It was certainly an excellent day competitively for the region’s clubs’, including Morpeth Harriers, at the annual Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships, at Harewood Hall near Leeds.
Amongst the superb North East performances, Morpeth Harriers won three individual titles, the first time in 21 years that they had achieved such a feat, the last being at Meadowfield, Co Durham in 1997.
On Saturday Carl Avery (Senior Men), Mhairi MacLennan (Senior Women), and Rory Leonard (Under 17 Men), could all collectively hold their heads high, as they won their respective gold medals.
Avery ran a superb race all throughout the longest event of the day, the Senior Men’s 12k.
He was always at the front of affairs, sharing the early exchanges with Lincolnshire Champion Matthew Bowser, with Hallamshire’s Steven Bayton, and Sale Harriers pair Jamie Roden and Nigel Martin always in close attendance.
However, the second lap presented a very much different picture, as the sheer determination of both Bowser and Avery took them away from their rivals, with Bowser taking a lead on the uphill’s, whilst Avery went to the front on any downhill stretches.
Eventually Avery used one of those rare downhills to break Bowser, and he managed to loosen the shackles to record a four second margin, posting 39m50s, becoming ther first Morpeth Senior Man to land the title.
In on the day team affairs, Morpeth Harriers Senior Men finished fifth, and were first from the region, with supporting counts coming from Lewis Timmins (26th), Sam Hancox (40th), Chris Smith (56th), Thomas Straughan (85th), and Philip Winkler (85th).
Any hopes of Leeds AC’s Claire Duck pulling off a unique hat-trick of successive victories in the Senior Women’s 8k event, were well and truly flattened by the excellent performance produced by Morpeth’s Mhairi Maclennan, who also became the first Woman from the club to take a Northern Senior title.
After running in a strong front running group of eight, MacLennan eventually broke clear in the final quarter, to record an 18 seconds victory in 30m50s.
Meanwhile, Howarth resigned herself to second place, whilst Taylor-Brown fended off closer opposition to take a much-prized bronze.
Morpeth Women finished eighth overall, and were first from the NE.MacLennan was supported in the team race by Emma Holt (16th), Jane Hodgson (17th), and Alison Brown (185th).
The Cross-Country season continues well for Morpeth Harriers U17 Men’s North East Counties Cross Country Champion Rory Leonard.
To add to his recent achievements, which included a Northumberland Schools Senior Boys title, he certainly went one better on Saturday, when he won his first ever Northern Cross-Country title, after a personal battle for supremacy with City of York’s 2017 U15 Boys Champion Josh Dickinson, and Ilkley’s Euan Brennan also in close attendance.
Leonard certainly played a waiting game, and recorded a comfortable 12 second victory in 20m05s.
In the U17 Men’s team race, Morpeth Harriers came very close to adding more gold medals to their tally, however were just thwarted by Middlesbrough AC.
Further support in the Morpeth team count came from Daniel Melling, who produced a superb run to finish 26th, and fifth from the North East Counties, Taylor Glover (29th)and Ross Charlton (34th).
Morpeth Harriers only other team performance came from their U15 Boys, who managed to finish 12th in their single lap 4k event.
They were led home by Euan Duffin, who finished 49th, with Thomas Cunningham (57th), Tom Balsdon (78th), and Dylan Davies (83rd).
One of the finest non-medalling Morpeth performances on the day was produced by U15 Girl Holly Peck, who ran a very satisfactory personal race to finish tenth, and was first home from the region, finishing one place and seven seconds ahead of Chester Le Street rival Emily Chong.
Another good lone Morpeth performance came from Gracie Hufton, who was 40th in the U17 Women’s event out of 93 finishers.
Lack of a fourth counter denied Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Boys squad a team placing in their single lap 3k event. However, the race did see one of the finest individual younger age performances from the club in the form of Sam Tate, who finished an excellent 23rd in a 252-strong finishing field and was less than a minute behind the race winner.