Sunday 7 November 2021

English National XC Relays Report by Bill McGuirk


IT WASN’T a sort of day expected as a happy coach of athletes, parents and supporters set off at the crack of dawn from their North Tyneside base for the trip to Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park for the annual English National Cross-Country Relay Championships. With all the relevant health forms all filled in and the usual informative! quiz sorted by Mell Carr, everything was in order for the club’s first trip away since Covid. However, after a stopover at Wetherby Services, things started to go badly wrong when, after re-joining the A1 and just half-way into the journey, the coach came to a halt on the hard shoulder and eventually couldn’t go any further. 

So, with the time of the first event in Nottinghamshire rapidly approaching was it time to panic? Certainly not especially with longterm member Vaughan Hemy at the forefront of operations. 

“Yes, it was a nightmare to begin with not knowing how long we would be stuck,’’ said Hemy. “However, one of our youngsters suggested trying to get in touch with Gosforth Harriers who were also travelling to Mansfield and luckily they were not far behind and, after contacting them, they said they had six seats spare so we quickly sorted out who was competing first on the programme and set them off on their journey with Elswick’s Jan Heslop agreeing to sort out their bib numbers on arrival. 

“After that short relief it was agreed that if the rest of the party was to make it to Mansfield it would have to be by taxi so everyone else carefully walked back to the services where a fleet of taxis were ordered which meant we could eventually continue on our journey. 

“It certainly wasn’t the best of preparations for athletes at a National competition but at the end of the day everyone made it to the venue in time for their event which certainly didn’t look promising a couple of hours earlier. “I’m extremely grateful to everyone who did what they could to get our athletes on the starting line, and a huge thank you to Gosforth Harriers and those who looked after our athletes before we managed to get there.’’ 


Senior Men (4x5k Relay) 

GATESHEAD earned the region’s bragging rights by finishing two places ahead of rivals Morpeth thanks to one of the fastest legs of the day by Calum Johnson. It didn’t look that way at the completion of the first leg as Cameron Boyek had Morpeth in 14th place while Gateshead (Matthew Linsley) were 52 seconds adrift back in 51st place. However, things changed significantly on the second stage which saw Johnson weave his way through the traffic ahead to reach the halfway changeover point in ninth place. 

Morpeth’s Matthew Briggs lost just one place before passing on to Phil Winkler to contest the third leg. Gus Withers, on the third stage for Gateshead, lost one place to leave Gateshead in 10th position going into the final leg as Winkler dropped the Northumbrians back to 17th. On the last leg Lucas Sutherland managed to bring Gateshead home in 21st place with Jordan Scott crossing the finishing line two places behind with nine seconds separating the two clubs at the finish. 

Other NE clubs who contested the event included Houghton, with Cameron Allan their quickest finished 83rd; Gateshead B were two places back in 85th with James Cripwell their best; Gosforth finished 107th with Jonny Stephen their fastest while there were incomplete teams for Gosforth B and North Shields Poly, with Hemy, after the trails and tribulations of the journey, one of their members!

North Shields Poly's Vaughan Hemy

Senior Women (3x3k Relay) 

AFTER an absorbing contest just a couple of metres separated North Shields Poly and Elswick at the conclusion of the three-stage contest. Elswick (Judith Nutt) were in 69th place at the first changeover with the Poly (Carla Maley) one place behind. On the penultimate leg Becki Coleman moved the Poly into 61st with Elswick (Andrea Banner) four places behind. 

On the last leg Joanna Brown managed to close the gap on her NE rival but Michelle Thompson managed to hold on at the line by the narrowest of margins to come home in 57th place with Elswick one place behind. 

Junior Men (3x3k Relay) 

GATESHEAD, with the trio of Luca Minale, David Race and Ben Waterfield, finished in 25th place with Race producing the fourth fastest time on leg two. Houghton finished in 42nd position with Will Bellamy, Ciaran Lines and in-form Chris Coulson while the Poly finished with an incomplete team. 

Under-17 Women (3x2.5k Relay) 

MORPETH, with the team of Caitlan Flanagan, Abigail Leiper and Millie Breese, finished in 13th place with Breese improving 21 places on the last leg. North Shields Poly ‘A’ finished 19th, 22 seconds adrift of Morpeth while Gateshead were 35th, the Poly ‘B’ team 50th and Gosforth 51st. 

Morpeth's Under 17s

Under-17 Men (3x3k Relay) 

MORPETH are exceptionally strong at this age group and the trio of William De Vere Owen, Ryan Davies and Bertie Marr finishing in 12th place with rivals Gosforth finishing 21st while the Northumbrians’ ‘B’ team finished in 26th place out of the 62 teams which closed in. 

Under-15 Girls (3x2k Relay) 

THIS was the region’s biggest entry with five teams finishing the event which was a huge success especially for the Elswick club. The trio of Poppy Old, Poppy Wilde and Lucy Milburn finished in 12th place with the club’s second string of E Blight, S Creighton and I Russell coming home in 37th place. Sandwiched between the two were Gosforth 16th and Gateshead 23rd while Gateshead B were 39th out of 77 finishers. 

Under-15 Boys (3x2k Relay) 

Despite their troubles along the way, North Shields Poly’s managed to field two complete teams with their A team of B Sproats, D Watson and B Scantlebury finishing in 25th place while brothers Ben, Matthew and Jonathan Maley came home in 58th place for the B team. Morpeth Harriers O Tomlinson, E Mavir and O Calvert came home in 33rd spot, and Elliot Kelso, Bailey Shore and Sam Allison finished in 50th position for Elswick Harriers.

Under-13 Girls (3x2k Relay) 

MORPETH, with E Tomlinson, M Roche and M Potrac, finished in 46th place while NSP finished with an incomplete team. 

Under-13 Boys (3x2k Relay) 

POSSIBLY the Poly’s best result of the day as the trio of Oscar Makepeace, Charlie Furness and Adam Feenan, finished in 12th place. At the first changeover, Oscar was 27th, on leg two Charlie moved through to 20th before Adam, with a top 10 overall fastest time of the day, brought the club home just 33 seconds outside a podium place. 



  1. Elswick Harriers also had a team in the under 15 boys’ race. Elliot Kelso, Bailey Shore and Sam Allison finished in 50th position.

  2. Love this post and the insight into your past.
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