NEARLY 900 runners took part in Saturday’s 108th North East Counties Cross Country Championships, held at a cold and windy Temple Park Leisure Centre, South Shields, with the Senior Men’s 12.4k and Senior Women’s 8.41k events attracting near-record fields, writes George Patterson.
The last time that numbers had reached such heights was in 2011, when the 2010 Championships were held in the January, again at Temple Park, because of severe snowfall in December.
The nine-race programme commenced at 11am with the U13 Boys’ 3.1k event and it brought Morpeth Harriers the first of the eventual three sets of team medals that they were to win on the day.
Ironically, the club won only one individual medal, however, they were to experience a few near misses on that score.
The individual medal was won by Nathan Cox, who also had the added pleasure of leading his clubs U17 Men’s squad to a most welcome team gold.
Cox took his time to establish his lead in their 6.1k two-lap event; however, he chose his moment well to stride away to a well-earned victory over Birtley’s Tom Goulding.
His winning margin was 15 seconds and he was well supported in the team victory by Elliot Kelly, who came through excellently to finish seventh, and Phillip Winkler, who looks to be nearing his better form with his ninth placing.
Cox, Kelly and Winkler also look likely candidates to be considered by the selectors for the North East team to compete at the Inter Counties in Birmingham in March.
Morpeth Harriers other runner in this event was Joe Elder, who finished in 28th place.
Unfortunately Ryan Green had been forced out of the event with illness.
Second and third team places went to Gateshead Harriers and Tynedale.
Team gold was also celebrated by Morpeth Harriers Senior Men in their three lap 12.4k event, who had no fewer than 11 runners within the top 30 finishers, and their scoring six in the top 10.
What is most amazing is that the club just didn’t manage to land an individual medal in the event which they dominated.
Leading the Morpeth charge was Olympian Nick McCormick, who was having his first cross country outing in two years, and he was certainly the closest to a medal, just being pipped by Wallsend’s Yared Hagos by a mere two seconds.
Ethiopian Hagos had certainly been desperate to claim a medal, having seen his chances of gold and silver dashed by Dan Garbutt of Durham City, and Stockport’s Jack Martin, formerly with Sunderland Harriers.
Whilst McCormick was disappointed not to claim an individual medal, he was delighted to lead his club to a superb team victory, with excellent support coming from Nick Swinburn (fifth), Peter Newton (sixth), Lewis Timmins (seventh), Richard Morrell (eighth), and Matthew Nicholson (10th).
Outside the counters, the event also saw good runs by Karl Taylor (15th), Jordan Scott (16th), Andrew Lawrence (23rd), and Thomas Straughan (24th).
Ross Floyd unfortunately felt a little under par when he finished 28th.
Other Morpeth Harriers Senior Men competing were Mick Thomsen (48th), Paul Waterston (50th), and Rob Hancox (117th).
Unfortunately one of Morpeth Harriers key runners Ryan Stephenson was forced to pull out near the end of the first lap, as he slipped and collided with a marker post, which caused a muscle strain.
Morpeth Harriers Senior Mens team manager could feel very happy with his charges following this performance, and they look well on course to defend their English National Cross Country title in February.
Several members of the squad will also be under consideration for the Inter Counties following these performances.
Runners up in the Senior Mens team race were Gateshead Harriers, with the bronze medals going to Durham City, led home by winner Garbutt.
A particularly pleasing result on the day for Morpeth Harriers was the silver team medals achieved by their U13 Boys squad in their 3k event, who were unfortunately minus the services of one of their leading lights Alex Cunningham, due to illness.
They were led home by a very much man in-form Joe Dowd, who very nearly helped himself to an individual bronze medal, when he finished fourth, just losing out by a mere two seconds at the finish line.
Joe was well supported in the Morpeth Harriers team effort by Will Sibson (eighth), and Cameron Dick (22nd).
Just outside the scoring three was Matthew Waterfield, who finished in 24th place.
Other finishers for Morpeth Harriers in this event were Ross Charlton (38th), and Josh Nelson (50th), who did well in his first competitive outing for the club.
First team place went to Middlesbrough (Mandale).
The combined U17/U20 Womens 4.7k event saw Morpeth Harriers finish as fifth team.
Having no U20 athletes making the start line, the clubs three scoring U17s did well against some older rivals.
Leading them home was Alison Brown, who ran well to finish 14th overall, and was seventh in her age group.
Charlotte Jewell and Amber Cormack completed the Morpeth Harriers scoring count when finishing in 23rd and 25th places respectively, and 13th and 14th in their age group.
The U15 Girls 3.9k event saw Morpeth Harriers finish as seventh team.
They were led home by Abby Sheldon, who having joined the club earlier this year was competing in her very first Cross Country Championship.
Abby did well to finish 17th in a total finishing field of 43 runners.
Lizzie Rank (21st), and Georgia Priest (43rd) completed the Morpeth Harriers scoring count.
Eighth team place was achieved by Morpeth Harriers U13 Girls in their 3.1k event.
Leading them home was Kate Seymour, who battled well throughout to finish in 12th place.
In her very first Championship, and running a year young to most of her rivals, Holly Peck ran well and solidly to finish an excellent 27th in a field of 70 finishers, to be her clubs second counter.
Completing the scoring count was Harriet Priest, who finished 65th.
Unfortunately the club were shorn of the services of Ailsa Jones (family bereavement), otherwise this age group would have probably finished higher in the team results.
This factor also ruled out Ailsa’s elder brother Euan, who would have competed in the U15 Boys 3.9k event, where Morpeth were already somewhat weakened by the loss of Kieran Hedley, who unfortunately had to once again surrender to a most troublesome heel injury.
Morpeth Harriers did eventually come through to finish in 10th team place.
They were led home by Jacob Hopkins, who by his own admission had a below par run when finishing in 20th place in a 49 strong field of finishers.
Further team support came from Adam Shewry (31st), and Samuel Williams (42nd).
Morpeth Harriers Senior Women finished in 11th team place in their 8.4k event.
They were led home by Emma Holt, who finished just outside the individual medals in fourth place.
The other scoring counts came from Kate Chapman (60th), and Gwenda Cavill (80th).
Morpeth Harriers other finisher in this event was Claire Bruce, who was 104th.
A very late withdrawal rendered the Morpeth Harriers U20 Mens squad incomplete, and this was the only age group where the club failed to score.
Had they managed to muster a third runner the club could have possibly gained more team medals in their 8.41k event, because the two who ran, Sam Hancox and Phil Caldwell finished well in 12th and 16th places respectively.
MONGOLIA’S Morpeth Harrier Serod Bat Ochir ran 2hrs09mins00, a new pb, and new club record, to win his third Hofu Yomiuri Marathon title in Japan on Sunday, December 15.
He ran side-by-side in a duel with Japanese civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi until 32 km, before kicking away for the win in his first-ever sub-2hrs10mins Marathon.
In his 11th marathon of 2013 Kawauchi finished in 2hrs09mins15secs for second.
THERE was an interesting note of significance attached to the certificate presentation to the latest Morpeth Harriers Benfield Motor Group Athlete of the Month for November, held at their clubhouse on Mitford Road, Morpeth, on Monday, December 9.
It was because the presentation was made by the clubs oldest member, Ernie Slaughter, to one of the clubs youngest members Will Sibson.
Slaughter, an honorary life member, first joined the club in 1947, one year after its formation, and Sibson only joined in the late summer, and he received his award for his winning performance at the Heaton Road Races, where he also led the clubs U13 Boys to a handsome team victory.
Indeed he has slotted in well at the club since his arrival, and has helped make his club a most formidable force in his age group, a factor which has been welcomed by his clubmates.
Will is pictured (left) receiving his award from Ernie, who was making a chance visit to the clubhouse, and felt honoured to be called upon to make the presentation to one of the clubs young hopefuls.
PRE race entries for the annual Benfield Motor Group sponsored Morpeth Road Race, run over a course of an approximately 11k distance on Wednesday, January 1, have now closed.
Entry on the day is available from 11.30am at Race Headquarters (Morpeth Rugby Club), where numbers for pre entered athletes are also to be issued.
Late entry fees are £8 club runners, and £10 non club runners, and there is still eligibility for prizes.
All entrants must be at least 17 years old on the day.
So why not make an energetic start to 2014, and come racing in Morpeth and picturesque rural Northumberland.
In case of bad weather conditions, please check for updates on Morpeth Harrier’s website – www.morpethharriers.freeservers.com