Sunday 23 October 2022

Northern Athletics Cross-Country Relay Championships - North East Report


THE region may have been low in numbers but the clubs that did travel to Graves Park, Sheffield for the Northern Athletics Cross-Country Relay Championships certainly didn’t disappoint.

Only four North East clubs were on duty and it was, once again, the in-form Birtley trio of Kitty Graham, Olivia Murphy and Nell Graham who made the headlines in a big way. Having already claimed the NA Road Relay gold medals, the team were quietly confident of topping the podium once again though they had to pull out all the stops this time round to see off the challenge of 28 rivals including the Rotherham threesome who had finished runners-up in Manchester behind Birtley.

And it was Rotherham who led at the first 1.8k stage by around 150 metres thanks to the overall quickest time of the day (5:38) by Maya Schofield. Kitty Graham had Birtley in second place (6:01) after holding off the challenge of the Wirral athlete by just one second. 

Esme Milbourne continued to cut out a loan furrow for Rotherham on the second leg but Birtley’s Murphy had cut back the deficit to just six seconds before passing on to Nell Graham to contest the glory leg.

Graham was quickly into her stride and well before half way round the circuit had moved into the lead which came as no surprise as her 5:54 clocking proved to be the second quickest overall behind Schofield.

Once again a superb all-round performance by the trio who were supported by their parents and were well worth their second set of NA gold medals.

While it was a happy Birtley squad who stepped down from the podium it was so close for the Allerton and Darlington trios who came agonisingly to joining them only to miss out by finishing in fourth place in their respective events.

Allerton, contesting the under-11 girls 3x1.5k contest, were in third place at the first changeover thanks to Connie Wilford whose 5:35 figures were the fifth fastest of the day. Georgia Raw slipped back to fourth on leg two and while Abigail Ferguson closed the gap slightly on the leaders it just wasn’t enough at the line. In the same event Darlington finished in eighth place with Sasha Patterson their quickest with 5:46.

In the under-11 boys 3x1.5k contest Darlington could not have come any closer to returning with medals after being run out by a matter of just one second. Liverpool A team were clear winners but the race to join them on the podium came down to a sprint finish between the Wirral, Liverpool B and Darlington with the two Merseyside outfits eventually managing to get the verdict, Wirral recording 16:42, Liverpool B 16:43 and Darlington 16:44. It was extremely tough on the Darlington trio Monty Bowden (5:42), Daniel Callaghan (5:36) and Ollie Curran (5:26) who was sixth quickest of the day.

The senior men’s 4x2-mile relay attracted a record 67 teams with Sunderland Harriers the region’s only representatives and they were rewarded with an excellent 10th place finish.

The Wearsiders’ were in 16th place at the first changeover after Stephen Jackson’s 10:51 stint. Scott Armstrong cut back the deficit on the leaders on leg two after moving through to 11th place with the quartet’s quickest time of 10:56.

Evergreen Steve Rankin was on hand for the penultimate stage and consolidated 11th place after running 11:30 before passing over to Adam Hughes, the young man of the squad. Hughes put in a superb effort and while he only managed to reel in one of the teams ahead his 11:00 was an excellent return and no doubt was well talked about on the journey home.

Well done to all the competitors from the region who took part and perhaps next year we will see a much stronger representation to build on the excellent performances by those who ran at the weekend!



Photos By David Greenwood (Northern Athletics FB Page)

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