Sunday 1 October 2023

NEHL Wrekenton 2023 Report by Bill McGuirk




THE wait was finally over - cross-country was back on the agenda and the region’s club athletes turned out in force for the Saltwell Harriers’ Start Fitness Harrier League fixture at the testing Wrekenton course. Over 1,500 competitors lined up in the 11-race programme eager to test themselves out in early-season competition and while the senior men and women’s events produced a superb spectacle as they wound their way around every yard of the course that can also be said for the under-11s “Try Cross-Country” who were all roared on over their one mile event by an enthusiastic crowd of parents and supporters despite occasional showers threatening to dampen the enthusiasm of those lining the running line.


UNDER-11 – one mile

IT was a good day for the Penfold family with Noah winning the boys contest for a second time and younger sister Ada taking the honours in the girls’ event. Seventy-one youngsters opened the day’s action with Noah coming home in 5min 56secs, 18 seconds clear of Low Fell’s William McClean with North Shields Poly’s Tom Hale completing the one-two-three a further six seconds adrift. Meanwhile, Ada led home a 60-strong field to win in 6:28 and was followed home by Martha Carr (Prudhoe Plodders) who is definitely not a plodder in recording 6:46, while Chester-le-Street’s Faye Evans received the third-place award recording 6:59.


UNDER-13 BOYS – two miles

DARLINGTON’S Ollie Curran came out on top of the 81-strong line-up after being pushed all the way to the line. At the tape, reached in 9:32, Ollie had a four-second gap over Crook’s Matty Richardson with Ollie’s team-mate Daniel Callaghan, easing home in third place 10 seconds back and holding off Henry Engelhart (Phoenix Flyers) by two seconds. Fastest on the course (9:06) was Wallsend’s Kasper Pearson – third last year running from the slow pack - who worked his way through to finish 14th from a 1min 15sec handicap. Tynedale’s Wilfred Pugh and Ewan Line (Morpeth) were second and third quickest respectively. No surprise Darlington came out on top in the team stakes with seventh-placed James I’Anson backing up Curran and Callaghan.


UNDER-13 GIRLS – two miles

BIRTLEY’S Izzy Hall was a gun-to-tape winner against 57 rivals crossing the line in 10:19, a time which proved to be the quickest of the day. Darlington’s Sasha Patterson finished runner-up 14 seconds behind with Morpeth’s Lucy Raper eight seconds back in third place. Second quickest on the course was Durham City’s Ellie Bradley (10:30) with Sasha next best with 10:33. Elswick, led home by fourth-placed Millie Robson, came out on top in team section ahead of Morpeth and Gateshead.


UNDER-15 BOYS – two miles

NOAH WILLIAMSON (North East Project) headed the 53-strong field pulling away from his rivals to win in 8:55. North Shields Poly’s James Sturman claimed second place eight seconds behind with Darlington’s Rowan Steel completing the podium places four seconds back after holding off Heaton’s Alex Smith by just one second. After working his way through to finish 11th from a 1:15 start, Tynedale’s Morgan Vincent was quickest on the course (8:24) with Gateshead’s Alfie Cook and William Jardine (Durham City) next best with 8:27 and 8:51 respectively. Darlington led home by third-placed Steel, won the team contest ahead of Heaton and Tynedale.


UNDER-15 GIRLS – two miles

IT was a Houghton one-two with Holly Robison just getting the better of team-mate Kathryn Pye in the final 100 metres to win by five seconds after the pair had run shoulder-to-shoulder from the off. Darlington’s Matilda Owens was rewarded with the bronze award seven seconds behind Kathryn. The first three athletes’ home were also the three fastest on the course which had 48 finishers. In a close team contest Darlington came out on top with 30 points, North Shields Poly were second with 36 and Durham City third with 38.


UNDER-17 MEN – three-and-a-half miles

NORTH Shields Poly’s Daniel Watson cut out a lone furrow as he stormed home to win comfortably with the fastest time of the day of 17:08. At the line Daniel had a cushion of 36 seconds over Darlington’s Freddie Hall with Alnwick’s Liam McDonough finishing in third place a further eight seconds adrift. There were 36 finishers with the Poly clear winners of the team section ahead of Birtley and Low Fell.


UNDER-17/20 WOMEN – three-and-a-half miles

DARLINGTON’S Freya Talman just had enough in reserve to hold off the fast-finishing Charlotte Dillon to win by six seconds. Charlotte was giving a 2min 30secs start to the winner but just failed to reel in Freya after recording an actual time of 18:47 as Tynedale’s Ania Stobbart completed the medal positions. Gateshead’s Aoife Bell was second quickest (20:07) with Imogen Bungay (Elswick) third fastest with 20:09 from a field of 46. Darlington won the team section ahead of Tynedale with Houghton third.


SENIOR MEN – six miles

MORPETH’S Joe Dixon, last winter’s Northern under-20 runner-up, led throughout taking full advantage of a start of 2:30 and 5:00 over the medium and fast packs respectively. New Gateshead recruit Shaun Hudson tracked him in second place for the first two circuits before James Largey (North East Project) reeled him in on the final lap to move into second place. However, Dixon, tackling senior opposition for the first time over the country, would never be headed and came home with nearly a minute to spare in 32:39, second-placed Largey recorded 33:26 and third-placed Hudson 34:13. 

Sunderland’s Liam Taylor was the pick of the medium pack finishing in fifth place with an actual time of 33:18 while inform Chris Coulson (Houghton), another athlete still in the junior ranks, defied the five minute handicap to finish in ninth place with the fastest actual time of the day of 31:11. 

Second quickest was Jarlath McKenna (Tyne Bridge) with 31:25 with Dixon next best with his 32:39. With two of the region’s younger athletes in the top three it gives the North East lots to shout about over the coming months. There were 572 finishers with Durham City the early pacemakers at the head of Division One ahead of near neighbours Elvet Striders in second place with North Shields Poly third; in Division Two Low Fell set the pace ahead of Houghton and Heaton while Gosforth lead the way in Division Three from South Shields and Sunderland Strollers.


SENIOR WOMEN – four miles

MAKING her senior debut proved not a problem for Houghton’s Anna Pigford who led throughout to win comfortably in 25:57, from Heaton’s Jo Woodcock and Durham City’s Katie Iliffe, the latter running from a 2:30 handicap. Fastest on the course was Morpeth’s Catriona MacDonald who managed to work her way through the 465-strong field to finish in ninth place in an actual time of 23:43. Second quickest was Gateshead’s Shona Haston (24:33) with Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson next best with 24:41. North Shields Poly head Division One from Durham City and Jesmond Joggers; Claremont lead Division Two from Washington and Sunderland while Derwent Valley RC head near neighbours Blaydon in Division Three with Blyth in third place.


**A HUGE thanks to Saltwell Harriers for hosting an excellent event; to all the club’s marshals who stirred on the fast and not so fast; to the First Aid crew who unfortunately had their work cut out throughout the day and to all the technical officials who were at their posts throughout the day. A special word of thanks to the HL treasurer Alan Elders who has taken up the reins as the chip timing supremo, thankfully his baptism went off relatively smoothly!



Photos by Stuart Whitman 



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