Thursday 15 December 2022

NECAA Northeastern XC Championships 2022



WHILE local sport took a hammering due to the cold and icy conditions the latest edition of the North Eastern Counties CrossCountry Championships went ahead at Temple Park, South Shields thanks to hosts Elswick and Heaton Harriers with close on 800 competitors defying near freezing temperatures. Under bright sunshine throughout the day there were a few surprises despite Calum Johnson retaining his senior men’s title; Phillipa Stone adding the senior women’s gold medal to the under-20 victory from 2016; Birtley crowning a clean sweep in the under-13 girls event; Morpeth making it 10 wins in a row in the senior men’s team race;

Middlesbrough Mandale claiming three individual gold medals and to cap a fine day local icons, Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Mike McLeod and Commonwealth Games marathon champion Jim Alder were on hand to pass on some of the awards.



NECAA XC 22 - Senior Men

Calum Johnson (Gateshead) only decided to defend his title on the eve of the Championships after consultation with coach Alan Storey and it proved to be a wise decision as he covered the 9.9k frozen surface in 30min 17sec and break the tape 33 seconds clear of 2019 champion Carl Avery who finished 47 seconds ahead of fellow Morpeth athlete, tri-athlete international Daniel Dixon.

Calum Johnson

After receiving his awards from McLeod and Alder, a delighted Johnson said: “I hadn’t anything definite pencilled in during the coming weeks but I really wanted to run today so I’m grateful to Storey for giving me the Ok though he stressed that I hadn’t to go hell for leather from the off and to move through the gears as the race unfolded and that’s what I did and naturally, I’m delighted to win again especially coming out on top against such a strong field.’’ Whatever Johnson decides his confidence-boosting performance is just the tonic before he dons an England vest for a 10k road race in Valencia after the turn of the year. 

Following the individual medallists came Heaton Road Race first and second-placed Adrian Bailes (Birtley) and Newcastle-based Bristol and West athlete Jariath McKenna while backing-up Avery and Dixon Morpeth had Sam Hancox (6th), Philip Winkler (8th), Connor Marshall (11th) and Daniel Melling (15th) to claim another resounding team success ahead of Gateshead and Sunderland. Twenty-two of the region’s club’s managed to close in a team from the 260 finishers.



Philippa Stone

In the final race of the day Middlesbrough Mandale’s Philippa Stone went one better than her run in the Alnwick 2019 Championships where she finished runner-up behind former Wallsend athlete Sonia Samuels, by cruising to victory with a gun-to-tape success. The Teesside athlete also claimed victory competing as an under-20 in both the Aykley Heads (2016) and Sedgefield (2015) championships. Just like the senior men ‘s result the minor medals were claimed by Morpeth athletes with Catriona MacDonald finishing in second place followed home by Jane Hodgson who may have thought her podium places were behind her after many successes in the past. Just missing out on a medal was Gateshead’s Shona Haston who finished in fourth place after arguably one of her best runs so far since moving to the North East.

With two in the top three it was no surprise that Morpeth came out on top in the four-to-score team race with Rachelle Falloon (8th) and Michelle Thompson (32nd) backing the medallists to win by just nine points with Gateshead in second place and North Shields Poly third. There were 174 finishers with Jarrow and Hebburn’s Stephanie Brown to be congratulated for staying the distance and following everyone home.



Last year’s under-17 champion Josh Blevins had no difficulty in moving up an age group to claim an impressive victory. The Gateshead athlete who lifted the Northern and National 5k road race titles earlier in the year ran confidently from the front to come home in 21:54, 36 seconds ahead of Morpeth’s Matthew Walton with James Tilley, also Morpeth, completing the one-two-three a further 16 seconds adrift. With only 18 finishers Morpeth once again celebrated team success with eighth-placed Peter Smallcome backing up Walton and Tilley for the gold awards ahead of Sunderland.



It was Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon, competing in the younger age group who was first home heading Millie Breese (Morpeth, u20) by 12 seconds. Then came under-20s North Shields Poly’s Holy Waugh and Anna Pigford (Houghton) with Gateshead’s Jessica Milburn and Elswick’s Imogen Bungay – both under-17s – close up to also make it onto the podium. Despite the combined age group only having 46 finishers it was pleasing to see five clubs close-in a team in the threeto-score contest with Gateshead coming out on top ahead of North Shields Poly and Durham City.



In last year’s championships in Sedgefield Middlesbrough Mandale’s Joseph West finished in fifth place, however, this time round he repelled all of the opposition over an extended distance to claim a comfortable victory by nine seconds as Liam Roche (Morpeth) got the judges’ silver medal verdict over Darlington’s Alex Bowyer as the timekeepers’ couldn’t separate the pair. There were 32 finishers with Morpeth - Roche, Elliot Kelso (4th), Bertie Marr (5th) – claiming another team victory ahead of Middlesbrough Mandale and Darlington.



MIddlesbrough Mandale’s second success came as Jacob Brown led his 46 rivals home, the Teessider claiming victory by eight seconds over Dawit Asmelash (TS Harriers) with North Shields Poly’s Daniel Watson finishing a close-up third. At Sedgefield last year, Brown, running in the Billingham Marsh House colours, finished in sixth place. North Shields Poly, with Matthew Maley (11th) and Oscar Makepiece (13th), backing up Watson, won the team awards ahead of Darlington and Tynedale.



Bronze medallist last year in Sedgefield, Middlesbrough Mandale’s Eden Creasey was a comfortable winner this time round breaking the tape 16 seconds clear of Darlington’s Zara Jones with Heaton’s Mary Parkin celebrating a rare success for the East Newcastle club. Jones was finishing runner-up for the second time after claiming the silver medal last year. However, Jones had the honour of leading Darlington to team victory with Savannah Tarn (8th) and 12th-placed Freya Talman backing her up. Middlesbrough Mandale finished in second place ahead of Tynedale. There were 48 finishers.



Noah Williamson (NE Project) has been in fine form this campaign but on this occasion he found one rival just too strong. North Shields Poly’s Ben Beale held the upper hand for much of the contest to come home 17 seconds clear with Darlington’s Rowan Steel a further six seconds adrift in third place. Steel, with Matthew Foster (5th) and Finn Pentland-Rice (9th) were comfortable winners of the team contest finishing ahead of North Shields Poly and Gosforth.



It’s extremely rare for a club to claim all three individual medals in a major championship but the Birtley trio of Olivia Murphy and twins Nell and Kitty Graham did just that. It wasn’t a surprise though as the threesome have already claimed the Northern and National CrossCountry Relay Championships as well as the Northern Road Relay title this season. Murphy led the team home in 10:37, Nell finished runner-up in 11:00 with Kitty completing the podium places in 11:03 as North Shields Poly’s Katy Otterson just failed to spoil the party by finishing three seconds adrift of third place. No surprise that Birtley claimed the team medals with maximum points with Darlington second and Gateshead third.



The idea of having under-11 events is to give the youngsters a taste of what lies ahead in the future and since their introduction it has steadily grown as clubs see the benefit gained by having competition for that age group. On this occasion 41 boys took part with North Shields Poly’s Noah Penfold leading the field home ahead of Gateshead’s Peter Davies with Darlington’s Ollie Curran completing the one-two-three. Twenty-nine girls lined up and it was a Birtley one-two with Poppie Phillipson crossing the line in first place ahead of Izzie Hall with Phoenix Flyers celebrating after Isla Coker came home in third spot.


**Thanks go to Elswick and Heaton Harriers for hosting and supplying all the marshals for the Championships; to Archie Jenkins and the Cross-Country Committee; to the First Aid team and to South Tyneside Council for making the day a resounding success and, of course, to all the competitors who braved the wintry conditions many with a smile on their face as the crossed the finish line, you were all winners!



Photos: Thanks to George Routledge

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