Wednesday 22 February 2023

NECAA Royal Signals Relays report


Morpeth Harriers once again lined-up a strong sextet in defense of their Signals Trophy at Hetton Lyons Park and while, after over an hours running, the Northumbrians came within 30 seconds of dipping under their own course record time set last year, the individual course record did fall thanks to Alex Brown’s explosive 10min 06sec for the extended two-mile tricky circuit round the park lake.

Thirteen years ago New Marske’s Ricky Stevenson posted 10:09, a time which many thought would not be bettered. However, Brown had other ideas.

The senior men and v40 masters’ lined up together on the second event on the programme and it was Sunderland who led at the first changeover thanks Joe Armstrong’s 10:28 stint. Adrian Bailes had Birtley just behind followed by Gateshead’s Josh Blevins and New Marske’s Lewis Gamble-Thompson with Morpeth (Sam Hancox) back in seventh place.

Sunderland still held the advantage at the end of the second stage thanks to Scott Armstrong’s 10:45, the quickest time of the stage. Birtley were still in second place thanks to teenager Chris Perkins with Morpeth (James Young) now in third place ahead of Tyne Bridge and Gosforth.

Things changed dramatically heading for the midway point of the contest when Brown took over from Young. The former Houghton Harrier quickly set about reeling in his main rivals and by the completion of the first of the circuits he had moved into the lead, a position he held all the way to the next changeover. Such was Brown’s performance he had turned a 46 seconds deficit into a 33 seconds advantage! Sunderland (Steve Rankin) were now in second place just ahead of Birtley (Tom Goulding) with Gateshead fourth, followed by Morpeth’s second string, Houghton, Gosforth and Tyne Bridge.

Chris Parr extended Morpeth’s lead by three seconds over Sunderland (Steve Jackson) on leg four with Gateshead now in a podium position for the first time in third spot. Birtley were now fourth with Morpeth B team in fifth.

On leg five Connor Marshall pulled further clear for Morpeth by posting the fastest stage time of 11:00 as Jack Ridding kept the Wearsiders’ in second position around a minute clear of Gateshead (Dave Richardson). Morpeth B were now in fourth place ahead of Gosforth and Birtley.

The final leg proved to be a time trial for in-form Carl Avery, the Northern Cross-Country silver medalist, and though he had only the clock to chase he pulled out all the stops in an attempt to set new course figures. However, despite posting the second overall best time of the day of 10:19 the timekeepers gave the Morpeth squad a winning time of 64:26, 30 seconds outside their own record when Hancox, Brown and Avery were part of that squad. Adam Hughes brought Sunderland home in second place over two minutes adrift of the winners with Gateshead (Phil Jamieson) completing the one-two-three. Morpeth B finished fourth, Gosforth fifth followed by North Shields Poly, Durham City, Birtley, Tyne Bridge and New Marske edging out Elswick for 10th place.

FASTEST TIMES: 1 Alex Brown (Morp) 10:06, 2 Carl Avery (Morp) 10:19; 3 Joe Armstrong (Sund) 10:28; 4 Adrian Bailes (Birt) 10:31; 5 Josh Blevins (Gates) 10:41; 6 Scott Armstrong (Sund) 10:45; 7 Lewis Gamble-Thompson (NMske) 10:46; 8 Jordan Bell (BhillB) 10:47; 9 Chris Perkins (Birt) 10:56; 10 James Young (Morp) 10:57.


SUNDERLAND Harriers were the early pacesetters in the V40 category thanks to Michael Barker’s fastest time of the day (11:43) on the first stage of the contest. North Shields Poly (Ben Cook) were in second place 16 seconds adrift with Elvet Striders (Graeme Watt) a further three seconds back in third spot. On stage two Patrick Houghton moved the Poly into the lead and from then on to the finish Ian Dunn, Rory McConnachy, Phil Coulson and Graeme Cook brought the North Tyneside outfit home in 73:06 which gave them a two-minute cushion over a celebrating Elvet Striders whose Mark Kearney was their quickest with 11:51. Sunderland held off Gateshead by 33 seconds to claim the bronze awards.

FASTEST LEGS: 1 Michael Barker (Sund) 11:43; 2 Mark Kearney (Elvet)  11:52; 3= Ben Cook and Graeme Cook (both NSP) 11:59; 5 Patrick Houghton (NSP) 12:01;  6 Graeme Watt (Elvet) 12:02; 7 Ian Dunn (NSP) 12:12; 8 David Dawson (Gates) 12:20; 9 Ross Jarman (SthSh) 12:21; 10 Chris Champs (SthSh) 12:29.

THE opening event on the programme was a four-stage contest for senior women, masters women and masters men 50 and at the end of the day it was the Poly senior women’s team who crossed the line in first place ahead of the 100 teams who entered.

Elswick led at the first changeover thanks to new recruit, Saltwell Road Race winner, Sophie Pikett (12:15) who was closely followed home by the Poly’s Holly Waugh (12:31) who headed Houghton’s Anna Pigford. On leg two former Commonwealth 800m finalist, Charlotte Penfold, with the day’s second fastest overall time of the day of 12:13, moved NSP into the lead and from then on to the finish they were never headed as Katie Joslyn (14:03)  and Jackie Penn (12:37) consolidated pole position to win by over two minutes as Elswick finished in second place with Imogen Bungay, Bella Russell and Poppy Old, with the day’s quickest time of 12:11, backed up Pikett. Durham City moved into a podium finish on the final stage thanks to Northern Cross-Country under-17 silver medallist, Charlotte Dillon’s 12:22. Tyne Bridge, with Kathryn Stephenson (13:34) their quickest, finished fourth followed by Morpeth – Cat MacDonald  (13:02) their best – and Houghton.

FASTEST LEGS: 1 Poppy Old (Els) 12:11; 2 Charlotte Penfold (NSP) 12:13; 3 Sophie Pikett (Els) 12:15; 4 Charlotte Dillon (DurC) 12:22; 5 Holly Waugh (NSP) 12:31; 6 Jackie Penn (NSP) 12:37; 7 Imogen Bungay (Els) 13:23; 8 Ellen Powell (Elvet) 13:34; 9 Hannah Williams (NSP) 13:36; 10 Rebecca Bain (TyneBr) 13:38.

THE lead changed throughout the Masters’ women’s contest after Morag Stead had Morpeth at the head of affairs at the first changeover after recording an impressive 13:26. North Shields Poly’s Clare Harlow (13:32) were in second place followed by New Marske (Kay Neesam), Elswick (Felicity Smith) and South Shields (Jackie Mordy. 

On stage two Sunderland Strollers, who were back in seventh place in the early stages, moved into the lead thanks to Olympian Ally Dixon whose 12:27 contribution was the day’s overall quickest time. The Poly (Becky Coleman) held onto second place with New Marske (Sharon Thornton) third followed by Elswick (Cath Lowes) and South Shields (Suzanne McStea). 

New Marske Moved into the lead on the penultimate stage thanks to Sarah Hunter (14:21) with the Strollers (Jen Deighton) five seconds adrift in second place with North Shields Poly (Michelle Thompson) and Elswick (Hazel Bough) locked together around a minute behind the leaders. However, Tyneside outfit Elswick had kept their powder dry for the final charge and it was former junior cross-country international Justina Heslop who raced through the opposition on the glory leg and record the second quickest time (13:17) of the day to break the tape in an overall time of 56:41. 

Kirsty Lowery (14:27) consolidated the Strollers second spot 20 seconds behind the newly-crowned champions as Pat Speedie held on to claim the bronze awards for New Marske a similar distance back. North Shields Poly finished just outside the medals in fourth place (57:44) followed by South Shields (59:31) and Gosforth (59:58).  

FASTEST LEGS: 1 Ally Dixon (SundStr) 12:27; 2 Justina Heslop (Els) 13:17; 3 Morag Stead (Morp) 13:26; 4 Clare Harlow (NSP) 13:32; 5 Sharon Thornton (NMske) 13:54; 6 Fran Dembele (SthSh) 14:10; 7 Kay Neesam (NMske) 14:14; 8 Hazel Bough (Els) 14:15; 9 Felicity Smith (Els) 14:18; 10 Jackie Murdy (SthSh) 14:19. 

TEESSIDE outfit New Marske Harriers celebrated victory in the Men’s V50 championship after moving to the front at the half-way stage. Crook (Wayne Pearson) hit the first changeover one second ahead of North Shields Poly (Michael Parkinson) with New Marske (Martin Murray) two seconds back in third place and one second ahead of Morpeth’s Jason Dawson.

Justin Shaw moved New Maske into first place at the half way point with Elswick (Jason Old) in second place as  Crook (Jason Bridgewater) dropped back to third ahead of Morpeth (Lee Bennett) and North Shields Poly (Chris Waite). On the penultimate leg, Clive Thornton extended New Marske’s advantage to one minute as Morpeth (Al McDonald) and North Shields Poly’s James Thompson crossed the line together ahead of Elswick’s Martin Connelly and Crook’s Geoff Hewitson. Morpeth’s Rob Hancox managed to haul back the leaders (Paul Cleasby) by 20 seconds on the final stage but it wasn’t enough as New Marske came home with a comfortable lead as Elswick followed the Northumbrian’s home in third place thanks to Mike Russell’s efforts. North Shields Poly finished fourth, Crook fifth and Sunderland sixth.

FASTEST LEGS: 1 Wayne Pearson (Crook) 12:24; 2 Michael Parkinson (NSP) 12:25; 3 Martin Murray (NMske) 12:27; 4 Lee Bennett (Morp) 12:36; 5 Justin Shaw (NMske) 12:47; 6 Mark Turnbull (Els) 12:51; 7 Mike Russell (Els) 13:06; 8 Jason Old (Els) 13:07; 9 Colin Rogerson (SunStr) 13:18; 10 Darron Dodd (Sun) 13:19.

**The North Eastern Counties AA is once again indebted to Houghton Harriers – Maureen and Peter Dodsworth in particular – for hosting another successful Signals Relays. Also to all the marshalls and technical officials on duty throughout the afternoon. Thanks also to the first aid team for without their input the long-standing event would not take place.

**This report was written while the results had not been finalised so if there are any mistakes I can only apologise!


Photos - New Marske Harriers 

Friday 17 February 2023

NEHL Thornley Hall farm race report


It is the cross-country season and you would expect to face grey sky’s some mud, and with numbers turning out significantly less than the norm. However, the penultimate Start Fitness North East Harrier League fixture of the season at Thornley Hall Farm bucked everything as the sun shone continuous throughout the day, muddy sections were at a premium and once again over 1,000 athletes turned out to contest a tough and testing course laid out by the organising Blackhill Bounders club. So, all-in-all, a great day’s sport with many talking points over coffee and cake – or a bacon sandwich from the chuck wagon – once everyone’s efforts were over.


Another huge field faced the starter and it was new Tyne Bridge signing Lucy Crookes who shone like the sun leading throughout the contest. The former Leeds City athlete took the bull by the horns despite being sidelined for the past three years through injury and quickly established herself at the head of affairs. At the completion of the first of two circuits Crookes was over two minutes clear with Rachel Pullan (Sunderland Strollers), Tynedale’s Charlie Pinkney, Emily Scriven (Jesmond Joggers) and Gosforth’s Jo Denholm her nearest rivals.


Taking full advantage of her five-minute buffer Crookes continued to cut out a lone furrow as she set out into the country for a second time. All the while behind her Morpeth pair Jane Hodgson and Catriona MacDonald were cutting back the deficit after giving the leader a five-minute start. However, the gap was so great it was no surprise that Crookes, whose last outing was in the 2020 Northern Cross-Country Championships in Bedale where she finished in ninth place, entered the final field alone where she crossed the finish line in 25min 32secs as Hodgson worked her way through from her five-minute handicap to finish runner-up in 30:00 and was rewarded with the quickest actual time of the day of 25:00. 

Tynedale’s Pinkney crossed the line six seconds behind Hodgson to claim the third-place award as MacDonald came home in sixth place with the second quickest actual time of 25:23, nine seconds faster than the race winner. A delighted race winner was all smiles after her victory saying: “I didn’t really know what to expect after being out for so long so that’s why I ran from the slow pack.” Crookes added: 

“It was a really tough course, it had a bit of everything and I’m pleased to come through unscathed.” 

Long after picking up her winner’s medal, Crookes was spotted doing what all do and that was warming down as the senior men’s race got under-way. Despite Crookes leading Tyne Bridge to team victory on the day, Morpeth still head Division One though it’s all to play for in the final fixture in Alnwick as only three points separate the two clubs going into the final fixture. A rejuvenated Tynedale move up into third place one point ahead of North Shields Poly with Jesmond Joggers two points further back in fifth spot. 

While there’s huge interest in seeing who will be crowned champions that’s also the case at the other end of the table. Jarrow and Hebburn look as though they could well be relegated after gaining promotion last season. However, the second club who could face the drop is uncertain as only four points separate Elswick, Elvet, Heaton and Wallsend. All four clubs will be calling on as many of their members as possible to make it to Alnwick on March 4.

South Shields have almost secured the Division Two title with Durham City favourites to join them in promotion while in a relegation scrap Birtley are currently at the bottom with only three points separating Ponteland, Gateshead, Saltwell, Low Fell and Claremont.

Sunderland Strollers are clear at the head of Division Three with Blaydon and Stocksfield Striders vying for the second promotion place 


Though not as convincing as the senior women’s race it was a gun-totape victory for Blyth’s Ellis Hetherington who led throughout the three undulating circuits.

Thanks to a five minute 20 seconds start Hetherington took control in the early stages and after completing one lap had a 15 seconds lead over a group which included Durham City duo Alex Aldridge and Dan Jenkin, Gateshead’s Joe Wales and Connor Braithwaite of Tyne Bridge with Tynedale’s Allen Dean not far behind. Going into the final circuit the positions remained the same and it was Hetherington who broke the tape to win in 34:15. Wales proved the strongest over the final lap to cross the line 31 seconds adrift of the winner with Aldridge coming home in third place.

Behind the leaders an intriguing battle for the quickest on the course was unfolding as Tyneside-based Jarlath McKenna (Bristol and West) and Birtley teenager Chris Perkins worked their way through the near 500-strong field with nothing to separate the pair until midway through the final lap. And it was the experienced McKenna who proved the stronger to cross the line in seventh position, one place and nine seconds ahead of his main rival. While it was McKenna’s third time this season as quickest on the course it can’t be emphasized too greatly how well Perkins had performed over a testing six miles, a run which will greatly enhance his long-term aim on the track when summer comes along.

Morpeth, with their fourth victory of the campaign, are well clear of Tyne Bridge at the top of Division One while at the bottom it looks as though Newcastle clubs Elswick and Heaton are favourites for relegation. Durham City, with their third success of the season, are clear at the top of Division Two with Houghton, Low Fell, Saltwell and Jesmond Joggers fighting it out for a move up while any two from South Shields, Gosforth, Blaydon or Ponteland could find themselves down a division for next season. Tynedale head Division Three clear of Blyth with Alnwick and Washington currently in third and fourth place respectively. 


Despite giving away a 2:30 start it proved no problem for Charlotte Dillon (Durham City) and Houghton’s Anna Pigford who finished in first and second place. Dillon, the Northern XC silver medallist came home well clear of Pigford who just got up on the line to relegate Gateshead’s Sophie Johnstone into third place. Iona Johnstone (Gateshead) was second quickest under-17 on the course behind Dillon while Tynedale’s Jess Sails was second fastest under-20 behind Pigford. With one fixture to go just six points separate the top five teams with Gateshead on 12 points, Gosforth 14, Durham City 16, North Shields Poly 17 and Elswick on 18.


Morpeth’s William De Vere-Owen made light work of a 2:30 handicap to claim victory by 14 seconds over Elswick’s Adam Robinson with De Vere-Owen’s team-mate Bertie Marr posting the day’s second fastest time to finish in third place. Blackhill Bounders’ Tom Slane was third fastest crossing the line in fifth place behind Rory Letts of Sedgefield. Morpeth. Who have come out on top in all five fixtures so far naturally head the team interest with just one point separating Elswick, Durham City and Birtley in the race for the runners-up spot.


Despite an extended handicap of 1:40 it had no bearing on the result with all three medallists defying the penalty. Victory went to North Shields Poly’s Anna Johnson who had a five-seconds cushion over Tynedale’s Ania Stobbart at the line with Heaton’s Mary Parkin just getting the better of Tyne Bridge’s Ruby Colver close to home three seconds behind Parkin.

Tynedale are well clear at the top of the league with North Shields

Poly in second place ahead of Elswick, Durham City and Tyne Bridge.


Alnwick’s Liam McDonough left it late to defy his 1:40 handicap to haul in Liam Whitelaw (Tyne Bridge) only getting the better of his main rival close to home. North Shields Poly’s Elijah Fahey crossed the line in second place but was disqualified for running from the wrong pack which meant Whitelaw moved up into second position with Morpeth’s Dan Burrow receiving the bronze award. Second quickest on the course was Blaydon’s Jamie Lonergan when finishing in sixth place 26 seconds adrift of McDonough.

Morpeth head the team stakes on 10 points with North Shields Poly second, Durham City third and Tyne Bridge fourth.


Tynedale’s Emilia Stobbart beat off the chasing pack with ease taking full advantage of a 1:40 start over the fast pack. Stobbart had 41 seconds in hand as she crossed the finish as Houghton’s Kathryn Pye proved quickest on the day to finish in second place four seconds ahead of fellow fast pack runner, Birtley’s Niamh Phillipson. Prudhoe Plodders, led home by Martha Thomas in sixth place, were team winners on the day as Gateshead are well clear at the head of the table ahead of Gosforth, Elswick, Birtley and Durham City.


Noah Williamson (North East Project) also made light work of a 1:40 penalty to come home eight seconds clear of Morpeth’s Michael Leeson with Ashington Hirst supporters celebrating as Jamie Dunn completed the one-two-three a further six seconds adrift. Second fastest on the course was Wallsend’s Kasper Pearson in fourth place with North Shields Poly’s James Sturman third quickest one further place adrift. Blaydon are well clear at the top of the league with Sunderland in second place ahead of Tynedale and North Shields Poly.


Once again it was a Birtley one-two in the now established ‘Try Cross-Country’ with victory going to Poppie Phillipson who had nine seconds in hand at the line over team-mate Izzie Hall, Isla Coker (Phoenix Flyers) completed the podium places in third place finishing ahead of Millie Robson (Elswick) and Chester-le-Street’s Isla Ford Hutchinson.


Another outing, another victory for North Shields Poly’s Noah Penfold. Quickly away from the gun the youngster was never headed as he crossed the line in 5:13, 11 seconds clear of Henry Engelhart (Phoenix Flyers) with Elswick’s Kallen O’Neil a further six seconds adrift in third place, Alnwick’s Finlay Waugh and Tynedale’s Lloyd Vincent couldn’t be separated time wise in fourth and fifth place respectively.

*THE Start Fitness North East Harrier League is indebted to Blackhill Bounders and to Stewy Bell in particular, for hosting another superb event at Thornley Hall Farm and to all the marshall’s he managed (threaten) to round up on the day. A huge thanks also go out to Jon Taylor for allowing the league to use his land and facilities, it’s greatly appreciated. Without the first aid team and your technical officials the day would not go ahead so to everyone who had an input in making it another successful day, thank you.



Photos - Stuart Whitman Photography

Friday 10 February 2023

NEHL 2023 - Thornley Hall farm

Firstly, a big thank you to Blackhill Bounders for hosting this fixture and also to John Taylor and family for allowing the fixture to take place on their land.

Find attached course map. The race timings are as usual and can be found at (bottom right of homepage).

Registration will be in the bar area as usual, first right after the toilets.

TRAVEL AND PARKING. Parking is on site as usual. Please follow signs and any instructions given once you have turned off the A181 - see road map. Should be obvious where you're turning! (Buildings / land with John's name over it!).




All the best and enjoy, whichever race you're competing in! 😀

Dogs - Must be on a lead at all times, and you must bag and bin any dog poop


12.00 Under 11 Boys
12.05 Under 11 Girls
12.15 Under 17 men
12.20 U17 and U20 women
12.35 Under 15 Boys
12.40 Under 15 Girls
12:50 Under 13 boys
12:55 Under 13 girls
13.15 Senior & veteran women
13:50 Senior & veteran Men

Course Map

Guests may run in the league at a cost of £5 for the whole season. This is a one off charge. They must register on the day, and let us know if they competed last season (and if they did we can check the pack).

Guests must be members of a EA or SA, or similar affiliated club.

Second Claim runners may not count for team points. They can either run for their first claim club as a guest, or if they come and register on the day they can take part as a non-counting runner in their second claim vest.

Guests & Second claim runners do not accumulate team points, but do get individual grand prix points.

Race HQ will be at the all new singing and dancing NEHL Tent next at the start area.

Reminder to ALL competitors. We do not split race packs. Your team manager needs to collect and pay for your team entries. I have a list of who owes what, we wi
ll not take individual numbers out of the packs, we are far too busy. Find out who your team manager is and make sure they have a cheque or cash with them to cover the club's entry fees.

Costs are £50 + £3 per runner for clubs

£5 for guests

If by some unknown reason you manage to lose your number on the day you've collected it from your team tent, you can buy a new one for £5. I know it sounds daft, but it has happened before.

Quick reminder of the rules.

You must start in the pack you have been allocated. (You will be DQd for running from the wrong pack)

You must wear your club's team vest or t-shirt, and all vests must be of the same design (or you will be DQd & won't count for team points)

As per league rules you CANNOT wear headphones

Age restrictions as follows:

Under 11 - must be aged at least 9 on the day of competition
Under 13 - must be 11 on 31st August 2022.  
Under 15 - must be 13 on 31st August 2022.
Under 17 men - must be 15 on 31st August 2022.
Under 17 & 20 women - must be 15 on 31st August 2022.
Senior Men - must be 17 on 31st August 2022.
Senior Women - must be 20 on 31st August 2022.

Masters men aged 65 may (if they wish) run in the 2 lap Senior Women's race, they register as per normal in the men's race, then come to race hq for a replacement number.  Masters wishing to do this must stay in the 2 lap race all season.

Results will be available on the usual link

Friday 3 February 2023

North East at the Northern XC Championships 2023



A TOTAL of eight individual and two sets of team medals was the order of the day for North East athletes as they produced impressive performances throughout the 10-race programme at the Northern Cross-Country Championships on a grey day at Blackburn’s Witton Park.

The area championships returned to the popular venue after an absence of seven years and once again the ‘testing’ twisting course of hills and extremely muddy sections proved to be a real challenge for around 200 or so NE competitors who crossed the Pennines in search of glory or otherwise.

It was no surprise the all-conquering Birtley under-13 girls squad took the major honours with victory going to Olivia Murphy who covered the 3.2k circuit in 12min 18sec, to finish 13 seconds clear of Rotherham’s Maya Schofield with Murphy’s team-mate Kitty Graham a further five seconds adrift in third place. This winter the Birtley team have taken all before them having won the National cross-country and National road relay championships as well as lifting the Northern equivalents so it came as no surprise as the topped the podium on this occasion with fourth-placed Nell Graham and Niamh Philipson (28th) backing up the two individual medalists.

After stepping off the podium Murphy commented: “I’ve been running well recently and felt reasonably confident but you never know how it will turn out when you run against girls I haven’t raced against before. But naturally, I’m pleased with my run and I really enjoyed the course though the hills were tough and I’m happy for everyone that we won the team race once again.’’

Apart from the Birtley quartet there were also good performances from Houghton’s Kathryn Pye, who finished 13th, North Shields Poly’s Katy Otterson, who followed her home one place behind and

Gateshead’s Emma Blackburn who crossed the line in 15th position. Darlington was the only other NE club to finish a team and, led home by Matilda Owens (38th) closed in in 10th place.

In the under-17 men’s 5.9k contest Morpeth’s Joe Dixon came within one second of being crowned champion after being agonising held on the run to the line by Liverpool’s Liam McKay. It was an intriguing race with the Northumbrian doing his share at the head of the field but it was the Merseyside champion who proved the stronger. Following the duo home in third place was fit-again Houghton athlete Brandon Pye as the medallists finished well clear of the chasing pack.

Dixon, who won the Northumberland Schools’ title in the run up to the championships, was eighth in the Northern’s last year, said he was pleased with his run but slightly disappointed to come so close to winning. “I was always in contention at the front of the field after going off fast from the start and was confident as the race unfolded but it was on the final downhill section that I slipped behind though I was clawing back the leader on the long run to the finish.’’ Pye, meanwhile, was also a happy athlete after making it onto the podium for the second year running after finishing runner-up 12 months ago in Pontefract. “My last race was last November and I haven’t been able to train since then after picking up an injury. I’ve only had four real sessions going into this race so to pick up a bronze medal is so gratifying, before hand I didn’t think that was possible.

I’m very tired but very happy.’’

Morpeth were very impressive team gold medallists with their four counters all finishing inside the top 14. Backing up Dixon on the top of the podium were ninth-placed William de Vere-Owen, Bertie Marr (13th) and Liam Roche who was 14th. For good measure the

Northumbrians also had Ryan Davies (19th) and Elliot Kelso, who was 21st. Middlesbrough were the only other NE team to close in in seventh spot.

In the under-17 women’s 5.3k race Durham City’s NE champion Charlotte Dillon made a brave effort to add the Northern title to her name despite having just moved up an age group this season. However, after being in the lead for part of the time she had to give way to Wharfedale’s Amelie Lane. The Yorkshire bronze medallist, a second year at under-17, proved the stronger in the closing stages to cross the line four seconds clear. “We quickly found ourselves detached at the head of the field and we ran together for much of the race working hard over the difficult course and it paid off though I was tiring towards the end I was delighted to hang on to finish second,’’ confessed Dillon. Next home from the region was Elswick’s Poppy Old who finished 10th, two places ahead of Gateshead’s Iona Johnstone with Gosforth’s Emma Ashman crossing the line in 22nd spot. North Shields Poly, led home by Milli Diddee in 37th place, finished fifth team.

Having missed out on the NE Championships and Sherman Cup races through injury Morpeth’s Oliver Calvert came within three seconds of topping the podium in the under-15 boys 4.3k contest. The Northumbrian, having moved up an age group, was running side-byside with last year’s fifth-placed finisher George Wilson of Cleethorpes and it was the Lincolnshire champion who gained the upper hand over the final kilometre to cross the line three seconds clear with Calvert holding off the fast-finishing Matthew Clark (Preston) by one second to claim the runners-up spot. 

“Naturally, I’m delighted with second place but I think missing the North Eastern’s and the Sherman Cup races took the edge off my fitness a bit but you’ll never know if it would have made a difference. In the end though there’s always next year as I’ll still be an under-15.’’ North Shields Poly were the only other team to finish with Daniel Watson (50th) and Matthew Maley (51st) leading them to ninth place. 

When the last time the championships were held in Blackburn seven years ago Middlesbrough’s Philippa Stone finished runner-up in the under-20 race and this time round the Teessider duplicated that position with a tenacious performance in the senior women’s contest over 7.4k. 

Eight races into the programme the muddy sections of the course resembled a quagmire and it was to the firmer parts of the course Stone felt happier and it so proved as she moved through from fourth to second on the long run to the line to finish behind former Elswick athlete and current Yorkshire champion, Philippa Williams. “That’s my second silver medal on this course,” said a happy Stone after recovering her composure. “I’m over the moon with that for I kept telling myself my 1500 metres speed will help when we hit the hard ground and it did so I’m absolutely delighted.” Morpeth’s Catriona MacDonald was next NE finisher in 19th place with North Shields Poly, led home by Commonwealth Games 800m finalist Charlotte Penfold (41st) finished seventh team.

Tyne Bridge finished 20th and Heaton 28th.

The senior men’s 11.5k brought the curtain down on an excellent championship and it was a bitter-sweet performance by Morpeth’s Carl Avery whose brave effort of repeating his gold medal performance at Harewood in 2018 was only thwarted by Salford’s Joe Steward after the duo had dominated the contest throughout after they broke away well before the half-way stage. Avery, who also finished in second place at Pontefract in 2019, ran shoulder-to shoulder with the recently-crowned Greater Manchester champion, and, after an absorbing contest it was the mountain running specialist who managed to prevail. Steward, whose pedigree includes a second place in the National in 2020, eventually crossed the line nine seconds clear of Avery, who eased home after realising he was well clear of the rest of his rivals. 

Despite being pushed back into second place, Avery was still happy with his performance saying: “I gave it my all, it was a great race but Joe just got the better of me going up the hills. While I tried to push it on the downward sections and on the flat he managed to stick with me like a limpet. Despite losing out I really enjoyed the race.’’ Next home for the NE was Morpeth team-mate Phil Winkler who had a great race to finish in 19th place. Evergreen Greg Jayasuriya (Middlesbrough and Cleveland) finished 23rd with fellow Teessider Kieran Walker (NE Project) next best in 36th spot. Morpeth, who won the team title in 2015, were once again the leading outfit from the region finishing in sixth place. Tyne Bridge were 16th, Durham City 17th, Sunderland 19th, Wallsend 25th, North Shields Poly 30th and Elswick 34th.

In the Under-20 women’s event North Shields Poly’s Holly Waugh finished an excellent 10th after moving up an age group. Waugh was happy with her performance though admitting it was difficult to stay on her feet in places. “I started off steady and moved through as the race progressed and tried not to fall over!”

In the under-15 girls 4.3k event Gosforth’s Annie Hutchinson was first NE finisher in 20th place, three positions ahead of Durham City’s Grace Carter, In the team event North Shields Poly, led by Hannah Atkinson, finished ninth with Tyne Bridge, Ruby Colver their best, in 10th spot.

In the under-13 boys’ championship, Noah Williamson (NE Project) finished an excellent seventh with Darlington’s Rowan Steele next home in 10th place, ever-improving James Sturman (NSP) finished 14th followed by Heaton’s Alex Smith who was 21st. Steele led Darlington to sixth place with Tyne Bridge finishing in 13th place.

Josh Blevins was the pick of the NE line up in the under-20 men’s 7.4k contest finishing in 13th place with Houghton’s Chris Coulson next home in 24th spot. In the team stakes Durham City, led home by Morgan Kendall, finished eighth, one place ahead of Sunderland whose leading runner was Adam Hughes.

*Congratulations, not just to all the medalists, but to all the North East competitors who travelled to Blackburn, you were all winners in my book.



Photos: George S Davies - Northern Athletics Facebook Page