Wednesday 12 October 2022

NEHL 2022-23 - Druridge Bay Report


THE Start Fitness North East Harrier League caravan parked up at Druridge Bay and once again huge fields were the order of the day even though the fixture, the league’s only Sunday competition, clashed with numerous other events up and down the country. 

Despite the tough terrain and the blustery conditions, the senior women’s turn-out was the best ever at the Northumberland country park which saw 450 finishers with, once again, another Durham City athlete taking the major honours to follow on from team-mate Katie Iliffe who triumphed in the season-opener at Wrekenton three weeks earlier. 

This time round it was Alice Crane who spreadeagled the field, the former Derby AC athlete taking full advantage of the generous start over her ‘quicker’ rivals. Going into the second of two laps of the rolling countryside Crane had opened up a gap of around two minutes over North Shields Poly’s Hannah Williams who was having her first HL contest since Blaydon in 2011, with Kirsty Burville (Morpeth) in third place followed by Cambridge and Coleridge’s Rachel Smith. 

Desperately trying to make inroads into the leader’s huge lead were Houghton’s Eva Hardie and Morpeth’s Catriona MacDonald who had the task of trying to charge the leader down from their respective 2min 30sec and five minutes handicap. 

However, that proved to be a difficult task for Crane continued to surge on and at the finish line was nearly four minutes clear or runner-up Williams with Burville consolidating third place ahead of Smith. Hardie moved through to finish in fifth place while MacDonald, who was quickest at Wrekenton, crossed the line in seventh place. Amazingly, Crane, a Durham University student, finished with an actual time of 23:43 against MacDonald’s 24:32 which shows the tangerines have acquired another talented performer. 

After two fixtures Morpeth head Division One after two victories with Heaton in second place with nine points followed by Jesmond Joggers and Tynedale both of whom are on 10pts. Durham City top Division Two on five points with South Shields in second place on the same number of points with Washington, winners at Wrekenton, in third place on seven points. Gosforth are clear leaders of Division Three on three points followed by four clubs on seven points: Blaydon, Blyth, Sunderland Strollers and Stockfield Striders. 

Just like the senior women’s contest the senior men’s three-lap version produced a gun-to-tape winner for an athlete making his NEHL debut. Teesside-based Kieran Walker, a regular NE Counties team-member at the Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships, was having his first outing since having to drop out of the recent London Marathon and he showed he had pushed his problems behind him with a clearcut win over Newcastle University duo Luke Davis and Edward Pettitt. 

The trio quickly into their stride at the head of the near 600- strong field and it was Walker (NE Project) who finally came home a minute-and--a-half clear of Davis with Pettitt completing the one two-three a similar margin adrift in third place. 

Host Club’s Michael Stott was the first vet to finish in fourth place after overhauling North Shield’s Poly’s Andrew Heide on the final lap. Walker’s winning time of 31:35 was the overall best of the day with Michael Hedley, who had finished amongst the awards on the Quayside on Friday night in the Great North 5k, the pick of the fast pack and second quickest overall in 32:48 after moving through the field to finish in 16th place. 

In Division One Morpeth lead with five points with Tyne Bridge in second place on the same number of points. Gateshead, who were victorious on the day, have seven points with Elvet Striders also on seven. Houghton head Division Two with three points; Low Fell are second with five points; Jesmond Joggers next with six followed by Durham City on seven. Alnwick top Division Three with five points followed by Tynedale (6), Derwent Valley Trail (7) and Blyth on nine. 

Numbers were slightly down in the younger age group contests mainly due to the re-arranged Junior and Mini Great North Run which were held 24 hours earlier. However, that didn’t deter from some excellent competition throughout the day. 

First up, as usual, was the under-11 events and it was good to see Ovingham Middle School well represented in both the boys and girls contests. 

The U11 boys were first in action with 48 facing the starter for the near one-mile challenge and it was Elswick’s Kallen O’Neil who proved victorious crossing the line in 5min 26sec, five seconds clear of Morpeth’s Jacob Thompson with Joseph Hutchinson (Gosforth) a further four seconds adrift in third place. 

In the U11 girls’ race, it was a one-two repeat of the Wrekenton result with Birtley duo Poppie Phillipson and Izzie Hall filling the first two places. Phillipson coming home in in 5:29, nine seconds clear of her team-mate. Isla Coker (Phoenix Flyers), who was fifth finisher at Wrekenton, improved to third, six seconds behind Hall. 

The under-13 and under-15 competitors faced a distance of two mile and it was Alnwick’s Alistair Johnston who took the honours in the younger U13 boys’ race. The Northumbrian came home in 12:41, 12 seconds ahead of Tynedale’s Arthur Darling with William Handyside (Gosforth) another five seconds back in third place. Unfortunately, the Newcastle athlete was disqualified for running from the wrong pack which moved Tynedale’s Wilfred Pugh up into third place. 

Fastest on the course once again was Noah Williamson (NE Project) who finished with an actual time of 11:57 after moving through the field to finish in seventh place from a 1min 40sec handicap. Tynedale, with their three scorers finishing inside the top 10, were comfortable winners of the team race with Alnwick in second place just ahead of Tyne ridge. 

It was another celebration for the Alnwick club as Emilia Waugh strolled to victory in the under-13 girls contest to break the tape (13:48) well clear of North Shields Poly’s Eilidh Dotchin with Derwentside’s Sophie Cheetham holding off fast-finishing Niamh Phillipson (Birtley) to claim the bronze award. However, the Birtley athlete was the overall quickest on the course posting an actual time of 13:13 after giving away a 1:40 start to the leading trio. Tyne Bridge, led home by seventh-placed Anna Carr, won the team section ahead of Gateshead and Elswick. 

The under-15 Boys event was won by Durham City’s William Jardine, who held off Alnwick’s Harry Knox by 15 seconds to claim the gold medal. Jack Hendry (Gateshead) finished in third place just ahead of North Shields Poly’s Charlie Furness. Morpeth’s Oliver Calvert, who was a Junior GNR winner the previous day, posted the fastest overall time of the day of 10:41 on his way to finishing in fifth position. Jardine led the tangerines to team victory with Morpeth finishing second and Gateshead third. 

An exciting contest developed in the under-15 girls race with North Shields Poly’s Anna Johnson (13:29) getting the verdict by five seconds over Esme Pugh (Tynedale) with Blyth’s Niamh Adams just three seconds further adrift in third place. Chasing them home all the way to the line were fast pack runners Zara Jones (Darlington) and Gosforth’s Annie Hutchinson who finished in fourth and fifth places respectively after recording the two quickest times of the day of 12:29 and 12:33. Johnson led the Poly to team success by just two points over Tynedale with Durham City finishing in third place. 

The under-17 men’s near-three-mile contest went the way of Blaydon’s James Grey (16:54) who was always in the driving seat from the gun. Wallsend’s Hugh Fenwick finished runner-up 11 seconds behind with Durham City’s Sam Mason completing the podium placings. William De Vere-Owen, a member of Morpeth’s bronze-winning trio at the ERRA National Road Relay Championships at Sutton Park 48 hours earlier, showed no signs of weariness to weave his way through to finish in fourth place with the fastest time of the day of 15:22 from a handicap of 2min 30secs. De Vere-Owen led Morpeth to team victory ahead of Gosforth and Durham City. 

In the combined under-17/20 women’s race over the same distance as the men proved to be a success for Charlotte Dillon which gave Durham City their fourth individual title of the day. Dillon, who missed out on lining up in the Junior GNR in preference of the GNR 5k where she finished in second place, quickly reeled in her rivals from 1min 15 secs handicap and proceeded to go on and win in 18:46 – actual time 17:31 – with Newcastle University’s Marianne Doherty finishing in second place ahead of Gosforth’s Emma Ashman. North Shields Poly’s Holly Waugh was quickest from the fast pack moving through to finish in 10th place with an actual time of 17:46. Ashman led Gosforth to team victory with North Shields Poly finishing in second place relegating Gateshead into third spot on countback. 

**THANKS once again go to Blyth Running Club for hosting another well-drilled harrier league fixture at Druridge Bay. Always a testing course which was made a bit easier by the enthusiastic marshalls throughout the day. Thanks also go to the technical officials, the first aiders and, of course, to the chuck waggon personnel! 

The HL bandwagon moves on to the Lambton Estate for the next fixture at the end of the month - will there be any mud? - but before that the next cross-country event is the NECAA’s Cross-Country Relay Championships at Thornley Hall Farm this coming Saturday. Good luck to all those taking part.

Report by Bill McGuirk
Photos: Stuart Whitman Phtography

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