Friday 17 March 2023

Intercounties Report by Bill McGuirk


The region’s representatives at the Inter-County Cross-Country Championships held at the rolling countryside of Prestwood Hall, Loughborough, proved a huge test for many and while there were numerous fine individual performances making it onto the podium as team medallists was extremely rare with only the under-13 squad officially being awarded bronze awards though the under-20 women were also called up to receive the same colour medals though the unofficial results has the North East finishing in fourth place.

The Midlands venue had recovered from heavy snow which thawed meaning parts of the course was a sea of mud in places once the action got underway with the under-20 men’s event. 

Josh Blevins, the current county champion and runner-up on the same course in 2018 in the under-15 event, was quickly into his stride and was in the leading pack showing no sign of weariness despite having left his North Tyneside home at 5am. At the end of a gruelling 8k the Gateshead athlete finished in a superb 10th place leading the under-20 team to miss out on team medals in fourth place with the other scorers being James Tilley, Josh McKenny, who was a late call-up, and Matthew Walton.

Next off were the under-13 girls and much was expected of the squad and they duly delivered despite the fact it was their first outing in a county vest for many. Olivia Murphy, the Northern champion, led the medal charge with a superb seventh-place finish with Birtley team-mates Nell and Kitty Graham, together with Houghton’s Kathryn Pye, making it a happy quartet on the podium. 

The senior women were next to face the starter for a contest over 8k with team manager Lynn Cooper having to make three late changes to the original squad. However, those who were drafted in did not let the side down as last weekend’s NEHL winner Charlotte Penfold produced the run of her short cross-country life with an excellent 23rd-place finish which produced a comment from the former

Commonwealth Games 800m finalist of: “I’m absolutely delighted with that, I certainly did not expect that at all for, as you know I was walking with a moon boot on a couple of months ago so to finish so high up is awesome, I can’t believe it.” Backing up Penfold in the six to score contest were Catriona MacDonald, Amy Fuller, Jacqueline Penn, Katheryn Stevenson and Molly Pace to close in the team in 19th place.

Video of Senior Women's race here:

The under-15 boys were next up over a distance of 4k and it proved to be the closest the NE came to an individual medal as Oliver Calvert just missed out after finishing in a superb fourth place. Always up with the leaders the Morpeth athlete just fell away in the closing stages to cross the line just 10 seconds behind the winner and two seconds adrift of third place, the Scottish cross-country champion. It was mixed amotions after I caught up with the Northern silver medallist who said: “While I’m quite happy with my run I felt the wheels came off a bit near the end. Fourth place is good but I would have liked to have made the podium.” Helping the North East to seventh team behind Calvert were Dawit Asmelash, Oliver Tomlinson and Daniel Watson.

The Under-17 women faced a distance of 5k and it was county champion and Northern silver medallist Charlotte Dillon who carried on her good form to finish just outside the top 10 in 11th place and just 25 seconds behind the bronze medallist. The team finished in 19th position with Imogen Bungay, Poppy Old and Iona Johnstone backing up Durham City’s Dillon.

The under-17 men were next up facing a distance of 6k and the team came agonisingly close to making it on to the podium once again but unfortunately had to settle for another fourth place. However, Houghton’s Brandon Pye had a ‘blinder’ leading the team with a superb fifth place missing out on an individual medal by just four seconds. Backing Pye in the four-to-score contest were Morpeth trio William De Vere-Owen (12th), Liam Roche (45th) and Joe Dixon (50th). 

The under-13 boys contested the same 3k course as the girls and it was Noah Williamson (NE Project) who led the team home in 16th place with Darlington’s Rowan Steele next in 40th spot followed by Heaton’s James Sturman (58th) and Darlington’s Finn Pentland-Rice (104th) to close in with 218 points for eighth place.

The under-20 women were called to the line for their 6k contest and it was North Shields Poly’s Holly Waugh who led the North East charge to finish in an excellent 18th place, one spot behind former National under-15 champion Holly Weedall. Backing up Waugh were

Morpeth’s Millie Breese (37th), Tynedale’s Jess Sailes (46th) and Birtley’s Tess Graham (48th) for a total of 149 points. However, the provisional result had Yorkshire first with 45pts followed by Sussex and Greater Manchester who had 147pts. But at the presentation the North East quartet were called up to receive the bronze medals so it means to be seen how that came about though it would be disappointing if the girls had to hand back their awards.

The penultimate race on the programme was the under-15 girls over a distance of 4k with the course now well and truly resembling a mud bath in many sections which proved extremely tough going for the young teenagers. Darlington’s Zara Jones in 49th place led the region’s charge ably backed up by Durham City’s Grace Carter (93rd), Middlesbrough Mandale’s Eden Creasey (143rd) and Gosforth’s Annie Hutchinson (159th) to total 444pts for 24th place out of 42 teams which finished.

The final event was the senior men’s contest over a distance of 10k and it was a depleted squad which faced the starter after more than half of the original selections dropping out through injury giving team manager a huge headache. However, those who were drafted in certainly didn’t let the side down with all eight members finishing inside the top 150 from around 300 finishers. Tyneside-based Jarleth McKenna once again shone in his adopted county vest to lead the team home in 29th place just five places back from his position last year,which augurs well for this coming weekend’s British Masters’ Championships which are being held in Wallsend on Saturday.

Backing up the adopted Geordie in the six-to-score contest were Birtley’s Adrian Bailes (60th), Middlesbrough and Cleveland’s Greg Jayasuriya (68th), Morpeth’s Sam Hancox (87th), Sunderland’s Stephen Jackson (101st) and Blackhill’s Jordan Bell (124th) for a total of 470pts and ninth place overall out of the 32 counties who closed in which, on reflection, was a great achievement.

**A huge thanks to team managers Stewy Bell and Albert James (men) and Lynn Cooper and Bernadette Caygill (women) for pulling everything together prior to and on the day and to all the parents and friends who made the trip, the NECAA really appreciate your support and hopefully we will see many of you again next year.




Senior Men – North East positions: 29 J McKenna (Bris&West) 42:22; 59 A Bailes (Birt) 40:44; 67 G Jayasuriya (M&C) 40:59; 87 S Hancox (Morp) 41:26; 100 S Jackson (Sund) 41:43; 123 J Bell (B’hillB) 42:13; 138 C Coulson (Hough) 42:46; 143 M Hedley (TyneBr) 42:52. Team:

9th, 465pts.

Senior Women – NE positions: 23 C Penfold (NSP) 33:46; 41 C MacDonald (Morp) 34:54; 67 A Fuller (TyneBr) 36:01; 90 J Penn (NSP) 36:34; 106 K Stevenson (TyneBr) 37:06; 113 M Pace (NSP) 37:20; 117 J Fox (Sund) 37:31; 132 K Grimoldby (Gates) 37:49. Team: 10th, 440pts.

Under-20 Men – NE positions: 10 J Blevins (Gates) 29:17; 34 J Tilley (Morp) 30:42; 38 J McKenny (J&H) 30:49; 44 M Walton (Morp) 31:03; 50 A Hughes ((Sund) 31:14; 58 D Hughes (BhillB) 31:43; 61 S Christie (Gosf) 31:48; 95 A Seed (Sund) 32:56. Team: 4th, 126pts.

Under-20 Women – NE positions:  18 H Waugh (NSP) 25:09; 37 M Breese (Morp) 26:00; 46 J Sails (Tyne) 26:21; 48 T Graham (Birt) 26:26; 56 K Francis (Birt) 27:15; 59 M Boon (Darl) 27:36; 62 E White (SthShTri) 27:44. Team: 4th, 149pts.

Under-17 Men – NE positions: 5 B Pye (Hough) 20:41; 12 W De Vere-Owen (Morp) 29:55; 45 L Roche (Morp) 21:49; 50 J Dixon (Morp) 21:56; 74 B Marr (Morp) 22:19; 76 B Sproats (NSP) 22:20; 123 E Kelso (Morp) 23:05; 135 J West (Midd/Mand) 23:15. Team: 4th, 112pts.

Under-17 Women – NE positions: 11 C Dillon (DurC) 21:30; 56 I Bungay (Elsw) 23:05; 66 P Old (Elsw) 23:17; 68 I Johnstone (Gates) 23:21; 92 E Fellows (Blay) 23:44; 110 E Ashman (Gosf) 24:04; 126 J Milburn (Gates) 24:18; 146 M Kelly (Darl) 24:38. Team: 19th, 201pts.

Under-15 Boys – NE positions: 4 O Calvert (Morp) 14:20; 42 D Asmelash (TS Harr) 15:18; 50

O Tomlinson (Morp) 15:24; 80 D Watson (NSP) 15:47; 119 J Brown (Midd/Mand) 16:00; 128

F Palmer (TyneBr) 16:06; 176 M Riddell (Tyne) 16:28; 180 M Maley (NSP) 16:33. Team: 7th; 176pts.

Under-15 Girls – NE positions: 49 Z Jones (Darl) 17:27; 93 G Carter (DurC) 18:09; 143 E Creasey (Mid/Mand) 18:38; 159 A Hutchinson (Gosf) 18:46; 164 M Parkin (Heat) 18:51; 186 P Wilde (Elsw) 19:01; 221 S Tarn (Darl) 19:40. Team: 24th, 444pts.

Under-13 Boys – NE positions: 16 N Williamson (NE Pro} 12:40; 40 R Steel (Darl) 13:02; 58 J Sturman (NSP) 13:12; 104 F Pentland-Rice (Darl) 13:37; 109 M Foster (Darl) 13:45; 122 E Line (Morp) 13:53; 129 A Smith (Heat) 13:57; 154 J Brown (Heat) 14:06. Team: 8th, 218pts.

Under-13 Girls – NE positions: 7 O Murphy (Birt) 13:20; 24 N Graham (Birt) 13:42; 27 K Graham (Birt) 13:48; 59 K Pye (Hough) 14:12; 65 N Phillipson (Birt) 14:16; 75 K Otterson

(NSP) 14:26; 109 E Blackburn (Gates) 14:45; 113 E Waugh (Alnw) 14:47. Team: 3rd, 117pts.



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