Friday, 9 August 2019

Royal Signals Road Relays

(Incorporating the North Eastern Counties Championships)

(Hosted by Houghton Harriers)

As you are well aware that the event due to take place earlier in the year didn't go ahead due to ongoing discussions with Sunderland City Council over insurance arrangements. However, after members of the NE Counties Road Running Committee met up with Council officials and after a lot of toeing-and-throwing, a draft was finally accepted by both parties together with England Athletics.

Houghton Harriers, and particularly, Peter Dodsworth, worked tirelessly to ensure the long-standing 'Signals' went ahead.

So can I appeal to all club secretaries/team managers to try and support the event. With the closing date for entries rapidly approaching (August 19) up to date only three clubs: Washington, Saltwell and Houghton - have entered and no late entries will be accepted. Entry information is on the NECAA website. 

Clubs who entered for the original date all have to re-enter once again.

Thank you, Bill McGuirk, Chairman NECAA

Friday, 12 July 2019

Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League 2019-20 Season

Good Morning cross country runners & team managers,

Following last night's NEHL AGM I'd like to thank Start Fitness for their continued support, and I'm  happy to confirm dates for the upcoming 2019-20 harrier league season.

28/09/19 - Wrekenton.  Hosted by Saltwell Harriers
06/10/19 - Druridge Bay. Hosted by Blyth RC (this is a Sunday fixture)
26/10/19 - Venue to be confirmed*
23/11/19 - Aykley Heads.  Hosted by Derwentside / Durham City / Elvet Striders
04/01/20 - Temple Park (Sherman Cup & Davison Shield).  Hosted by South Shields
08/02/20 - Thornley Hall Farm.  Hosted by Blackhill Bounders
29/02/20 - Alnwick Castle.  Hosted by Alnwick Harriers

*There are several options in the pipeline for the late October venue. John Stephens has been working with the landowners to try and get this sorted.

At the moment the possible options are:

Lambton Estate (near Washington/Chester-le-Street)
Allendale Estates
Hexham Racecourse

Derwent Reservoir was also an option, but there was not enough space to get the course in without a long road section, which made it more of a trail race than xc.

If all else fails we will have Thornley Hall Farm as a second fixture in the season.

Usual NEHL rules apply

Fees for the upcoming season

The committee opted to freeze fees so they are the same as last season.

This is a club competition, so you must be a member of a club to take part. This includes guests from other areas. Affiliated clubs pay £50 for the season plus £3/runner. Guest runner numbers cost £5. You keep your number for the whole season, so your £3/£5 covers all 7 fixtures.

If you lose your number it's £5 for a replacement (regardless of whether you're local or a guest)

Entries will open in September, club managers will receive their new login details shortly before the entries open.

Look forward to seeing you all in September!

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Royal Signals Relays

After weeks of toeing-and-throwing between the interested parties-Sunderland City Council, England Athletics and the North Eastern Counties AA-the Signals Relays have now been given the green light to go ahead.
Once again Houghton Harriers, thanks to the tiring efforts of Peter Dodsworth, will host the event at the regular venue, Hetton Lyons Park on the new date of Saturday, August 31.
A revised prospectus will be sent to all clubs who are asked to re-enter the event as there have been a few minor changes. Clubs who sent entries in for the original date will receive their cheques back in due course.
As you can imagine, finding a new date in the calendar has proved extremely difficult but the Road Running committee felt they had to act swiftly before the onset of the winter fixtures.

Bill McGuirk

Sunday, 12 May 2019

NECAA Royal Signals Relays Update

A meeting to discuss the problems relating to the Signals Road Relays was held at Sunderland City Council offices between four representatives of the Council and Peter Dodsworth, Alan Elders and Bill McGuirk acting on behalf of the NECAA.

After putting the points across forcibly why the NECAA were not in a position to sign the document in front of them for the event to go ahead at Hetton Lyons Country Park the council's representatives agreed to take our points on board and redraft the agreement.

This was indeed what happened inside a few days and a new agreement was drawn up which was then forwarded on to UKA for it's lawyers to give it their approval.

However, UKA were still not happy with the new wording and, after sitting on it for a few weeks, replied to the council with their reservations.

It is now back in the council's hands and while time is running out the NECAA are hoping for an early decision so that the event can go ahead albeit at Hetton or at another venue.

Bill McGuirk


Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Terry Scott Interview by Bill McGuirk

Not being a Social Media fan, I was amazed to be informed that the article on Sam Charlton posted on the NEHL website had received hundreds and hundreds of 'hits' and it then came as a bigger surprise when the informant suggested, because of the success, I do a few more pieces now that the Chronicle have decided they do not need my services any more. So what better way to take up the challenge than to speak to the new British Masters' 10k Road Race over-45 champion, the unassuming Terry Scott.

JUST like fine wines, adopted Geordie Terry Scott has matured over the years so much so after moving into the over-45 age group he is now lying second in this year's Power of 10 rankings over the 5k distance and joint second over 10k as his times continue to come tumbling down.

A 'fun' runner just seven or so years ago Terry has improved dramatically since linking up with Tyne Bridge Harriers and is now a regular in the England team for the Masters Cross-Country International.

His most recent success was a gold-medal performance at the British Masters' Port of Blyth 10k before going on to post one of the fastest times in the Elswick Good Friday Relays and it was at Newburn where I caught up with him and suggested doing a question and answer piece for the NEHL website which, I'm happy to say, he willingly agreed to.

Q: Terry, you're not from this neck of the woods so tell me a bit about yourself and where you are from and how you have made a home on Tyneside?
A: I am originally from Barrow in Furness, but lived and worked in Warrington as a Logistics Operations Manager for a large tissue manufacturer before moving to the NE to manage a large project, and remained here after its completion. I love it in this area.  

Q: As a youngster athletics and running doesn't seem to figure on your cv so how did you come about making the decision to give the sport a try?
A:I never did anything to keep fit as an adult. Then after some bad luck within the family, I decided I needed to get fit. So at 37 I joined a gym, lost some weight and got myself into some shape just lifting weights, eating a bit better and reducing alcohol intake. Then when I was 40, a friend asked if I wanted to do a race which was in 4 weeks time. I jumped on the internet, found myself a 4 week plan (yes, they actually exist) and started doing some more running. People said it was a decent time so it opened my eyes to taking it more seriously. 

Q: Your first entry on Power of 10 is 36th place in the Newburn River Run in 2011. What are your recollections of that night?
A: I’d completely forgotten I’d done that. I think I just did it as a little run in amongst the competitors but it didn’t give me any desire to enter more races. Not at that point anyway. 

Q: The following year parkrun was a big attraction for you though you started to dabble in the NE 'bigger' events, ie: the GNR, the Blaydon Race and North Tyneside 10k which must have encouraged you further?
A: When I ran the North Tyneside 10k, I think I finished it in about 39 minutes. People were telling me that it was a decent time, so I started to take things a bit more seriously and train properly. I also entered the Blaydon Race and have loved that race ever since. 

Q: In 2012 your half-marathon debut saw you post 80min 10sec in the GNR, that must have been a kick-start to thinking 'that was pretty good and maybe I should take running a bit more seriously'?
A: Having got myself an entry to the GNR, I focussed all my training around that for the preceding 3 months. Being fairly new to the North East, and running in general, I had never paid much attention to this race but I knew it was a big event. As the weeks went on I just kept revising my target, then on the day I aimed for 90 mins, so when I finished in 80 mins I was really happy. People more familiar with half marathons were sounding impressed at the time. It was probably at this point that I started to think about whether to join a running club.  

Q: Unfortunately, the following year despite following a similar pattern to 2012 you were three minutes slower in the GNR while you knocked three minutes off your Blaydon and North Tyneside times. Can you pin-point the any reasons for the mixed performances?
A: I think the positive times were because I was getting fitter and training well, but then in July I got sciatica. GNR was my big target so I was wanting to do anything to get to the start line. I spent a small fortune on different treatments to try to get rid of the sciatica. Nothing was working. As a result, I ran about 4 times between July and the GNR in September. Such was the determination, I got to the start line but clearly not fit. By the time I got to the end of the Tyne bridge I was hugely regretting it. I wanted to drop out but realised I would not be able to get a message to my family at the finish line, so I spent the next 12 miles suffering, but ploughing on. Eventually finishing 3 minutes slower than the previous year. Happy to finish though. A little mental victory.

Q: That GNR result didn't deter you having another go 12 months on which resulted in a superb 77:21. However, while all of your running had been on the roads you started to dabble in cross-country which came about I presume after linking up with Tyne Bridge Harriers.
A: This was in 2014, two years after my first proper race. I decided to join Tyne Bridge Harriers after Kenny Mac and Sparrow Morley were individually encouraging me to sign up. The Elswick Good Friday Relays was my first event in the vest. This then led to all the other events like cross country. I was really enjoying running as part of a club. Good camaraderie, and clearly helped me improve. 

Q: You were now certainly 'up and running' competing most weekends and in 2014 what stands out for me is your ninth place finish - third over-40 - in the Tees Pride 10k in a time of 33:51. How did you feel after dipping under 34 minutes for the first time?
A: The sub 34 for 10k was something that I was really aiming for. I just missed out at the Darlington 10k - 34:02, then at Tees Pride I knew after 5 miles, the pace was close to breaking 34. However, coming into what I thought was the final straight, and seeing what I thought was the finish line, I did the usual emptying of the tank towards the finish line. Anyway, it turned out it wasn’t the finish line. That was around the corner and another couple of hundred metres away. I literally crossed the finish line on my haunches, then collapsed in a heap. 5 more metres and I’d have been crawling  across on my elbows. After pulling myself round and realising I’d made it in under 34, I was elated. So happy. 

Q: 2015 was a hugely successful year where, after some eye-catching performances over the country you made your debut in the Home Nations Masters Cross-Country International in Dublin finishing in 12th place. How exciting was it to earn England selection after just a few active years in the sport?
A: I couldn’t quite believe I’d been selected to represent my country. All I could think at the time was I wish my parents and brother were still around to witness this. I was so proud and so would they have been. The whole event was such an amazing experience. We also managed to pick up team silver, and I counted for the team, so to get a medal was really exciting.

Q: As well as securing your first international vest, the year also saw you compete abroad for the first time where you posted a huge half-marathon pb of 74:35 in Amsterdam. What stands out for you on that performance?
A: Here I wanted to right the wrong for the previous year in the same race where I was chasing sub 75. Just after 9 miles, I started swaying and collapsed into the barriers. Got back up and fell back down. My first DNF. Coincidentally, it also happened at the GNR, painfully this time I was 200m from the finish and on for a time of about 74 minutes. So a month after GNR, and the year after my Amsterdam dnf, this third attempt at sub 75 HM was on. The race went to plan and when I saw the clock in the stadium and realised I’d done it, I was so so happy. I’d realised I’d got the time to get me a championship entry for the London Marathon. 

Q: The following year you tested the water in the marathon when you ran London finishing 193rd overall in 2:35.57. How did you feel afterwards, especially as you haven't done one since?
A: I’d always said if I was to do only one marathon, I wanted it to be London. The event didn’t disappoint. Amazing experience. In terms of race plan, it was all about going to pace for the first 15 miles, then if the pace starts dropping, just make sure I finish. I didn’t want to let anyone down by not finishing. I felt proud that I could now say I’d raced a marathon. I have no plans to do another one just yet. 

Q: A sixth place overall finish in the Brass Monkey Half-Marathon in York in 2017 in 70:39 and a sub 32 minutes 10k in the Leeds Abbey Dash which put you top of the UK over-45 rankings for the year, showed racing over shorter distances is more to your liking. Is that the case?
A: Yes, that was also my thinking. I tended to train quite generically at this point, trying to cover a bit of everything to do as well as possible from 5k to HM. To finish the year top of the 10k rankings for V45 was a great achievement for me. Another ‘can’t believe this’ moment. 

Q: Last year you seemed to cut back on racing - no cross-country at all - despite posting a current life-time best of 31:43 in the Trafford 10k. Was there a reason for this?
A: At the start of 2018 I suffered badly with lack of motivation. This was the first time this had happened, but I just couldn’t be bothered with running any longer. It also turned out I had low iron levels which could have explained some of it. I got going again and joined up with Lindsay Dunn’s group, and directly coached by Nathan Shrubb. They have both been a massive help. Since joining the LD group, it has been excellent and I’ve loved running again. A great group of lads, all willing each other to do well. One of the things we worked on is to be more selective with races, and training in a much more controlled way. This, along with lowering my mileage, has allowed me to stay fresh and this has led to my times improving.  

Q: This year is just a few months old but already you have stamped your name in the record books by winning the British Masters' 10k Road Race Championship at Blyth. What did that performance mean to you?
A: With my coach, we have worked on being less concerned with times and PB’s and to just ‘race’. So this is exactly what I did. I just raced the guys that were there, and was delighted to pick up the title, and also ended up running a time much quicker than I thought it was going to be. Since then, I managed to run 15:04 at the Mid Cheshire 5k. I would never believe anywhere near this time was achievable for me. Now that I have that, I have to aim to try and break that 15 minute barrier. 

Q: Finally, while you have certainly made up for lost time since you started running what advice would you give to anyone interested in taking up athletics whatever their age?
A: Just to embrace it, and if you’re going to get up at 6am for early morning runs, and running in all kinds of typical north east weather, then it must mean you want this. Therefore train hard but train sensibly. This way you stand a chance of staying injury free and going into the key sessions fresh. Keep the maximum effort for races. 

Thanks for taking the time Terry to take part in the piece however, after completing the interview it came to light that his excellent form continued when he posted a superb pb of 15:04 in the Mid Cheshire 5k, an event he described as 'his best-ever race in terms of time'.

Bill McGuirk

HARBOUR MASTER: Terry, on his way to winning the British Masters' 10k Road Race Championship at the Port of Blyth race earlier this month

SAND DANCER: Approaching the finish of his first-ever GNR in 2012

CAPITAL OUTING: Under the Shadow of Big Ben Terry takes to the streets of London for his one-and-only marathon so far

PB PERFORMANCE: Terry just misses out on dipping under 15 minutes in the Mid Cheshire 5k but is nevertheless happy with 15:04
ENGLAND EXPECTS: Mud-splattered but overjoyed on his England Masters' Cross-Country International debut in Dublin in 2015

Friday, 26 April 2019

NECAA & Northern 10000m Championships Report by Bill McGuirk


ONCE again entries for the North Eastern Counties 10,000 metres resulted in having two races which took place prior to the opening fixture of the NEGP at Monkton Stadium.

And, in the seeded opening event, it was Greg Jayasuriya (Middlesbrough and Cleveland), the NE XC champion, who came out on top after losing out last year to Morpeth's Mark Long.

It was a fascinating contest as the 13-strong field started off at a sedate pace before the Teessider, Gateshead's Conrad Franks, Thomas Straughan (Morpeth) and Blackhill's Jordan Bell took turns at the front before hitting the mid-way point in 16min 05secs.

Going into the second half of the contest the momentum increased as Franks - winner in 2013, in 32:59.4 - was the first to drift away. It was then the turn of Straughan to feel the heat as Jayasuriya and Bell took it in turn at the head of affairs.

The duo were locked together for the next 10 laps or so with neither giving way despite both athletes trying their best to get the better of their rival.

With two laps to go it was anyone's race until Bell, who finished in ninth pace last year, made a brave bid for victory with around 700 metres to go. A gap quickly opened up and by the bell he had a 15-metres lead which he held going down the back straight for the final time.

The advantage looked to be secured until Jayasuriya, who lifted the title in 2017, dug deep into his experience to haul in his opponent in the home straight and go on and win in 31:47.18, exactly two seconds clear of Bell whose 31:49.18 smashed his pb by over half-a-minute.

Straughan consolidated third place finishing in 32:13.39 in what was his first track outing over the distance since 2016.

After receiving his second 10,000m gold medal, Jayasuriya found the strength to say: "I didn't think I was going to catch Jordan after he opened up a big lead with less than a lap to go".

"It was a great race and I'm really pleased to have won again and add the track title to the cross-country gold medal I won in December. I've entered the 1,500m and 5,000m at the championships next month and hopefully I'll do well there.''

Meanwhile, six women took to the start line for the second race which had 13 starters and it was Elswick's Catherine Lowes (nee Lee) who settled into a good rhythm from the off.  Jarrow duo, evergreen Heather Robinson and NEHL administrator Vicki Thompson, were next in line as the field quickly spread out.

It didn't show that Lowes had only two competitive parkruns to her name this year as she produced a 10,000m pb performance of over two minutes to cross the line in 42:04.67.

Robinson, third last year and winner in 2015 and 2014, followed Lowes home in silver medal position in 43:50.92 while an unbelievable Thompson claimed bronze medal in a time of 47:20.45.

Special thanks go to the North East Grand Prix for once again allowing the Championships to go ahead within their fixture while a special pat on the back goes to the medalists and also to the Derwent Valley Trail Runners, Elswick and Jarrow & Hebburn clubs who supported the championships in a big way.


Race 1

Athlete Club Time
1 Greg Jayasuriya Middlesbrough&Cleveland 31:47.18
2 Jordan Bell Blackhill Bounders 31:49.18
3 Thomas Straughan Morpeth Harriers 32:13.39
4 Conrad Franks Gateshead Harriers 32:52.88
5 Michael Joyeux Quakers Runnng Club 33:01.46
6 Lee James Dover Houghton Harriers 33:06.66
7 Gary Wallace Blackhill Bounders 33:12.66
8 James Meader Heaton Harriers 33:21.15
9 Lee Bennett Morpeth Harriers 34:14.53
10 Simon Bennett Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers 34:21.67
11 Rory Graham Houghton Harriers 35:06.79
12 Richard Darling Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers 35:10.13
13 John Surtee Aycliffe Running Club 35:15.11

Race 2

Athlete Club Time
1 Paul Davies North Shields Poly 37:15.65
2 David Moir Tyne Bridge Harriers 37:21.76
3 Harry Tatham  Derwent Valley Trail Runners 40:43.28
4 Ian Hutchinson Derwent Valley Trail Runners 41:28.29
5 Charles Butcher Derwent Valley Trail Runners 41:44.90
6 Catherine Lowes Elswick Harriers 42:04.67
7 George Henderson   South Shields Harriers 46:06.20
8 Daniel Nettle Elswick Harriers 43:46.60
9 Heather Robinson Jarrow & Hebburn 43:50.92
10 Vicki Thompson Jarrow & Hebburn 47:20.45
11 Helen Ruffell Jarrow & Hebburn 48:51.86
12 Melissa Bateson Elswick Harriers 49:22.10
13 Christine Gilligan Jarrow & Hebburn 54:58.70

Monday, 22 April 2019

North Tyneside 10k - Bill McGuirk referee

Once again the North Tyneside 10k has attracted a huge number of competitors lining up using someone else's bib number and it certainly came to a head this time round when the first athlete home was one of the guilty party.
Not only is it extremely dangerous to do this it takes away the joy that would have been awarded to the correct winner.

Of course the athlete in question wasn't the only one to break the rules. On checking the women's leading finishers, the top 30, after viewing video evidence FIVE were men running in a woman's number.
Please, this has to stop now and while big events attract huge numbers of unregistered competitors who aren't familiar with the rules of competition there is no excuse for club athletes to even consider taking this kind of action.

I appeal to all athletic club secretaries to make sure that every one of their members are aware of the situation re passing bib numbers on without clearance from race organisers.

Bill McGuirk, Chairman NECAA and North Tyneside 10k referee

Monday, 18 March 2019

Cross Country News by Bill McGuirk - English Schools


JUST as they did a week earlier India Pentland and Sam Charlton produced another impressive performance to add to their portfolio by winning the English Schools' Cross-Country senior titles at a wet and windy Temple Newsham, Leeds.

And while the talented North East duo, representing Durham and Northumberland respectively, claimed the major honours the region's celebrations didn't end there as Josh Blevins (Northumberland) and Durham's Chris Perkins ran themselves into an international call-up for next weekend's Schools' Cross-Country international in Dublin.

Dublin bound: Josh Blevins and Christopher Perkins

However, all eyes were on Pentland and Charlton, the recently crowned Inter-Counties champions, who were back in action just seven days after their tough exertions at Loughborough .

Pentland was the first of the two in action, lining up over 4,100 meters which was the penultimate event on the programme and with the 'undulating' course cutting up badly it was to prove a real test of stamina. The Darlington athlete got off to a blistering start and was immediately in view in the leading group as the field settled down. In the blink of an eye three athletes broke away before the midway point quickly opening up a significant gap over the rest of their 300-plus rivals. Berkshire's Georgia Hayes and Kate O'Neil of Essex, together with Pentland, pulled away with every stride with Pentland content to sit in behind the duo though two or three times during the second half of the contest it seemed that the Durham athlete was beginning to struggle slightly as she slipped a few metres adrift.

It may have been tiredness from the week before but, while there was daylight appearing, Pentland determinedly stuck to the task before summoning a huge effort to gain control and ease into lead going into the final 600 metres, a lead she wasn't going to relinquish once in front. Despite being chased all the way to the line it was Pentland who broke the tape winning in the end by a handsome four seconds.

It was a superb achievement by the David Lowes-advised athlete who said a few moments after taking her place on the podium: "There were times during the race when I didn't think I was going to win, it was really tough. I don't know where I found the strength in the closing stages!"

Despite having the winner, Durham finished 11th team while Northumberland, who had Rhian Purves as first counter in 21st position, finished 23rd.

The senior boys 6,700 metres brought the curtain down on proceedings being set on their way just as Pentland stepped down from the podium and once more the North East had high hopes of success with a lot of people tipping Monkseaton High School student Sam Charlton being the one to beat and while his current form clearly backed that up, he was facing rivals a year older.

However, now brimming with confidence Charlton was quickly into his stride settling into the leading group after the initial cavalry charge from the starting pens. The 300 athletes faced one small lap and two large circuits covering 6,700 metres. It wasn't until mid-way through the first of the long laps that things began to speed up with another fancied athlete, Cambridgeshire's Thomas Keen, hitting the front on one of the numerous inclines. The injection of pace saw the leading group - Charlton covered every move - break up and approaching the elbow to go out into the country for the final time it was Keen, Charlton and Hampshire's Lachlan Wellington who had pulled away marginally from their rivals.

 However, with so much at stake, the trio stepped off the gas allowing the chasing pack to close them down. Charlton, realising that there were too many athletes around for comfort, decided to hit the front for the first time with just over a kilometre to go pushing hard up another hill which had his rivals struggling. With the tough climbs out of the way the Wallsend Harrier - coached by Paddy Dinsmore - kept up the pressure to celebrate in his usual customary way approaching the finishing line nine seconds clear of Middlesex pair David Stone, the South of England champion, and Jem O'Flaherty as Wellington and Keen paid dearly for their early efforts to come home in fifth and ninth place respectively.

Charlton, who was naturally overwhelmed with his latest success, admitted he was ready for a break after an unbeatable campaign which saw him lift the North East Counties XC title back in December at Wrekenton; the Northern XC Championship at Pontefract in January, the National XC Championship at Leeds in February and prior to his latest success, the Inter-Counties XC Championship at Loughborough earlier in the month, his successes having cross-country buffs searching the record books to see if that has ever been achieved before.

"I had an easy week, just ticking over really after the Inter-Counties,'' said Charlton. "Naturally, I went into the race with a lot of confidence but was cagey that tiredness could be a major factor as the race unfolded. However, that didn't happen and the longer the race went, surprisingly, the more relaxed I felt and it was just a case of waiting patiently before making a move to the front. It's been a huge roller-coaster season and I've learnt a lot competing against the best cross-country runners in the country and I have to thank everyone at Wallsend, their support has been amazing throughout, Paddy has guided me all the way and I'm ever grateful for that and of course my parents, my grandparents who braved the horrendous weather today to cheer me on, I'm so thankful for everything. Now, I'm having a couple of weeks off before building up for the track season and if I do just half as well in the summer than I'll be more than happy!''

Despite Charlton's victory, Northumberland just missed out on a team medal finishing in fourth place from the 38 counties who closed in. Ross Charlton (29th) and Daniel Melling (4nd) were Northumberland's next scorers as Durham finished in 37th place with Ben Horsfield leading them home in 108th position.

The junior and intermediate age group races had much more at stake with a top-eight finish guaranteeing a place in the English Schools' team for this coming weekend's Schools' International Cross-Country Championships which are being held in Santry Park, Dublin.
And it's a delight to report that the North East will have two athletes on the plane for Ireland after superb performances in the junior boys two-lap 4,100 metres contest. 

It was Durham's Chris Perkins who set out his stall from the gun taking an early lead with Lewis Sullivan (Sussex) and Northumberland's Josh Blevins in attendance as the trio quickly opened up a gap over their 300-plus rivals. At one stage Blevins eased into the lead before it was Sullivan's turn to take up the role of leader. Sullivan's injection of pace immediately caught out Perkins (Birtley) and it was Blevins (North Shields Poly) who was on Sullivan's shoulder going into the final kilometre. However, it was the Suffolk runner who proved the strongest going into the final stages as Blevins, having arguably his finest race ever, hanging on gamely for a superb silver medal to finish just nine seconds adrift of the new champion. Perkins, meanwhile, looked as though he had picked up an injury as he slipped back down the field to finish in sixth place thankfully though, to add his name to the England team for Dublin. Hopefully Perkins will be fully fit for the trip as it's not every year you get the opportunity to don an England vest!

Behind Blevins Will Collinson and Tom Slane had their own private battle to be Northumberland's second counter with the former prevailing finishing 30th two places ahead of his team-mate as the county finished in 11th position out of the 45 counties who closed in.

While Blevins and Perkins did more than enough to make the international match, spare a thought for Northumberland's Ines Curran who lined up in the intermediate girls 3,710 metres contest. Despite being up to seventh at one stage the Gateshead Harrier eventually slipped back to finish in 11th place. However, it was later learned that England were going to take 10 athletes so it was by a matter of just one second that she missed out on automatic selection! Being named as reserve is scant reward for another superb cross-country performance by the teenager. Durham got the better of their local rivals on this occasion finishing in eighth place with both Emily Chong and Amy Leonard finishing inside the top 50 in 38th and 45th positions respectively.

Durham also got the better of Northumberland in the intermediate boys 5,220 metres contest finishing 18th, two places ahead. Will Bellamy was first home for Durham in 30th postion while Tom Balsdon was Northumberland's leading finisher in 38th place.
In the junior girls 3,710 metres championship Durham's Katie Francis (Durham) and Millicent Breeze (Northumberland) did the region proud finishing in 19th and 23rd place respectively with Francis just 12 seconds away from a top-10 place. Durham, who also had Erin Keeler-Clarke (44th) and Lucy Scothern (53rd), finished in ninth place while Northumberland were 20th with Abigail Leiper their second counter after Breeze in 69th place.

Both Durham and  Northumberland didn't return home empty handed with Durham picking up the Sidney Rose Trophy while Northumberland received the Group D Trophy.

Photos : Adrian Royle & Dave Woodhead

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Start Fitness NEHL Presentation 2019

Hi Folks, The presentation of trophies for the 2018-19 Season will take place at Start Fitness Newcastle - Camber Coffee, on the 11th of April 5:30 for 6pm.

33-35 Market St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6JE

Many congratulations to the season's winners!

Please let us know if you cannot attend

U13 Boys
Bronze - Ryan Davies, Morpeth 3994
Silver - Brandon Pye, Houghton 3997
Gold - Tom Slane, Blackhill 4000

U13 Girls
Bronze - Alice Lewis, Gosforth 3993
Bronze - Freya Gibson, Durham City 3993
Silver - Charlotte Dillon, Durham City 3996
Gold - Freya Clarkson, Chester-le-St 3998

U15 Boys
Bronze - Josh Blevins, North Shields Poly 3995
Silver - Charlie Daley, Tynedale 3996
Gold - Christopher Perkins, Birtley 4000

U15 Girls
Bronze - Emily Chong, Chester-le-St 3993
Silver - Millie Breese, Alnwick 3994
Gold - Ines Curran, Gateshead 3999

U17 Boys
Bronze - Josh Fiddaman, Blyth 3990
Silver - Will Bellamy, Houghton 3995
Gold - Daniel Melling, Morpeth 3996

U17&20 Women
Bronze - Eva Hardie, Houghton 3993
Silver - Rhian Purves, Gosforth 3996
Gold - Holly Peck, Morpeth 4000

Senior Men
Bronze - Conrad Franks, Gateshead 3987
Silver - Dan Jenkin, Durham City 3988
Gold - Adrian Bailes, Birtley 3994

Senior Women
Bronze - Fiona Brannan, Elvet 3986
Silver - Danielle Smythe, Heaton 3993
Gold - Emma Holt, Morpeth 3998

Masters Men
Bronze - Al Johnson, Gosforth 3990
Silver - Carl Chapman, Crook 3996
Gold - Darren Purvis, Birtley 3998

Masters Women
Bronze - Jane Giles, Gatehsead 3989
Silver - Gemma Bradley, Saltwell 3994
Gold - Alice Smith, Sunderland Harriers 3998

Winning Teams

U13 Girls - Durham City
U13 Boys - Morpeth Harriers
U15 Girls - Birtley AC
U15 Boys - Morpeth Harriers
U17&20 Women - Morpeth Harriers
U17 Boys - Morpeth Harriers

Senior Women
Division 1 - Gateshead Harriers
Division 2 - Gosforth Harriers
Division 3 - Wallsend Harriers

Senior Men
Division 1 - Morpeth Harriers
Division 2 - North Shields Poly
Division 3 - Ponteland Runners

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Cross County News by Bill McGuirk - INTERCOUNTIES


WHAT a day the North East had at a wind-swept Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships held under the backdrop of Prestwold Hall, Loughborough where it seemed the region's athletes were constantly being called to make their way to the presentation area.

The 10-race programme opened with the under-20 men's event run over a distance of 8,000m with the undulating course mainly mud-free, a huge contrast to when the championships were held at the same venue the previous year.

Included in the North East team, which was depleted through injury and illness, was newly-crowned National XC champion Rory Leonard (Morpeth) so, with the race being used as a Trial for the forthcoming World XC Championships in Denmark, a huge weight was on his young shoulders despite having lifted the under-17 title on the same course 12 months previously.

With strong winds blowing across the downs it wasn't surprising that no one wanted to take up the running which resulted in a huge bunch of athletes still in contention at the completion of the first of two laps and while Leornard was sensibly content to abide his time team-mate Josh Cowperthwaite (Middlesbrough Mandale) was battling away just to keep in touch at the rear of the group. Going up the steepest climb on the course for a second time South of England champion Zakariya Mahamed made the first significant move which saw the group break up slightly though Leonard was still in a good position a few metres behind however, despite the momentum increase Cowperthwaite didn't give any more ground on the uphill stretch.

After hitting the brow of the hill there were still a dozen athletes together with Cowperthwaite languishing in 15th place. The fast downhill section eventually saw the group begin to split significantly and by the base of the hill the leading group had been reduced to three with Leonard amongst them and Cowperthwaite moving up into 11th place around 80 metres adrift as the field disappeared out of view into a wooded section of the course. Things changed dramatically when the athletes came back into view as Wrexham's Matt Willis had opened up a huge lead with Leonard and Mahamed next to appear, amazingly, just a few metres ahead of Cowperthwaite, what a huge surprise that was to everyone lining the course, where did he find that improvement from!

Willis was now well clear and on his way to victory but, after a 7k slog, the battle for the minor placings was really hotting up with just a few metres separating the trio of Leonard, Mahamed and Cowperthwaite - Josh got onto Rory's shoulder at one point - going into the final 400 metres. And to the delight of all the North East supporters who had travelled to the East Midlands, it was the gold vests of Leornard, who finished bloodied and bruised after being spiked, and Cowperthwaite who would step onto the podium to not only to receive their silver and bronze medals respectively but also claim the two remaining automatic places in the GB team for the World Cross-Country Championships at the end of the month.

Leonard and Cowperthaite were quickly called back to the presentation area when it was announced that the North East team had finished runners-up behind Yorkshire with just 10 points separating the two Northern Counties in the four-to-score contest. Backing up the new World cross-country representatives were Morpeth's Kieran Hedley, who finished in a superb 23rd place just over a minute behind Cowperthaite, and Middlesbrough Mandale's Ben Bergstrand, who finished in 46th position. A special mention here goes to Blyth's Joe Wren who answered team manager Stewy Bell's call at the 11th-hour and, in his first-ever county call-up, backed up the medal-winning quartet by finishing 161st.

From unknown to unstoppable - link to RunJumpThrow

The crowd was still buzzing when the under-13 boys were called up by the starter for their 3k event which had over 300 competitors on the start line and it was Houghton's Brandon Pye who had the honour of being first NE athlete home in 26th place, albeit just one position ahead of Tom Slane (Blackhill Bounders) with the duo being credited with the same time of 12min 38secs. Ryan Davies (Morpeth) was the next scorer in 30th place, two seconds adrift of Pye and Slane as Gosforth's Ethan Bond completed the scoring quartet in 89th spot to close in the team in fifth place. The county's none-scorers were: 108th Nathaniel Henderson (Tynedale); 117th Sam Terry (Durham City); 242nd Alex Bowyer (Darlington).

The senior women were next up and they faced a journey of 10k for the very first time as the championships followed the IAAF ruling of the men and women should contest the same distance. And it was Shildon's double European XC Championship silver medalist Kate Avery who proved the star performer as far as the county is concerned. Avery was always in contention, together with Morpeth's Mhairi MacLennon who was running for Scotland East District, in the leading group and it wasn't until the final kilometre that the duo dropped away as Jenny Nesbitt (Worcestershire) and Jess Piasecki (Gtr Manchester) upped the pace in the final uphill section. MacLennon, the Northern champion, and Avery were shoulder-to-shoulder battling for the final podium place and it was the Scotland athlete who proved the stronger in the closing stages with her determination bringing her to within one second of Piasecki at the line. Avery, meanwhile, finished a comfortable fourth to lead the North East to a superb third place in the team contest behind Yorkshire and Essex.
Twelve months earlier Josh Blevins (North Shields Poly) finished runner-up in the under-13 championship and though he was one of the youngest after moving up into the under-15 contest he still showed excellent form to be first NE finisher in 16th place over the 4k course just over 30 seconds adrift of a podium place. Tynedale's Charlie Daley did ever so well to be second counter after not arriving at the hotel until 3am after his father's car had a blow out on the motorway. Thankfully, a sleepless night didn't effect Daley's run too much as he finished in 37th place out of a field of over 300, Darlington's Adam Russell was the county's next scorer in 44th place with Gateshead's Ethan McGlen completing the four-to-score team contest in 51st place which left the NE finishing just short of a medal spot in fifth place. Middlesbrough Mandale's Max Creasey, Gateshead's David Race, North Shields Poly's Oliver Douglas and Ben Walker (Morpeth) also competed finishing 63rd, 147th, 215th and 269th respectively.

Avery was backed up superbly by Heaton's Danielle Smythe in 42nd place; Gosforth's Helen Warburton was 50th, former Gosforth athlete Rachel Lundgren, now running for Hallamshire, was 56th; followed by Morpeth pair Emma Holt and Catriona MacDonald, the pair completing the scoring six in 59th and 109th places respectively. Completing the NE squad were county debutantes Hannah Wood (Low Fell) and Brigid Dennehy (Gateshead) who crossed the line in 109th and 113th places respectively with Sunderland's Alice Smith finishing 181st.

picture by Peter Lundgren

Next up was the under-17 women's contest over 5k and it proved to be a resounding success for Darlington's India Pentland after finishing runner-up in the National at Leeds two weeks earlier. Pentland, who finished in bronze medal position last year, was in control throughout before making a move to the front in the closing stages to pull away from her main rival, South of England champion Tia Wilson who had also finished behind her in fourth place in the National. Despite losing her footing in the finishing straight, Pentland had opened up a significant gap which she stretched to 12 seconds at the line to claim a magnificent victory. Afterwards, a happy Pentland, who originally told team manager Lynn Cooper that she was concentrating on the English Schools' XC Championships - which take place this weekend in Leeds - and would give the Inter-Counties a miss, said: "I'm so happy to have won. I wanted it so much today after finishing second in the National.''

Morpeth's Holly Peck, another first year at under-17, was the next NE counter in 25th place with Houghton pair Anna Pigford (65th) and Lydia James (67th) completing the scoring quartet with the team again finishing in fifth place with a total of 158 points, just eight points more than bronze medallists Berkshire. The NE team was completed with Houghton's Eva Hardie, who was 76th; Gateshead's Chloe Wellings (93rd); Darlington's Catherine Roberts (97th) and Gosforth's Rebecca Wren who finished 167th.

The under-20 women's championship opened the second half of the day's proceedings and it was Gosforth's Rhian Purves who led the region's charge finishing in 20th place. New Marske's Eli Barnbrook was the next county's scorer crossing the line in 46th place. Sunderland's Sarah Knight and Jarrow and Hebburn's Emily Jones completed the scoring quartet in 59th and 101st places respectively. Sunderland's Eve Quinn, Morpeth's Gracie Hufton and Sunderland's Hayley Dobinson were also in action finishing 112th, 124th and 144th respectively. 

It was a cavalry charge when the under-13 girls 3k contest got underway and it was Blackhill's Hannah Bowyer who led the region's challenge finishing in a respectable 54th place out of the 307 finishers. Second counter for the NE was Middlesbrough Mandale's Zoe Hill in 57th place with team-mate Emma McNeil next home in 65th position. Durham City's Freya Gibson completed the scoring four in 81st spot to give the team a total of 257 points to finish in 12th place from the 40 teams who finished. Durham City's Charlotte Dillon finished 83rd; Eden Creasey and Isobel Herbert (both Middlesbrough Mandale)were 87th and 97th respectively with Gosforth's Alice Lewis finishing well inside halfway in 118th place.

Photo by Anna Lewis

The under-17 men's championship got underway three hours after the opening event and it was worth waiting for especially if you were a North East supporter. Unbeknown to many observers Sam Charlton (Wallsend) only decided to take his place on the start line two days before the race due to picking up a heavy cold. However, the decision to take his chance proved a worthy decision as he stormed home to a six-second victory and relegate Scottish champion Hamish Armitt into the runners-up spot. 

Due to the strong winds, Charlton, who often takes up front-running duties, decided to sit in the leading bunch on this occasion until taking the lead when it mattered with the finish line in sight. The Scottish athlete had made a decisive bid for glory going into the second of two circuits and at one stage it looked as though his bravery would pay off as he opened up a significant lead of around 30 metres at the brow of the final steep climb. And, it was Charlton who decided to give chase pulling along another half-dozen of his rivals. On the fast decent Armitt was still at the head of affairs but it was Yorkshire's Joshua Dickinson and Mohamed Ali (Middlesex) who were closest with Charlton appearing to feel the effects of his effort in chasing the leader down. 

With just over a mile to go the leaders went out of view but when they returned Charlton was just metres behind Armitt and Dickinson with Ali slipping out of contention. "Yes, it may have been the effects of the cold I had earlier in the week but when we were down to three I knew then that I was in with a chance of a medal and no way was Josh going to get the better of me for I beat him in both the Northern and National Championships. I think the determination at that point in the race gave me the confidence to take my chance and go for it on the final short incline before the home straight. I have to say I was on my knees, it was tougher than the National, and the finish line could not come quick enough. It was a lovely feeling though breaking the finishing tape after having doubts midway during the race.''

Charlton, who donned his favourite black t-shirt under his race vest - aka Mike McLeod - came home in his customary manner with a Shearer-like arm celebration to warm applause especially from family and friends who had made the trip to support him. Gateshead's Charlie McMillan, after a cautious start, worked his way through the field to finish in an excellent 24th place in what is arguably his best performance of the winter, Middlesbrough's Archie Lowe, in his first year at under-17 level, was next NE counter in 33rd spot with Houghton's Henry Johnson completing the scoring quartet in 38th place to give the team a total of 97 points just seven points adrift of third-placed Yorkshire. Morpeth duo Ross Charlton and Daniel Dixon finished 40th and 46th respectively with Middlesbrough's Jack Creasey finishing 71st and Houghton's Will Bellamy 78th.

The under-15 girls 4k championship was the penultimate event on the programme and it proved hugely profitable for the North East. Led by ninth-placed Ines Curran, the team came out on top in the four-to-score contest relegating Scotland West into second place by one point with the Scotland East team completing the one-two-three. Curran ran a superb race and was up to sixth place at one point as the 300-plus field wound it's way around the undulating countryside. Despite dropping a couple of places in the closing stages Curran finished just 29 seconds outside an individual podium position. Helping the NE claim first team were Houghton's Amy Leonard, who was 25th, Katie Francis (Birtley) who was 29th and 42nd-placed Emily Chong of Chester-le-Street. It was a superb team performance ably backed up by the other four members Millie Breeze (Alnwick) who finished 63rd, Chester-le-Street's Lucy Scothern (112th), Blaydon's Cecelia Reid (115th) and Middlesbrough's Lois Creasey who finished 162nd.

Katie Francis - Photo by Tom Millmore

U15 Gold winning team - Photo by Tom Millmore

Katie Francis - Photo by Tom Millmore

What a great season Carl Avery has had and after picking up a silver medal in the Northern and a bronze medal in the National the Morpeth athlete gave his all to finish in seventh place in the senior men's 10k event, the final race on the programme. Avery was always in contention until the final stages when the gaps eventually appeared ahead of him. Nevertheless, at the line he was only 27 seconds away from making another appearance on the podium. It was a real gutsy performance which augurs well with international call-ups certainly on the horizon. The NE has a great tradition in the senior men's race having won the team race on many occasions. However, it wasn't to be this time round and the county had to be content with sixth place in the six-to-score event and third place in the nine-to-score listings.

Gateshead's Calum Johnson, having his first cross-country outing of the winter, bravely fought his way through the field after a sluggish start to finish 19th while evergreen Phil Wylie (Cheltenham) was next scorer in 30th place. County champion Greg Jayasuriya (Middlesbrough and Cleveland) was next home in 50th spot followed by Birtley's Adrien Bailes in 96th with late call-up Finn Brodie (Tyne Bridge) completing the six scorers in 101st place. The scoring six were backed up by Kieran Walker (Middlesbrough) who was 105th, Gateshead's Conrad Franks (112th) and another athlete who answered a late call, Jordan Scott (Morpeth) who was 158th.

An exceptional days sport saw the North East shine once again and it's thanks to managers Lynn Cooper and Stewy Bell, together with the selectors and the cross-country committee for making it a huge success.



Under-17 Women: India Pentland (Darlington)

Under-17 Men: Sam Charlton (Wallsend)
Under-15 Girls team: Ines Curran (Gateshead), Amy Leonard (Houghton), Katie Francis (Birtley), Emily Chong (Chester-le-Street)


Under-20 Men: Rory Leornard (Morpeth)

Under-20 Mens team: Rory Leonard, Josh Cowperthwaite (Middlesbrough Mandale), Kieran Hedley (Morpeth), Ben Bergstrand (Middlesbrough Mandale)


Under-20 Men: Josh Cowperthwaite

Senior Women team: Kate Avery (Shildon), Danielle Smyth (Heaton), Helen Warburton (Gosforth), Rachel Lundgren (Hallamshire), Emma Holt (Morpeth), Catriona MacDonald (Morpeth)


KATE AVERY, together with Mhairi MacLennan, have been named in the GB&NI senior women's team for the World Cross-Country Championships in Denmark at the end of the months and they will be joined by Rory Leonard and Josh Cowperthwaite who will line up in the junior men's championship

Photos: Adrian Royle