Friday 7 April 2023




Roving reporter Bill interviews the stars
Photo Credit: David Aspin

THE weather may have been miserable but there was plenty to smile about as the region’s clubs descended on Redcar promenade for the annual NA 12 and 6-Stage Road Relay Championships which also included NA 5k Championships for under-15 and under-17.

Waves were lashing the shoreline as the action got underway with the Senior Men's 12 Stage, and it was Morpeth Harriers who were in contention right from the off with Finn Brodie bringing the Northumbrians to the first changeover point in fourth place. George Lowry improved one position on leg two but on the next long leg (9.5k) Sam Hancox slipped back to fifth as he faced some strong opposition. Alistair Douglas, a late call up into the team – he went on and finish runner-up in the Port of Blyth 10k 24 hours later - took over for the short fourth stage (5k) and brought Morpeth up to fourth.

Next up was in-form Carl Avery and he didn’t disappoint as scorched round the 9.5k course in 28min 41secs which moved Morpeth into pole position for the first time. Such was Avery’s performance at the end of the day only Leeds City’s Linton Taylor ran quicker (28:28).

With seven stages still to unfold could Morpeth, who were regular winners in the early 2000s, there last success being in 2011, hang on with other clubs may be holding their better athletes for a late charge? However, team manager Dave Swinburne should have had no worries as the magnificent seven of Lawrence McCourt, who was making his Morpeth debut, Alex Brown, James Young, with the second quickest short course time of the day (14:55), William Cork, Connor Marshall, Matthew Briggs and Phil Winkler, were never headed as they just failed to dip under the fourhour mark posting a winning time of 4:00:48, well over a minute clear of early leaders Hallamshire with Leeds City finishing a close-up third.

Swinburne, who took over the reins in 2002, was naturally delighted with his charges and had this to say after the squad had received their medals: “We have had a few lean years but today’s performance was outstanding. No one had a bad run from the first leg to the last, there were no weak links and I’m absolutely delighted for everyone.”

As he has done for many, many years, roaring the blue and whites’ home was none other than Commonwealth marathon gold medallist, Jim Alder, who would be just as proud as Swinburn.

With the first 25 clubs home invited to the National Road Relays in Sutton Park in two weeks’ time it was all to play for the remainder of the region’s clubs who took their chance in North Yorkshire.

Sunderland, who last made the podium in 2003 when they finished in third place when the championships were held in Blackpool, showed signs of returning to former glory as they finished in eighth place (4:14:04) with Joe Armstrong posting the day’s fastest short course time of 14:42 which had the Wearsiders’ up into fourth place after his stint. Stephen Jackson was quickest of the team’s long stage runners, posting a time of 30:00.

Gateshead, who were regular winners in the 1900s, were next home finishing in 13th place (4:22:35) with Joe Wales their best over the short course (15:43) while Conrad Franks was quickest over the long leg, posting 30:00. Tyne Bridge were next home for the region finishing in 19th place (4:32:11). Connor Braithwaite and Tom Charlton posting 16:21 and 31:04 respectively.

Sit up and take notice which NE club qualified for the National for the first time – Elvet Striders. The Durham-based outfit finished in 24th place (4:37:52). They may have finished over half-an-hour after Morpeth but they had every reason to celebrate just as strongly on such a memorable occasion. They were helped by Bryan Potts, who posted 33:41 on the long leg and Liam Huntington who was quickest (16:26) over the short course.

Hartlepool Burn Road and Birtley may still get a call after finishing 27th and 29th in 4:47:00 and 4:55:01. Other NE teams who also have to be congratulated for competing are: 30 Middlesbrough and Cleveland (4:55:34); 32 New Marske (4:58:50); 35 Blackhill Bounders – who had Jordan Bell in their team before less than 24 hours later turning out and winning the Port of Blyth 10k – (5:01:59); 36 Gateshead B – the only NE club to field two complete senior men’s teams – (5:06:31); and give a big shout for South Shields who finished second last in 37th place in 5:11:56.


North Shields Poly earned the region’s bragging rights with a superb seventh-place finish in a time of 2:26:00, finishing just over five minutes adrift of champions Blackburn who lined-up Jessica Warner Judd amongst their sextet.

Jacqui Penn gave the Poly a solid start on the opening long stage handing over in 12th place after recording 35:34. Molly Pace improved four places on the first of the short stages posting 18:23. Hannah Williams was next up to contest a short leg and her 19:11 consolidated eighth place. In-form Charlotte Penfold contested the second and final long stage and moved up one place with 35:03 figures. Victoria Houghton took over for the penultimate stage and was still in seventh place at the final changeover after recording 20:09. Still a junior Holly Waugh had the honour of running the glory leg and she didn’t disappoint as her 17:40 clocking was the ninth quickest overall short course time of the day.

Following the North Tyneside outfit home were: 15 Birtley, 2:39:09; 16 New Marske 2:39:27; 18 Morpeth 2:40:53; 19 Elswick

2:42:21; 20 Gateshead 2:42:29; 21 Elvet Striders 2:43:46; 24 Sunderland 2:48:13; 27 South Shields 2:55:15; 28 Birtley B 3:00:59; 29 New Marske B 3:01:42; 33 Elvet Striders B 3:13:23.



The under-17 women’s event couldn’t have panned out any better with all individual podium places being occupied by North East athletes. First home in a time of 17:29 was Northern Cross-Country silver medallist Charlotte Dillon who was having her first outing for Houghton Harriers.

Following the former Durham City athlete home came Elswick Harriers duo Imogen Bungay and Poppy Old who recorded 17:51 and 17:57 respectively. With two in the first three it was no surprise the Newcastle club claimed the team gold medals with ninth-placed Isabella Russell backing up the two medallists.

After an initial scare where it was pointed out to the referee they had different numbers on to what was in the printed programme common sense prevailed and smiles quickly returned to the girls faces.


Photo credit: Karen Harland

It was nearly a repeat NE one-two-three in the under-17 men’s contest with Rotherham’s Jenson Hughes spoiling the party after William de Vere-Owen led the field home for Morpeth winning with figures of 15:29. Hughes was next across the line in 15:38 then came a charge of three Morpeth athletes. Liam Roche finished in bronze medal position (15:42) closely followed by fourth-placed Elliot Kelso

(15:48) and fifth-placed Ethan Phillips (15;53). For good measure

Bertie Marr was seventh and Joseph Close ninth for the Northumbrians. Naturally, Morpeth came out on top in the team stakes while Durham City finished in second place led home by 15thplaced Sam Mason.

In the under-15 boys’ championship. Dawit Asmelash (TS Harriers) was first NE athlete home in sixth place (16:65) with Tyne Bridge’s Freddie Palmer one place and five seconds behind. Morpeth’s Oliver

Tomlinson finished 12th in 17:19 while 15th-placed Daniel Watson (17:27), backed by Charlie Furness (22nd) and Hamish Dotchin (30th), led North Shields Poly to team bronze medals. Elswick with Sam Allison (20th), Aiden Jones (28th) and Coulson Liam Heron (29th) finished in fourth place.

In the under-15 girls event Durham City’s Grace Carter finished in third place in 19:01 and in doing so helped the tangerines finish in second place in the team section. Carter was backed up by 14thplaced Evie Hall and Katy Bulmer (19th). Allerton’s Grace Derry finished in fifth place, Elswick’s Poppy Wilde was eighth, Birtley’s Daisy Graham was ninth and Hatti Stead (Blackhill Bounders) 10th. More than half the finishers were representatives of North East clubs.


**Northern Athletics owe a great deal of thanks to Graham Hall and his New Marske team for hosting an excellent championships under extremely testing conditions. Also, many of the technical officials on duty over the five-hour duration were NE connections so well done to them and to all the competitors, you were all winners. 



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