Sunday 22 October 2023

Druridge Bay Race Report - by Bill McGuirk


THE second fixture of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League saw another huge turnout on a cold but sunny Autumn day at Druridge Bay. Close on 1,500 competitors lined up with many new faces testing themselves over a cross-country course for the very first time and judging by the smiles after crossing the finish those debutantes will be back again though the weather may not be so favourable as winter draws on.

UNDER-11 (1.5k)

Once again the Under-11 youngsters opened the day’s action in the ‘’Try Cross-Country” event and it was a triumph once more for the Penfold household with Noah winning the boys contest and Ada coming out on top in the girls race just as they had done at the opening fixture at Wrekenton. In fact, in the boys’ event Low Fell’s William McClean followed Noah home in second place at both Wrekenton and Druridge Bay. Jarrow and Hebburn’s Jacob Hopper claimed the third place award on this occasion after just missing out on a medal at Wrekenton. Meanwhile, in the girls’ event Chester-le-Street duo Joy Hunter and Faye Evans followed Ada home in second and third place respectively with Prudhoe’s Martha Carr, who was runner-up at Wrekenton, just missing out on this occasion in fourth place. There were 61 finishers in the boys race and a massive 82 in the girls event which is 22 more than the figure for Wrekenton.


UNDER-13 BOYS (3.3k)

Victory went to Elswick’s Ethan Eland who had a 15-seconds cushion over Morpeth’s Jacob Thompson at the line with Thompson’s team-mate Evan Laude a further four seconds back in third place. Fastest on the course, just as he was at Wrekenton, was Wallsend’s Kasper Pearson who worked his way through the 65-strong field to finish fourth from a 1min 40secs penalty. Morpeth came out on top in the team contest with sixth-placed Liam Jackson backing up Thompson and Laude as Elswick finished second ahead of Blaydon.


UNDER-13 GIRLS (3.3k)

Birtley’s Poppie Phillipson claimed a superb victory crossing the line 19 seconds clear after leading throughout the contest. Blackhill’s Annabelle Stead finished runner-up holding off Morpeth’s Zoe Tomlinson by three seconds. Phillipson’s 13:12 proved to be the quickest of the day with her Birtley team-mate Izzy Hall – winner at Wrekenton - second fastest after working her way through the 63-strong field to finish in sixth place from a 1:40 handicap. Third quickest was Durham City’s Ellie Bradley. Birtley won the team contest with 11th-placed Poppy Graham backing up Phillipson and Hall, while Newcastle outfits Elswick and Gosforth finished second and third respectively. After two fixtures Elswick lead with three points, Birtley are on five and Morpeth on seven.

UNDER-15 BOYS (3.3k)

Wallsend’s Joseph Duthie-Brown took full advantage of a 1:40 handicap to claim the honours with a 16-seconds victory over Durham City’s Harry Mason as Finn Pentland-Rice (Darlington) completed the one-two-three a further 10 seconds behind. Despite posting the fastest overall time Gateshead’s Alfie Cook just missed out on a podium place finishing in fourth place just three seconds adrift of Pentland-Rice. Second and third quickest on the course was Freddie Palmer (Tyne Bridge) with Tynedale’s Magnus Riddell next best. After two fixtures Heaton head the table on four points, Tynedale are second with six and Tyne Bridge third with seven.


UNDER-15 GIRLS (3.3k)

Another Phillipson celebration, this time it was Niamh who claimed victory over 42 rivals taking advantage of a 1:40 start as she was closed down all the way to the line by Houghton’s Holly Robison who cut back the deficit to within 18 seconds of the Birtley athlete. Morpeth’s Emma Tomlinson claimed the third-place award with Durham City’s Grace Carter second quickest on the course and Anna Johnson (North Shields Poly) third fastest. In the team contest North Shields Poly came out on top with 17 points followed by Morpeth (35) and Durham City (39) with the Poly heading the table after their second place at Wrekenton.


UNDER-17 MEN (4.7k)

Gateshead’s Sam Punn, winner of the Gateshead 3k, claimed a 15-seconds victory over Morpeth’s Oliver Tomlinson with Alnwick’s Jack Price completing the medal placings. From a 2:30 handicap North Shields Poly’s Ben Sproats worked his way through to seventh place one place and one second ahead of Wrekenton runner-up Freddie Hall (Darlington) with North Shields Poly’s Daniel Watson a further six seconds adrift as the trio posted the fastest overall times. In a tight team contest Gateshead came out on top (44pts) with Birtley (48) second and Morpeth claiming third place on count back ahead of Gosforth who both accumulated 49 pts. After two second places Birtley currently top the league table.


UNDER-17/20 WOMEN (4.7k)

Tynedale athletes were visible amongst the leaders early on and Emily Lunn proved the strongest to come home a clear winner. Newcastle Universities’ Imogen Dee came through in the latter stages to claim second place and finish ahead of Tynedale duo Maria Gaines and Esme Pugh, the Tynedale trio all contesting the younger age group while Dee was the first under-20 to finish. Quickest under-17 on the course was Gateshead’s Iona Johnstone who worked her way through the 43-strong field to finish 12th from a 2:30 handicap while the quickest under-20 was the Great Cumbrian half-marathon winner Elswick’s Imogen Bungay who finished one place and two seconds behind her younger rival. No surprise Tynedale came out on top in the team stakes with their second trio good enough to finish a non-scoring second ahead of North Shields Poly and Gateshead.



Having her first cross-country outing in five years the undulating course proved no obstacle for Sophie Pikett. The Elswick athlete has a string of victories on the roads since her move to the North East and she showed she is no slouch over the country as she produced a clean pair of heels to the rest of the 454-strong field. Always at the head of affairs Pikett was well clear at the completion of the first circuit and she continued to cut out a lone furrow to come home 22 seconds clear of Durham City’s Louise Mitchell with the duo posting the two fastest overall times of the day. Mitchell’s Durham team-mate Megan Finn finished in third place while the third quickest on the course was Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson who, from a 5:05 handicap. Worked her way through to finish in 19th place. Durham City came out on top in Division One finishing one point ahead of Morpeth in the four-to-score team race with South Shields edging out Elswick for third place; Sunderland Strollers led the way in Division Two ahead of Claremont and Ponteland Runners while Gosforth came out on top in Division Three ahead of Prudhoe Plodders with Birtley finishing in third place. After two fixtures Durham City head Division One on three points followed by Morpeth on six and Jesmond on eight; in Division Two Claremont head the table with three points followed by South Shields on five and Washington on six while in Division Three Blaydon are leading with seven points Birtley have nine and Prudhoe have 10 and Crook 11.


Like the senior women’s race an athlete led from gun to tape and it was Houghton international Cameron Allan who led throughout extending his advantage over the three circuits with every stride to come home a comfortable winner by well over a minute Heaton’s Chris Larkin tracked Allan throughout to finish runner-up while Morpeth teenager William De Vere-Owen finished strongly to claim the bronze award. 

It came as no surprise that Allan was overall quickest on the course with his Houghton team-mate Chris Coulson next best after working his way through the 551-strong field from a 5:00 handicap to finish in 14th place after getting away from Newcastle Uni’s Luke Davis on the final circuit as the student posted the third best time of the day seven seconds and one place behind Coulson. 

In the six-to-score team contests Morpeth came out on top ahead of North Shields Poly and Birtley, in Division Two Heaton led the way ahead of Houghton and Elswick while in Division Three Newcastle Uni lead from Gosforth and Alnwick. After two fixtures Division One is extremely close with North Shields Poly leading with five points followed by Morpeth on six, Durham City on seven, Gateshead on eight and Elswick on nine; in Division Two Heaton and Houghton are joint leaders with four points followed by Low Fell on five and Elswick on nine while in Division Three Gosforth lead with three points followed by Newcastle University on five, Strollers on eight and South Shields on nine.

**Thanks go to Blyth Running Club for once again hosting an excellent day’s sport, to the First Aid team and to all the marshalls and technical officials, without them all we wouldn’t have the leading cross-country league in the country!

by Bill McGuirk

Photos: Stuart Whitman Photography

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