A busy weekend of athletics in the North East got under way with the annual Good Friday Relays, held at the Riverside Office Park on the north bank of the River Tyne and hosted once again by Elswick Harriers.
Traditionally, the event has always seen a number of expatriate Morpeth Harriers now resident elsewhere return home for the Easter weekend, and at the same time take advantage of the opportunity to represent their club. This was certainly the case for Leeds based two-time Olympian Laura Weightman.
In an event she first ran as an Under 13, Weightman showed what commanding form she is currently in as she immediately ran away from the front of the field at the start of the woman’s relay.
Posting a finishing time of 10 minutes 53 seconds for the 2.2 mile leg, she was the only female runner to finish in under 12 minutes and her time was in fact only some 19 seconds slower than the fastest men’s time (fewer than 20 men actually beat the 11 minute mark).
With Cat Macdonald (visiting family from her base in Scotland) on leg 2 running 12m 53s and veteran Jane Hodgson 12m 21s, Morpeth were clear winners of the women’s relay by a margin of nearly two minutes ahead of nearest rivals Gosforth Harriers.
It must have been a ‘pinch me’ moment for KEVI teenager Holly Peck, soon to sit her GCSEs, to line up alongside Weightman for the B-team, but her time of 12m 56s was more than competitive with the rest of the field, and with Cat’s sister Lorna and Robyn Bennett on legs 2 and 3 performing well, the B-team finished a commendable fourth place.
Morpeth’s veteran women’s A-team were unfortunate in being unable to include Hodgson in their team; had they done so, they would have come close to winning the women’s veteran title also. As it was, they were well placed as fifth veteran team.
It was a closer competition in the Men’s four-man relays, with Morpeth’s men proving once again too hot to handle for other clubs as they retained a keenly-contested trophy they had also won last year.
Finn Brodie’s fastest leg of the day for Tyne Bridge Harriers had put them in pole position at the end of leg 1, with Morpeth’s A-string runner Adam Pratt and B-string Tom Straughan some 10 seconds behind. A strong leg by leading England veteran Terry Scott of 10m 37s kept Tyne Bridge in the lead, but James Young (10m 44s) was closing the gap for the A-team and Sam Hancox, back in competitive action after a long lay-off, running well for the B-team.
All changed on leg 3, however, as Morpeth’s Joe Armstrong ran a blistering 10m 36s, the second fastest time of the day, on leg 3 and it was left to Leeds-based Phil Winkler, home for the weekend, to anchor the A-team to victory.
This he did in a time of 10m 52s, despite the best efforts of Tyne Bridge’s Mark Fenwick behind him. The winning time of 42m 57s saw a margin of just nine seconds, with Gateshead Harriers in third.
Meanwhile Morpeth’s D-team of young tyros, comprising Dan Melling, Ross Charlton, Rowan Bennett and Tom Balsdon, all still at school, gave the B-team of Straughan, Hancox, Innes and Lawrence, a run for their money, finishing less than a minute and a place behind them in fifth.
Morpeth’s C-team (Ali Douglas, Mark Snowball, Andrew Hebden and Matthew Briggs) came in 12th, still ahead of the A-teams of many other clubs.
The club also fielded four teams of veteran men, the highest place finishing fifth.
Events had got under way earlier in the day with the Junior races for Under 13 and 15 boys and girls. The highlight was undoubtedly the team victory of the U15 boys, with Bertie Marr narrowly missing out on first place by some two seconds.
He was pushed by club colleagues Joe Dixon (third) and Ryan Davies (fourth) with Oliver Tomlinson in 11th. The U13 boys team of Ben Waterfield, Dylan Davies and Sam Tate lost out to North Shields Polytechnic Harriers and had to settle for second. Sophie Coaker and Kate Gaffing were 17th and 19th in the U15 girls, and Keira Peck the club’s sole representative in the U13 girls.