Tuesday 30 November 2021

NEHL Aykley Heads Race Report by Bill McGuirk


COMETH the Man (and Women and Children), Cometh the Hour was the theme for the latest round of the Start Fitness North East Harrier League.

Ponteland's Laura Choake

An eleventh-hour decision to go ahead after Storm Arwen had put the fixture in doubt came as a welcome relief to hosting clubs’ Derwentside and Elvet Striders who had worked tirelessly leading up to the day in their efforts to give the region’s cross-country enthusiasts an opportunity on a course which rumours have it will not be available in the future.

After a dawn conveyance of the course in freezing temperatures by Mark Davinson and NEHL committee members John Stephens and Micky Baker it was decided that despite a fallen tree, the terrain, tough at the best of times, was safe for action to take place.

And while there were a number who felt it was the wrong decision because of the severe weather conditions, for many the decision proved a welcome cross-country fix with over 800 competitors facing the starter for the nine-race programme.

Not surprisingly, entries were considerably down amongst the younger age groups compared to earlier fixtures but the two senior races saw over 600 in total toe the line.

The sub-zero temperature and the occasional snow shower didn’t seem to subdue those seniors who made a bee-line for their club tent after crossing the finish to take in a welcome hot drink and the usual array of cakes!

Officials in the snow shower


Senior Men's start

MORPETH duo Finn Brodie and Alex Brown set their stall our from the off with the duo quickly opening up a big advantage over their rivals as they battled their way over a now churned up course.

In an attempt to cut back 2min 35secs start fellow Morpeth athlete Sam Hancox led the charge from the medium pack while the highly-competitive fast-pack waited a further 2min 40 secs before getting underway.

Morpeth's Finn Brodie

Behind the leaders came a group of Durham University runners together with Tynedale’s Charlie Daley who all started from the slow pack. Brodie and Brown ran shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the first of the three circuits until the former Gosforth and Tyne Bridge athlete sensed that Brown was starting to struggle slightly around the half-way point where he managed to open a gap of 15 metres or so and that’s the way it stayed until the finish with the gap extending to around 80 metres at the line.

Finn Brodie & Alex Brown

After rushing to retrieve some warm clothes I caught up with Brodie who said he was more than happy with his performance and was honest enough to say that it could have been much closer as Alex had to stop to put a shoe back on which was at a critical part of the race.

Not only was Brodie rewarded with the winner’s medal, more importantly his time of 26:07 proved to be the fastest overall time of the day. Luke Pettit was the pick of the university students to finish in third place as Hancox moved through the field to finish in 12th position one spot ahead of leading fast pack runner, Tyneside-based Bristol and West’s Jarlath McKenna whose second-fastest time of the day behind Brodie managed to reverse the Heaton Memorial 10k places with Birtley’s Adrian Bailes.

Durham Uni's Luke Pettit

In the race for team honours Morpeth came out on top of Division One by eight points from Birtley with Sunderland in third place. Durham City topped Division Two ahead of Jesmond Joggers and Elswick while Division Three current table-toppers Sedgefield were first with Derwentside edging out Tynedale for second place.


Senior Women's start

IT WAS the white-vested Durham University duo Emma Bramley and Hannah Rayden to the fore throughout the two-lap contest with the pair setting off 2min 25secs ahead of the medium pack and 5:15 ahead of the fast pack.

Durham Uni runners Emma Bramley & Hannah Rayden

And it was the former who prevailed as she strode home a comfortable winner ahead of her team-mate by over two minutes as Tynedale’s Annette Quaid, winner of the previous fixture at Lambton Estate, worked her way through from the medium pack to complete the onetwo-three. In-form Catriona MacDonald (Morpeth) fastest in her previous starts at Wrekenton and Lambton, once again was quickest on the course to finish in fourth spot from the fast pack.

Catriona MacDonald, Morpeth Harriers

MacDonald’s Morpeth team-mate Jane Hodgson despite a tumble at the start, was second fastest overall with Bramley third quickest. Despite numerous members out marshalling the course, Elvet Striders still had enough strength in numbers to head the Division One team section finishing ahead of Elswick and Morpeth while in Division Two Tynedale came out on top ahead of Claremont who claimed second place ahead of Blaydon on countback. Meanwhile, in Division Three Stockton Striders accounted for Blackhill Bounders with Crook claiming third place.


Under-17 Men

U17 men's fast pack

Houghton’s Brandon Pye made a welcome return to competition and his first outing of the season in the under-17 men’s race proved to be a double success for not only did he lead throughout his time of 15min 53secs proved to be the quickest overall.

Houghton Harrier - Brandon Pye

Pye quickly took up an early lead and was never headed as he took full advantage over his rivals and the 2min 50secs start over the fast pack. Morpeth’s Joe Dixon and Ethan Bond (Gosforth) also running from the slow pack claimed second and third places while a cautious Chris Perkins (Birtley) moved through to eighth place from the fast pack with the second fastest time behind Pye. Once again a strong Morpeth squad came out on top in the league standings finishing ahead of Gosforth and Durham City.

Under-17/20 Women

Durham University claimed another individual victory as slow pack runner Amy Richards came home over a minute clear of Gateshead’s Innes Curran who worked her way through from a 1min 25sec penalty to claim the runner-sup spot ahead of Isabel Lloyd, also of Durham University. Morpeth’s Millie Breese was the fastest under-17 on the course working her way through the field to finish in fourth place from a handicap of 2:50 with an actual time of 21:05 while fastest under-20 was Chester-le-Street’s Emily Chong with 21:46.

Durham Uni's Amy Richards

Millie Breese - Morpeth Harriers

The university were comfortable winners of the team contest finishing ahead of Morpeth and North Shields Poly.

Under-15 Boys 

U15 boys fast pack

Birtley’s Thomas Francis denied Phoenix Flyers a first victory as he held on to win by just four seconds to push Patrick McCoy into second place. The duo held off the fast-finishing fast pack runner Ben Sproats (North Shields Poly) who finished a further three seconds adrift in third spot. Second and third quickest overall were Morpeth pair Oliver Calvert and Oliver Tomlinson who finished fourth and fifth respectively. Morpeth came out on top in the team stakes finishing ahead of Birtley and Houghton.

Birtley AC's Thomas Francis

Under-15 Girls

Birtley’s Daisy Graham (slow pack) made all the running to win by just four seconds as Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon clawed back agonisingly short of the 1:40 handicap to claim the runners-up award. Chester-le-Street’s Ella Jones finished in third place while second fastest on the course was Annie Hutchinson (Gosforth) who finished just outside the medals in fourth position. Tynedale, with Emma Nicholson in seventh place leading them home, came out on top in the league placings ahead of Gosforth.

Daisy Graham, Birtley AC

Charlotte Dillon, Durham City

Under-13 Boys

U13 boys in full stride

The closest finish of the day saw Tynedale’s Morgan Vincent hang on by just one second as Durham City’s William Jardine closed him down from a 1:40 handicap. To make it a good day for the Phoenix Flyers club, Ewan McCoy claimed the third-place award. Second quickest on the course was Birtley’s Noah Williamson. Only one team managed to close-in in the threeto-score team contest with Durham City claiming the honours.

Tynedale's Morgan Vincent

Under-13 Girls

The contest turned into a fast-pack parade as all the medallists defied a 1:40 penalty. Katy Otterson (North Shields Poly) was first home finishing ahead of Birtley’s Niamh Phillipson and Grace Carter (Durham City) after Morpeth’s Charlotte Marshall, Heaton’s Mary Parkin and Durham City’s Grace Walker had cut out the early pace. Durham City came out on top in the team stakes with Prudhoe Plodders celebrating second place.

Katy Otterson, North Shields Poly

Under-11 Boys

Birtley’s Ed Moon once again claimed the honours with a 16-seconds victory over Elswick’s Nicholas Surtees-Brown with Crook’s Matty Richardson claiming third place just four seconds further adrift.

Birtley's Ed Moon

Under-11 Girls

Another repeat performance by Birtley twins Nell and Kitty Graham with the former once again coming out on top by five seconds. Alnwick’s Emilia Waugh claimed third place with Birtley showing strength in depth in this category as Olivia Murphy, Poppie Phillipson and Izzy Hall finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

Birtley's Nell & Kitty Graham

**Once again it can’t be stressed strongly enough for the excellent work done by the volunteer HL committee, technical officials and all the marshalls who, on one of the coldest days on record, were there at their posts all day long to give competitors the chance of a cross-country run out. Also thanks go to the first aid staff who fortunately had only a few minor problems to deal with.

**The HL takes a break until the turn of the year when the focus for the fifth fixture will be

Thornley Hall Farm so, until then keep safe, fit and illness free.


Many thanks to NEHL Photographers: Stuart Whitman, Geoff Fenwick & Paddy Dinsmore

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