COMPETITORS FEEL THE HEAT AT HARRIER LEAGUE OPENING
WHAT is it about the Harrier League that, on a blistering hot day more than 1,300 competitors were eager to start their winter campaign with an outing over the brick-hard terrain at Wrekenton for the opening fixture of the Start Fitness North East Harrier League?
It’s been 18 months since the last HL fixture at Lambton but despite the long lay-off enthusiasm across all age groups was there for all to see as the fast and not-so-fast runners were cheered on every step of the way by the Saltwell club’s marshals, the host club now extremely efficient in putting on a successful event.
As is now the norm, the under-11 events opened up the day’s proceedings contesting a tough one-mile course and it was the boys’ section which got the day’s action underway which saw 54 enthusiastic youngsters representing 22 of the region’s clubs set off at quite a fast pace!
After the initial scramble for position it was Elswick’s Nicholas Surtees-Brown who was out in front and from then on to the finish he was never headed to cross the line in 6min 15sec. Following him home was Wallsend’s Kasper Pearson (6:30) with Felix Dixon, also of Elswick, completing the one-two-three in 6:42.
The under-11 girls set off five minutes after the boys and it turned out to be a Graham family celebration with twins Nell and Kitty filling the first two places ahead of Gateshead’s Emma Blackburn. The talking point amongst parents and spectators after results were announced was that Nell’s winning time of 6:13 was a couple of seconds quicker than that of the boys! Kitty finished 20 seconds adrift of her sister while Emma (6:44) halted a Birtley clean-sweep as Poppie Phillipson finished in fourth place in 6:55. As well as having the first two home the Birtley club managed to have six finishers in the top 10 from a field of 52 which is a great achievement and a credit to the hard work put in by the backroom team.
Without competition last year it meant that the under-13/15 were scratch races rather than handicapped which will, of course, come into force at the next fixture at Druridge Bay.
The under-13 boys two-mile contest was led throughout by North Shields Poly’s Adam Feenen who crossed the line in 8:58, 18 seconds clear of Durham City’s William Jardine with Oscar Makepeace (North Shields Poly) a further eight seconds back in third place. North Shields Poly, with sixth-paced Charlie Furness, backing up Feenan and Makepeace, were comfortable team winners ahead of Gateshead and Durham City.
The celebrations were even grandeur for the Poly after the under-13 girls contest which saw Katy Otterson (9:52) and Ruby Dann (10:33) fill the leading two places ahead of Durham City’s Grace Carter (10:38). It was another comfortable team success for the Poly with seventh-placed Lily McColl backing up Katy and Ruby. Durham City finished runners-up ahead of Morpeth.
The under-15 events were over the same two-mile course with Ben Sproats providing another Poly victory in the boys race with a winning time of 8:43. Morpeth duo Joseph Close and Oliver Calvert battled it out for the minor honours with Close (8:52) holding off the challenge of his team-mate by just one second to take the runners-up spot. With fifth-placed Oliver Tomlinson backing up Close and Calvert, Morpeth edged the team event by two points ahead of North Shields Poly with the Poly non-scoring second string in third ahead of Birtley.
The under-15 girls race was a triumph for Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon who carried on from a superb track season where she is ranked number three over 3,000m in the Po10 listings. Charlotte crossed the line in 9:16, 43 seconds clear of Elswick’s Poppy Old with Blaydon’s Ellie Fellows just three seconds further adrift in third position. Elswick, with Erin Blight (8th) and Poppy Wilde (10th) backing up Old, claimed team victory ahead of Gateshead with the Newcastle outfit to be congratulated in closing in three teams with their B team finishing in third place ahead of North Shields Poly.
In the under-17 men’s event it was the blue and white vests of Morpeth to the fore with Bertie Marr and Blaydon’s Will Collinson at the head of affairs from the gun. The duo were tracked by Sunderland’s Adam Hughes and a trio of Morpeth athletes’ Matthew Walton, Liam Roche and James Tilley. As the race entered the second circuit Marr started to pull away from his rivals and at the finish he crossed the line in 17:16, eight seconds clear of Davies with Wearsider Hughes three seconds behind in third place as he held off the challenge of a Morpeth clean-sweep to finish ahead of Walton. Morpeth duly won the team contest ahead of Durham City with Sunderland finishing in third spot just ahead of Blaydon.
In the combined under-17/20 women’s event it was another individual success for North Shields Poly as Holly Waugh pulled away from her main rival, Millie Breese (Morpeth), at the start of the second lap which she extended to 41 seconds at the line. Tynedale’s Jess Sails finished in bronze medal position as Holly led the Poly to another team success thanks to the backing of fifth-placed Katie Joslyn and ninth-placed Mili Diddee. Elswick, led home by eighth-placed Imogen Bungay, finished runners-up.
The senior women’s contest, which attracted a superb 400 starters, was won by new Blaydon recruit Emily Baines. The former member of Yorkshire outfit Knavesmire, was always in contention at the head of affairs before easing away on the second circuit to win by over a minute. At the midway stage Sunderland’s Jessica Fox was in second place followed by Elswick’s Katerina Bonner with the positions staying the same as the contest unfolded on the second and final lap. Fox took the runners-up spot (26:32) with Bonner finishing in third place in 26:48.
Jarrow and Hebburn’s Alex Sneddon was quickest from the medium pack (25:49) from a 2min 20sec handicap while Morpeth’s Catriona MacDonald was fastest overall (23:49) after moving through the field from a five-minute penalty to finish an excellent 16th.
Elswick won the Division One team race ahead of North Shields Poly and Gateshead while in Division Two newly-promoted Jarrow and Hebburn took the honours ahead of Tynedale and Sunderland. Crook came out on top in Division Three finishing ahead of Ponteland with Blyth edging Low Fell for third spot.
New Morpeth signing Liam Roarty led throughout the six-mile senior men’s contest which attracted over 500 competitors. A delighted Roarty crossed the line in 32:37, 43 seconds clear of under-20 athlete, Houghton’s Chris Coulson (33:40), with Mark Hodgson (South Shields) getting the better of North Shields Poly’s Benn Cook in the sprint to the line to claim third spot with both athletes credited with the same time of 34:13. Sunderland’s Liam Taylor worked his way through from a two-minute-30-seconds handicap to finish in ninth place while fastest overall on the course was Michael Hedley (Tyne Bridge) who defied his five-minute penalty to come home in 19th position to record an actual time of 31:57.
In the team stakes, Morpeth came out on top in Division One pushing defending champions Sunderland into second place with Tyne Bridge a closeup third. In Division Two North Shields Poly aim to bounce straight back after being relegated last term by coming out on top in the opening fixture finishing ahead of Elswick and South Shields both teams finishing on the same number of points with the Newcastle outfit edging it on countback. In Division Three it was Sedgefield who led the way ahead of Houghton with Aycliffe edging out Washington for third spot.
On all accounts, the hot weather and the tough Wrekenton course didn’t stop everyone having a bit of a wry smile once they had finished whether they were up at the sharp end or near the rear and hopefully they will all be back for more for the second fixture which moves onto Druridge Bay in two weeks time.
**Once again the League is grateful to Saltwell Harriers for hosting another highly-successful event; to Start Fitness for their support once again; to all the superb marshalls and technical officials and to the first aid team. Without all the volunteers the League would not function at all so thank you all.
Photos: Stuart Whitman
Full results available: http://harrierleague.com/results/2021-22/