Thursday 3 November 2022

NEHL Lambton Estate 2022 - Race Report


CROSS-COUNTRY is often thought of as the poor relations of our sport but while we know the camaraderie is second to none and is there for all to see at every Start Fitness North East Harrier League fixture, at Lambton Castle it was further in evidence as the under-15 girls approached the finish line of their event.

As the senior women were lining up adjacent to the finishing straight and waiting for the starter to send them on their way all three packs immediately broke into loud applause for the youngsters who had just completed a very tough cross-country course.

It was a pleasure to see and hear on a day when the inclement weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm of nearly 1,500 competitors with the senior women certainly excelling in every way. Well done to you all, I didn’t think the HL could get any better but on Saturday it certainly did and I applaud you all!


Three undulating circuits of the former lion park faced the 550 starters over an extended six-mile multi-terrain course and it was two of the nation’s leading teenagers who signaled their intentions from the off. 

Gateshead’s Josh Blevins and Birtley’s Chris Perkins entered the unknown after moving up from the under-17 age group last year to contest six-mile for the first time but you would not have believed it as they were locked together shoulder-to-shoulder for the first two circuits well clear of their rivals.

It wasn’t until around a mile to go that Blevins, the Northern and National under-17 5k champion, managed to ease away from his shadow and come home 26 seconds ahead of English Schools’ track international Perkins.

“Naturally, I’m pleased with that,” said Blevins after his victory. “Racing six-mile on the country is a big step up but I’m happy with the way it went. Chris was very strong on the hills but I sensed he was tiring a bit so decided to make a move and it paid off. I’m running Milton Keynes next (UK Cross Challenge) then the North Eastern’s and all the major races after the turn of the year.’’

For Perkins, who admits he is primarily a track runner, it was also a run to be proud of after posting the fourth overall quickest time of the day – Blevins was second fastest with fastest time being recorded by Tyneside-based Jarlath McKenna (Bristol and West).

McKenna, who was also quickest in the opening HL fixture at Wrekenton, lined up at Lambton for the first time and, from a handicap of 5min 15secs, worked his way through to finish in eighth place. Asked if he found it difficult to make his way through such a large field, McKenna smiled and said: ‘Yes, maybe on the hills but I’m not complaining for it gave me a chance to ease back a bit!” The Bristol and West athlete plans to line up in the Heaton Memorial 10k, a race he finished in third place last year.

In the team event Morpeth led the way in Division One finishing ahead of Sunderland and Gateshead while in Division Two Durham City were comfortable winners with Saltwell in second place ahead of Blaydon. Newcastle University topped Division Three led home by Luke Davis who was third quickest overall behind McKenna and Blevins as Tynedale finished runners-up ahead of NE Project.


At Druridge Bay Teesside outfit NE Project celebrated their first NEHL victory when Kieran Walker was first home in the senior men’s race. This time round it was Jess Young who took the honours after giving the black-vested club success in the senior women’s two-lap contest.

At the completion of the first circuit, Alnwick’s Helen Waugh had a 20-metre advantage over Young with Anna Oswald (Tyne Bridge) a similar distance back in third place.

Midway through the testing second lap Young eased ahead to come home 21 seconds clear of Waugh with Morpeth’s Morag Stead, who was runner-up in Wrekenton, completing the one-two-three from a 2min 27secs handicap.

Fastest on the course was Wallsend’s Danielle Hodgkinson who worked her way through the 450-strong field to finish in fifth place from a 5min 15secs penalty. Hodgkinson, testing out a long-standing Achilles injury felt she is quietly getting back to some decent form though she added that she is disappointed that she will miss the NEXC Championships as she will be competing for the Army in another fixture.

In the team contest Tyne Bridge led the way in Division One ahead of North Shields Poly and Tynedale; in Division Two Sunderland headed Birtley by just two points with South Shields in third place a further five points adrift while in Division Three Sunderland Strollers took the honours on countback after finishing on 84 points the same as Crook with Stocksfield Striders edging out Blaydon for third palce after the two clubs totalled 96 points.


Elswick’s Callum Eldridge led throughout the three-mile contest finishing a minute clear of North Shields Poly’s Ben Sproats and Blackhill’s Tom Slane, Sproats and Slane posting the day’s quickest times from a 2min 35secs handicap.

The all-conquering Morpeth squad once again claimed team victory with Birtley in second place and Gateshead third.


Not so many years ago this age group was lucky to see a dozen or so face the starter but happily, that is no longer the case with over 40 young women lining up and it was Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon who claimed victory for the third time this season having won from the slow pack at Wrekenton; from the medium pack at Druridge Bay at from the fast pack here at Lambton.

Chester-le-Street’s Lucy Scothern led after the first small lap but Dillon, making her debut at Lambton, cutting back the 2min 35sec handicap with every stride before taking the lead midway the second circuit to come home to win by nearly a minute. Gateshead’s Aoife Bell finished in third place with North Shields Poly’s Holly Waugh fourth posting the second quickest time to help the Poly claim team victory over Gateshead and Gosforth.


In-form Oliver Calvert (Morpeth) defied a 1min 45sec handicap to claim a popular victory after overhauling North Shields Poly pair Matthew Maley and Adam Feenan with the finish line in sight, the Northumbrian eventually getting his nose in front to win by just two seconds over Maley. Second fastest on the course was Calvert’s Morpeth team-mate Oliver Tomlinson who finished in fourth place. North Shields Poly won the team section ahead of Morpeth with Durham City finishing in third place.


Tynedale’s Maria Gaines took the honours with a 16-seconds victory over Durham City’s Chloe Johnson with Lucy Buckle (Chester-le-Street) completing the medallists. Fastest on the course was Johnson’s Durham City team-mate Grace Carter who worked her way through from a 1min 45sec penalty to finish in fifth position. Second quickest was Mary Parkin (Heaton) with Ania Stobbart (Tynedale) third fastest. Tynedale won the team section ahead of Durham City with North Shields Poly in third.


Noah Williamson defied a 1min 45sec handicap to claim an excellent victory, the NE Project runner came home a clear winner by 25 seconds with Blyth’s Dexter Heatley claiming second place three seconds ahead of Heaton’s Jake Smith. Second quickest on the course behind Williamson was North Shields Poly’s James Sturman who held off Wallsend’s Joseph Duthie-Brown in the sprint for the line with the timekeepers’ unable to separate the pair.

Over 60 runners completed the course with Blaydon and Blyth tied on 35 points with the former claiming victory in the team contest on countback. Sunderland finished in third place.


Having their first HL outing of the campaign it was Birtley twins Kitty and Nell Graham who dominated from the off. The duo, members of the winning team the previous weekend at the Northern Athletics XC Relay Championships, led throughout with victory going to Kitty who had a 12 seconds cushion at the line over her sister. Gateshead’s Emma Blackburn was a clear third, on her way to posting the third fastest overall time behind the Birtley girls. No surprise as Birtley won the team race ahead of Gateshead and Morpeth.


Having won the opening fixture in Wrekenton, North Shields Poly’s Noah Penfold made it a second success with a 13-second victory over Druridge Bay winner Kallen O’Neil (Elswick) who just got the verdict over Darlington’s Ollie Curran with both athletes given the same time by the timekeepers.


Three fixtures in and it was the same result as far as the top two finishing positions. Wrekenton, Druridge Bay and now Lambton. Another Birtley one-two with victory going to Poppie Phillipson who finished 16 seconds ahead of her team-mate Izzy Hall. Chester-le- Street’s Isla Ford Hutchinson completed the podium places. Once again it was pleasing to see a number of competitors from West Jesmond Primary School taking part, many tackling cross-country for the very first time.

** Thanks go to the Lambton landowners for letting the HL use their land; to the first aiders and to all the volunteer marshals from the Low Fell, Washington and Birtley clubs and to all the technical officials who, together with the HL committee, were at their posts throughout the day.


Photos by Stuart Whitman
Full gallery here

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