North East athletes were in superb form at the Start Fitness-supported Northern Cross-Country Championships held for the first time at the picturesque North Yorkshire Camp Hill Estate.
The region managed to plunder four individual gold medals, one silver and one bronze while two second team and two third team sets of medals also winged their way back up the A1.
The majority of North East clubs were represented which was no surprise as the fixture was being held close to home - that’s not to say the championships aren’t supported wherever they are held - and for many the trip home was a happy one.
THE senior men’s championship was the final race on the programme by which time the muddy sections of the course became a true test of strength and character. However, those who were still around had plenty to cheer especially from a North East point of view. Throughout the 12k contest Morpeth’s Carl Avery and Gateshead’s Calum Johnson were in contention at the head of affairs and, while Carl is a past winner, it was Calum who proved the strongest on the day. Contesting his first ‘Northern’ since winning the junior race on Merseyside six years ago, Calum managed to overcome a ‘bad patch’ during the last of the three laps to catch and overtake Leeds City’s Linton Taylor, the Yorkshireman eventually finishing in third place just ahead of Carl who missed out on a medal by 17 seconds. Middlesbrough and Cleveland duo Jack Willis and Greg Jayasuriya were next NE finishers in 15th and 18th place respectively while Carl Smith (Tyne Bridge) showed a welcome return to form after being sidelined through injury to finish 33rd.
There were 156 NE competitors among the 584 finishers which is a figure for the region to be proud of.
THE most exciting finish of the day came in the under-17 men’s championship and once again it was the NE who were celebrating victory. County champion Archie Lowe was always in the leading group but it wasn’t until the final 10 metres or so that he managed to nose ahead of Lancaster and Morecambe’s Matthew Knowles with the timekeeper’s managing to separate the pair by just one second at the line. Next home from the region was Morpeth’s Rowan Bennett in seventh place followed by Houghton’s Will Bellamy. Bellamy, who was 18th, led his club home to silver medal spot in team stakes with Morpeth claiming the bronze awards just three points adrift of their local rivals.
FIRST home in the under-15 Boys championship was the in-form Birtley athlete Chris Perkins. After his gun-to-tape victory in Stirling two weeks earlier, Perkins adopted the same front-running tactics which again proved a winning one. At the line he finished with a four-second cushion over his nearest rival though the gap was much larger mid-race suggesting that he was in control throughout. North Shields Poly’s Josh Blevins just missed out joining Perkins on the podium after tiring in the closing stages and had to be content with fourth place, five seconds adrift of a medal. Morpeth’s Joe Dixon was next NE athlete home in 11th place. He did however, lead the Northumbrians to third place team medals.
ALEX BOYER produced a text-book performance to win the Under-13 Boys title. The Darlington athlete led throughout, a run which executed his plan perfectly as he kept his rivals at bay. And though his lead was shortening all the way up the long finishing straight he still came home with four seconds in hand. Middlesbrough’s Christy O’Hare was always in contention for a medal but missed out by just two seconds in finishing in fourth place. Theo Dragio was next NE athlete home in sixth position.
HOUGHTON’S Cameron Allan tried his utmost to make it a clean-sweep of individual gold medals in the male races. However, despite pushing the pace along at the front of the Under-20 field Allan had to settle for third place at the end. And, he just managed to hang on for a medal for fast-finishing NE champion, Charlie McMillan (Gateshead) closed the gap behind to just one second! Morpeth’s Kieran Hedley was next NE finisher in 18th place.
FORMER Elswick athlete Philippa Williams, now running for Sheffield AC, was having her first cross-country race in five years and she produced a superb performance to finish in sixth place, a position which immediately caught the eye of the NE County selectors. Next home from the region in the Senior Women’s contest was Middlesbrough’s Philippa Stone (18th) who was closely followed home by fit-again Danielle Smythe of Heaton in 22nd place.
A DISAPPOINTING line-up of just 42 athletes faced the starter in the Junior Women’s championship and it was Gateshead pair Chloe Wellings and Elisha Tait who were the region’s best finishing in seventh and eighth place respectively. Morpeth’s Robyn Bennett finished just one place behind the Tyneside duo. Gateshead, whose third counter was Amy Baker (32nd) just missed winning the team event finishing with 47 points, one more than Rotherham
GATESHEAD’S Ines Curran was the leading NE athlete in the under-17 Women’s Championship, finishing in 10th place. Houghton’s Anna Pigford was next best in 26th position closely followed by Chester-le-Street’s Emily Chong, who was 29th.
BIRTLEY’S Katie Francis led the NE charge in the Under-15 Girls Championship finishing in 11th place, just 20 seconds off a podium place. Alnwick’s Millie Breese was 18th; Lucy Scothern (Chester-le-Street) 23rd and Holly Waugh (North Shields Poly) 24th.
MIDDLESBROUGH’S Eden Creasey made sure the NE didn’t miss out on an individual female medal by claiming a superb second place in the Under-13 Girls Championship. The Teessider fought off all but Keighley and Craven’s Maisey Bellwood to cross the line just 10 seconds adrift of the winner. Darlington’s Zara Jones finished 10th with Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon next NE runner home in 14th place.
*WHILE entries overall were significantly down on previous years, North East clubs are to be congratulated on supporting the Championships in a big way which certainly cannot be said for a number of the other eight counties which make up the Northern region.
Photos: Stuart Whitman & Adrian Royle
Full Results here