Victories inspired by Castle backdrop in league

Saturday’s fifth and penultimate Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League meeting, held at The Pastures and featuring the spectacular backdrop of Alnwick Castle, saw truly excellent performances by athletes from Morpeth Harriers, writes George Patterson.

It brought no less than three on the day team victories, and some excellent individual efforts, which also included four fastest times.

Thankfully the weather very much played its part, and despite a stiff breeze, runners very much relished dry conditions, which, in comparison to recent other cross-country experiences, were a much welcomed diversion.

One of those who delighted on the day was U13 North East silver medallist Holly Peck, who produced a superb fastest-time performance to record a 20-second marginal win over her closest rival, who just happened to be the North Eastern Cross-Country Champion, Grace Varley of Gateshead Harriers. In addition to this, it also gave Holly her second on the day winners medal, her previous one being earned at Wrekenton in her very first outing as an U13 athlete over a year ago.

This win certainly gives Peck much encouragement, as this weekend she faces probably her stiffest test ever, as she lines up alongside Varley, in the North East Counties team at the Inter Counties Championships in Birmingham, and will be seeking to repeat her current run of form, albeit in the regions colours.

There was added joy for Peck, to see the supporting performances of club colleagues Lily Heaton and Rhiannon Hedley, who in finishing in ninth and 14 places respectively, brought about a superb on the day team victory for Morpeth Harriers over Houghton Harriers, who had also managed to score the same number of team points.

However, Hedley’s placing had won the day, with the county Durham’s third scorer being only a few strides behind in 15h place.

Enjoying a debut for Morpeth Harriers in this event was Jewels Simpson, who may very well live up to her christian name, as her performance of finishing in 36th place from the slow pack showed a great deal of future promise.

In the Senior Men’s three lap event, Morpeth Harriers Robert Balmbra very nearly repeated his Jarrow Harrier League performance, when he finished second to Derwentside’s elegantly named Francisco Martinez Sevilla, only losing out to him by three seconds at the finish line, having chased him down from a two and a half minute handicap from his medium pack start.

Balmbra could also take much pleasure from the fact that he was overall second fastest on the course, only headed by Sunderland Harrier Craig Isherwood, who from his fast pack start forged his way through to finish 18th, and recording only a mere second faster than the Morpeth leader, who in addition, also picked up another on the day finishers medal to add to his previous one won at Jarrow.

Morpeth Harriers Senior Men finished sixth on the day in the Division One team affairs, which places them third cumulatively behind leaders Tyne Bridge and second placed Durham City going into the final fixture at Wrekenton in two weeks time.

They are only one point adrift of the latter, however, Tyne Bridge are well set for to become League Champions.

Other Morpeth Harriers scorers on the day were Chris Smith, who was only a minute adrift of Balmbra in fifth place from the medium pack, Steve Haswell (61st) (Slow pack), Sam Hancox (65th) (Fast pack), Rob Hancox (105th) (Medium pack), and Jim Alder (158th) (Slow pack).

In addition to the scoring six Senior Men, the club also saw good performances from, Mark Snowball (163rd) (Medium pack), Phil Walker (193rd) (Medium pack), Nick O’Neill (210th) (Slow pack), Chris Waugh (233rd) (Slow pack), Peter Scaife (275th) (Slow pack), James McFetrich (354th) (Slow pack), Paul Bellingham (381st) (Slow pack), Joe Davison (407th) (Slow pack), and Steve Garrett (432nd) (Slow pack).

A total of 510 finishers competed in the Senior Men’s event.

Morpeth Harriers secured an excellent on the day team victory in the U15 Boys event, and they were led home superbly by Kieran Hedley, whose run from the fast pack not only earned him the fastest time of the day, he also picked up an on the day medal by working his way through to second place in the 49 strong field, after giving away 100 seconds to a good proportion of his rivals.

He was very much joined in the Morpeth team success by Matthew Waterfield, who finished in third place from the slow pack, and Jamie Duguid, who performed well from the slow pack to finish in 11th spot.

Other Morpeth Harriers U15 Boys performances came from Jordan Hedgecock (16th) (Slow pack), Joe Dowd (21st) ((Fast pack), Adam Shewry (22nd) (Fast pack), Connor Marshall (26th) (Fast pack), Josh Burton (32nd) (Fast pack), Alex Cunningham (33rd) (Fast pack), and Lewis James (45th) (Slow pack).

And on the day disqualification for the first finishing runner in the U13 Boys event, because of having run from the incorrect pack, resulted in Morpeth Harriers Sam Bradley and Ross Charlton each winning on the day finishing medals for placing second and third respectively from the slow and fast packs.

Charlton also recorded the fastest U13 Boy time of the day, and he and Bradley were also supported in an excellent team victory by Daniel Dixon, who finished in 10th place, also running from the fast pack, and recording the sixth fastest time in the event.

Other Morpeth Harriers U13 Boy efforts came from Thomas Cunningham (29th) (Fast pack), Finlay Deakin (33rd) (Slow pack), and Daniel Melling (41st) (Fast pack).

Emma Holt showed that she had fully recovered from her previous weeks exploits in the mud at Parliament Hill, to record the fastest time in the Senior Women’s two lap event.

Holt now has four fastest times under her belt this season, and looks most certain to retain her North Eastern Harrier League Grand Prix title going into the final fixture in two weeks time.

On Saturday, with much less exhausting conditions to master, she worked he way through to finish fifth from a fast pack start handicap of four minutes to a good proportion of the 288 finishers.

She led Morpeth Harriers Senior Women to fourth place on the day in Division Two, which sees the club level at the top of the league with South Shields, with one more fixture remaining.

Further team support on the day came from Josie Cram, who despite self admittedly not feeling at her best, ran gamely from the fast pack to finish in a respectable 28th place, Jane Briggs (112th) (Medium pack), and Kate Chapman (185th) (Medium pack).

The U17 Men’s two lap event saw Morpeth Harrier Adam Weightman produce what was probably his best performance of the winter, when he finished second to a rampant Alex Brown of Houghton Harriers from the fast pack.

Only two Morpeth Harriers competed in this event, with Jacob Hopkins also finishing 11th from the fast pack.

Morpeth Harriers did, however, have a finishing team in the combined U17/U20 Women’s event.

They finished fourth on the day, with performances coming from Alison Brown (16th) (Fast pack), Abby Sheldon (19th) (Fast pack), and Charlotte Jewell (20th) (Fast pack).

Once again Gracie Hufton proved to be a solitary Morpeth Harriers finisher in the U15 Girls event.

Running from the fast pack, she finished in 37th place.

Morpeth Harriers had 10 athletes in all competing in the Try It U11 events accompanying the main programme.

These events are proving to be increasingly popular, and the two fields managed a total of 125 finishers, with 59 in the boys, and 66 facing the starter in the girls event.

Morpeth had eight taking part in the boys race, who were led home by Callum Rowell, who finished in ninth place, just one place and one second ahead of clubmate Dylan Davies.

Third finisher from the club was James Tilley, who showed great improvement when finishing in 13th place.

Next home from the club was Ben Waterfield, younger brother of Matthew, who did well in his first ever race for the club, when finishing in 15th place.

Also having his first outing for the club was Daniel Dixon (The younger), and no relation to the more established Morpeth Harriers U13 athlete, who finished in 20th place.

Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the boys event were Dylan Walker (28th), Alex Porteous (34th), (another first timer), and Reece Garrett (47th).

Morpeth Harriers two finishers in the U11 Girls event were Amy Lott, who ran well to finish 15th, and another first timer, who graced her debut well by finishing in 37th place.

Many thanks and congratulations go to Jim Lillico and his willing team of volunteers at Alnwick Harriers for ensuring that the event went well, and was very much enjoyed by all those who both participated and spectated, your diligent efforts on the day were very much appreciated.

On Wednesday, February 25, and four days after slogging his way round the mud and slime of Parliament Hill Fields in the English National Cross Country Championships in pursuit of medals for his club, Morpeth Harrier Ady Whitwam was very much in the thick of the action again when he finished an excellent sixth in the Senior Men’s event at the annual Inter Services Cross Country Championships, held at Blandford in Dorset.

Whitwam clocked 33m28s, and was around two minutes adrift of Notts AC’s Sam Mitchell, who led the RAF to a team victory over the Army, for whom Catterick based Whitwam was their second counter.

Mitchell had also competed at Parliament Hill, finishing one place and one second ahead of Whitwam’s Morpeth colleague Carl Avery, and had been second counter for the victorious Notts AC’s Senior Men’s squad.

Two athletes from Morpeth Harriers competed at the final meeting of the Gateshead Indoor Standards Series, held at the Gateshead College facility, on Thursday, February 19.

After suffering the anguish of being disqualified by the starter for a false start in his first attempt at the Senior Men’s 60m, Wayne Gedge gained compensation by being allowed another chance in the second race, whereupon he corrected his earlier error, to finish as fourth fastest, with a performance of 8.21s.

In the U23 Men’s 60m, Henrik Paulsen clocked 7.91s in the first round race, and was second fastest in his age group.

He then clocked 7.99s in the later run second round race, and emerged as third fastest.

No fewer than 18 athletes from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers have been named in the Northumberland Schools squads for the forthcoming English Schools Cross Country Championships, which are being held at Witton Park, Blackburn, on Saturday, March 14.

Four of the 17 figure as reserves at present.

Taylor Glover, Joe Dowd and Ross Charlton are all scheduled to run in the Junior Boys event.

The Intermediate Boys squad includes Northumberland champion Scott Beattie, Kieran Hedley, Adam Shewry, and Jacob Hopkins, and Daniel Ord is named as a reserve.

Northumberland Champion Nathan Cox heads the Senior Boys squad, alongside fellow club colleagues Adam Gibbs, Phillip Winkler, and James Young.

Kate Seymour is named as a reserve to the Junior Girls squad.

The Intermediate Girls squad includes Abby Sheldon as a starting athlete, and a very strong Senior Girls squad includes Emma James and Charlotte Jewell, and Alison Brown and Louise Brett are named as reserves.

In addition to all these, Elliot Kelly is also named as a starting athlete in the Durham Schools Senior Boys squad, by virtue of him attending Gateshead College.

This makes a grand total of 19 athletes from Morpeth Harriers linked to the English Schools Cross Country Championships, with 15 actually named to face the starter, which from memory is the biggest number that the club has provided for several years.

We wish them all well.

Best of luck for this weekend also goes to several athletes from Morpeth Harriers who will be competing for the North East at the annual UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships, held at Cofton Park, near Birmingham on Saturday.

The region’s Senior Men compete in defence of the team title that they superbly won at the venue 12 months ago, and include Morpeth Harriers Jonny Taylor, English National bronze medallist Nick Swinburn, and Lewis Timmins in their impressively strong line up.

Morpeth Harriers Emma Holt and Ashley Gibson are in the Senior Women’s, squad, and there are club representatives lined up to appear in most of the younger age group events.