Monday 10 January 2022

NEHL Thornley Hall Farm report


FOR those who were making their Harrier League debut at Thornley Hall Farm take heart and don’t be put off for the conditions you experienced are far from the norm and if you managed to negotiate ankle deep mud, frozen sections, a few hills with obstacles thrown in and the concern about being able to free your car from the parking lot then I’m sure you’ll be back for more when the next instalment takes place at Temple Park on February 12. 

Senior women wind their way up the valley

Around 1,000 competitors took to the farmland for the 10-race programme thanks once again to the generosity of landowner Jon Taylor and while the course set out by Blackhill Bounders’ George McKay, together with his enthusiastic team of marshalls, is renowned for being one of the toughest on the HL circuit and on this occasion it proved to be a real cross-country test of mind and endurance and while many of those competing had plenty of good words to say after completing their event there were also a few choice words said silently and we’ll see if those who muttered quietly ‘never again’ will be back on the start line in South Shields in five weeks’ time. I’m sure they will! 

While a number of competitors crossed the finish carrying either one or both shoes they weren’t alone for, making my way back to the race headquarters after the end of a great day’s sport, yours truly had the misfortune of losing a boot – and sock - due to the clinging mud which resulted in a few steps barefoot up the hill. Thanks to Stuart, your superb photographer who came to my assistance, I was back on the move in a flash! 


Start of the senior men's race

AS is customary, the senior men’s race brings the curtain down on the day’s proceedings and while the course by now was well and truly cut up it proved no barrier to Tyne Bridge teenager Jake Dorman. Taking full advantage of his time handicap Dorman was quickly into his stride ahead of around 400 rivals and quickly opened up daylight between himself and the rest of the field. 

At the completion of the first of three circuits Dorman had opened up a 30- second lead with Joel Binks (Jesmond Joggers) and Durham City’s Stephen Hamil his closest challengers. Going into the final lap Dorman still held a comfortable lead with Binks still in second place as Tynedale’s Charley Daley had moved ahead of Hamil after cutting back the handicap of 2min 30secs. All the while guest runner, James Scott-Farrington of Horwich RMI, running from a handicap of five minutes, had worked his way through into the top 10. 

On the run to the line Dorman came home over half-a-minute clear of Binks with Daly completing the one-two-three as Scott-Farrington, whose last appearance in the region was a 21st-place finish in the GNR in September, moved through to cross the line in fifth place to be rewarded with the fastest overall time of the day. Second fastest was Houghton’s Chris Coulson (6th) with evergreen sixth-placed Conrad Franks (Gateshead) third quickest. 

Tynebridge's Jake Dorman

In the team contests, Dorman led Tyne Bridge to victory in Division One by six points over Morpeth with Sunderland 15 points further adrift in third place. 

In Division Two Jesmond Joggers came out on top with 61 points finishing ahead of Elswick (129pts) and Durham City (135pts). In Division Three Sedgefield look home and dry for promotion after another victory (82pts) with Houghton finishing in second place (135pts) and Tynedale in third place on 170pts. 


JUST as it was in the men’s race, it proved to be a gun-to-tape success for fit again Jarrow and Hebburn’s Melissa Turner. At the half-way stage Turner had over a minute advantage over Morpeth’s Helen King with Heaton’s Laura Jardine a close-up third. 

Jarrow & Hebburn athlete Melissa Turner

Turner, encouraged by marshals and supporters alike, continued to cut out a lone furrow on the final circuit and came home over three minutes ahead of Morpeth’s Catriona MacDonald who had hauled back some of the five-minute handicap as did third-placed Jane Hodgson, also of Morpeth, who finished 17 seconds behind her Northumberland team-mate. 

Third fastest was Gosforth’s Helen Warburton, who finished in eighth place while Turner was rewarded with the fourth best time of the day. Morpeth, with Gemma Floyd and King backing up MacDonald and Hodgson, were easy winners of the Division One team race (10pts) with North Shields Poly in second position (54pts) and Elswick in third on 72pts. Jarrow and Hebburn came out on top in Division Two (40pts), just two points clear of Tynedale with Gosforth finishing third on 57pts. In Division Three Stocksfield Striders led the way with 47pts, Ponteland Runners finished second with 67pts, just one point clear of third-placed Sedgefield. 


George Beevers - Birtley AC

IT proved to be a Birtley one-two after George Beevers had led throughout and go on and take the main award. Beevers was ahead after the first small circuit with Zak Kettle (Tyne Bridge) in second place and Joseph Lonergan (Blaydon) a close-up third. Beevers continued to pull away from his closest rivals on the second circuit and though he was being chased down all the way to the line by team-mate Christopher Perkins, who had given him two-and-a-half minutes start, he had nine seconds in hand at the finish. Lonergan moved ahead of Kettle to claim the third-place award. After Perkins, Morpeth duo Bertie Marr and William De Vere-Owens were next quickest. 

In the team event Morpeth finished first with 22pts, Blaydon were second with 30pts and Sunderland third with 43pts. 


WALLSEND’S Lily Robson led the field at the completion of the first small circuit and was followed by Gateshead’s Kate Binningsley. However, as the field closed in on the leaders the places all changed in the run to the line with Elswick’s Imogen Bungay coming through from the medium pack to claim victory ahead of Morpeth’s Millie Breese who was quickest on the course running from the fast pack.

Elswick Harrier Imogen Bungay

Binningsley was just caught before the finish by Breese but still claimed the third-place award ahead of Robson. Gateshead’s Jessica Milburn was second fastest on the course behind Breese with Holly Waugh (North Shields Poly) third and Bungay fourth. Gosforth edged out Gateshead by just one point to claim team victory with Houghton a further two points adrift in third place. 


Oliver Calvert & Ben Sproats

MORPETH’S Elliott Mavir and Gosforth’s Calum Akhtar were early leaders only to be denied in the later stages of the contest by a trio of fast-pack runners. 

At the line it was Morpeth’s Oliver Calvert who claimed victory by two seconds over North Shields Poly’s Ben Sproats with Oliver Tomlinson, also Morpeth, finishing in third place five seconds further adrift. 

Naturally, Morpeth were clear team winners with just eight points with Birtley in second place (37pts) and North Shields Poly third on 38pts. 


Durham athlete Charlotte Dillon

TYNEDALE’s Emma Nicholson led in the early stages but in the end had to settle for third place as fast pack runners Charlotte Dillon (Durham City) and Blaydon’s Ellie Fellows reeled her in with around a mile to go. Elswick’s Poppy Old, who finished in fourth place, was the third fastest on the course. In a close team contest victory went to Tynedale who finished with 21 points, one better than Elswick with Gateshead claiming third place ahead of North Shields Poly. 


GOSFORTH’S George Ponton was the early leader but had to settle for the bronze award after fast pack runners Jamie Lonergan (Blaydon) and Birtley’s Noah Williamson managed to overhaul him in the closing stages, Lonergan got the verdict by four seconds over Williamson with Ponton finishing a comfortable third. 

After Lonergan and Williamson next fastest on the course was Freddie Palmer (Tyne Bridge) after finishing in fourth place. Sunderland came out on top in the team event finishing three points ahead of Blaydon with Durham City holding off Tyne Bridge by just one point to claim third place. 


Taylor Miller - Chester le Street

AS expected as the season’s fixtures unfold fast pack runners come into their own and that was noticeably in this contest with, from the first 13 finishers, 11 came from the fast pack. Alnwick’s Farren Henderson led the field out in the early stages only to be overtaken by four athletes from the fast pack in the run to the line. Victory went to Chester-le-Street’s Taylor Miller who had five seconds in hand over Heaton’s Mary Parkin with North Shields Poly’s Anna Johnson completing the podium placings. Morpeth came out on top in the team section finishing ahead of Elswick and Chester-le-Street. 


A SUPERB turn-out of over 40 youngsters saw Birtley’s Ed Moon home in first place holding off North Shields Poly’s Noah Penfold by five seconds with Elswick’s Nicholas Surtees-Brown claiming third place just ahead of Tynedale’s Wilfred Pugh. 

Under 11 boys


AS IT’s been all season it was a one-two for Birtley twins Nell and Kitty Graham with the former once again getting the verdict by just one second. Pushing them all the way to the line on this occasion was Alnwick’s Emilia Waugh who finished just four seconds behind Kitty. 

Under 11 girls

***ONCE again a huge thanks to Jon Taylor for the use of his land, to all the marshals – if it was your first time please don’t hesitate to volunteer again – to all the technical officials, the excellent first aid team and, of course, to all the athletes for making it a great day’s sport. 


Photos: Stuart Whitman Photography & Chris Lines

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