Sunday 25 September 2022

NEHL 22-23 Wrekenton Race Report


Report by Bill McGuirk

WHAT is it about cross-country running that is so appealing? Today’s opening fixture of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at Wrekenton attracted over 1,360 finishers on a day when many of our local athletes decided to give the fixture a miss having committed to lining up in tomorrow’s Northern Athletics Road Relay Championships in Manchester or taking in the Keswick Marathon.

Despite early morning rain the testing course hosted by Saltwell Harriers was free of mud so many competitors were slightly disappointed and down-hearted nevertheless, the smiles (grimaces) on the face of many told a different story.

As is the norm, the under-11s opened the 10-race programme and it was a superb sight to see 66 boys and 41 girls face the starter in their respective events. North Shields Poly’s Noah Penfold led the boys home over an extended one-mile course winning in 6min 01sec, with Darlington’s Ollie Curran finishing runner-up seven seconds behind. Elswick’s Kallen O’Neil completed the one-two-three in 6:25, holding off his Elswick team-mate, Felix Dixon, by two seconds.

Contesting the same course, Birtley duo Poppie Phillipson and Izzy Hall claimed the leading two places in the girls race finishing in 6:21 and 6:33 respectively with Elswick’s Millie Robson claiming the bronze award in 6:41.


Next up was the under-13 boys race over a shortened course than usual due to work by the local council. However, it didn’t stop Morpeth’s Ewan Line claiming victory in 9:31 with Sunderland’s Sam Thompson finishing second (9:35) and Kasper Pearson (Wallsend) given third place by the judges with the same time as Thompson. Fastest on the course was Noah Williamson (NE Project) who worked his way through the field to finish 13th with an actual time of 9:16. Blaydon won the team race by five points with Wallsend in second place and Heaton third.


The under-13 girls contested the same course as the boys and it was a success for Grace Robinson-Treghar. The Darlington athlete finished in 10:44, 10 seconds clear of Morpeth’s Faye Heatley with Matilda Owens, also of Darlington, finishing in third place in 10:59. Fastest on the course was Houghton’s Kathryn Pye who finished in 14th place after working through from a 1:15 handicap to be rewarded with an actual time of 10:23.


Darlington comfortably won the team race with Gateshead in second place and Morpeth third. Tynedale’s Magnus Riddell led for most of the under-15 boys contest but was overhauled in the closing stages by Blaydon’s Joseph Ramshaw, three seconds separating the pair at the line. Ramshaw recording 8:38. Freddie Palmer finished in third place in 9:01. Ramshaw posted the fastest overall time as he led Blaydon to team victory over Gateshead and Morpeth.

Gosforth’s Millie Moat was a comfortable winner of the under-15 girls contest crossing the line in 10:05. Durham City’s Grace Carter was second (10:14) with Heaton’s Mary Parkin (10:15) holding off Tynedale’s Ania Stobbart to claim third place. Tynedale were runaway winners of the team race with Gosforth second and Darlington third.


The under-17 men’s race was won by Morpeth’s Joseph Close in 17:58, Blaydon’s Maximus Murray finished runner-up in 18:06 with Tynedale’s Ben Brunton completing the podium places in 18:09. Fastest on the course was Gosforth’s Ethan Bond who worked his way through to seventh place from a 2:30 handicap to finish with an actual time of 17:01.


Only two clubs closed in teams with victory going to Morpeth ahead of Gosforth.

The combined under-17/20 women’s race was won by Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon in 18:39 which was also the fastest time of the day. Elswick’s Poppy Old finished in second place in 19:47 with Gateshead’s Aoife Bell in third in 20:23. Gateshead claimed team victory ahead of Elswick and Durham City.


What a wonderful sight it was to see nearly 450 contestants weaving their way in the senior women’s two-lap contest. Durham City’s Katie Iliffe made her Harrier League debut a winning one crossing the line in 24:56. Morpeth’s Morag Stead showed a clean pair of heels to many of her younger rivals after moving into second place at the start of the second circuit eventually finishing in 25:22. Houghton’s Eva Hardie finished third in 25:34. 

Fastest on the course was defending champion Catriona MacDonald who, from a five minute penalty clawed her way through the field to finish in an excellent 17th place to record an actual time of 24:03.

In the team stakes Morpeth headed Division One from Jarrow and Hebburn with Heaton in third place; In Division Two a huge turnout by Washington was rewarded by finishing comfortable winners over host club Saltwell with South Shields in third place while in Division Three Gosforth came out on top finishing ahead of Blyth and Stocksfield Striders.


While the senior women’s race was a sight to behold, the senior men’s contest was even better as nearly 550 fast and not so fast took on three circuits of the reclaimed pit land. And it was Morpeth teenager Matthew Walton who claimed a superb victory finishing 11 seconds ahead of Durham City’s Stefan Szaclewski with Wallsend’s junior international Sam Charlton working his way through to claim third place a further seven seconds back from a 2:20 handicap to record an actual time of 30:15 which was one second slower than Newcastle-based Bristol and West athlete Jarlath McKenna who, from a five-minute penalty worked his way through to finish 18th to record an actual time of 30:14.

In the team race defending Division One champions Morpeth, got off to a winning start finishing ahead of Elvet Striders and Tyne Bridge while Houghton led the way in Division Two finishing ahead of Durham City and Jesmond Joggers while in Division Three Tynedale finished one point ahead of Alnwick with Derwent Valley Trail Runners finishing in third place.

All of the results are available here 

**The NEHL are indebted to Saltwell Harriers once again for hosting an excellent fixture; to the first aiders, to all the marshalls and technical officials and to all the competitors for making it a hugely successful opening to the new cross-county campaign.

We now look forward to the second instalment when the caravan moves to Druridge Bay on Sunday, October 9.

Former international athlete Ieuan Ellis at his first cross country for some time representing #pontelandrunners

For those of you who don't know Ieuan ran a half in Istanbul in 1:04 and a marathon in Frankfurt in 2:14, as well as 63 mins for half marathon in the Great North Run, 2:13:21 marathon in Beijing, and ran 9 world cross country championships in the late 80's.

Follow Ieuan on twitter: @Prof_IeuanEllis

Many thanks to Stuart Whitman for the photos

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