual 21st, included Morpeth’s Gracie Hufton, who had an excellent run to finish 136th, and was third counter, along with fellow clubmates Ella Duffield (211th) (4th Counter), and Kirsty Duffin (252nd) (7th Northumberland).
Two Morpeth Harriers lined up for Northumberland in the Intermediate Girls 3.7k Championship, which had a total finishing field of 341.
Rhiannon Hedley managed to work her way through to finish 269th and closed the scoring six for a squad which finished 33rd.
Morpeth’s Rebecca Bradley finished 284th as eighth home for the county.
At the end of the day, Northumberland Boys won their Group D league table, whilst the Girls finished second overall to Cumbria.
Full credit to Northumberland Team Manager Kevin Flannery and his willing bunch of assistants, who ensured that all went well for the squad, on the most difficult of days