Tuesday 30 January 2024

Northern Athletics XC Championships - Sedgefield Jan 2024



AFTER an interlude of 13 years – Herrington Country Park in 2011 -the Northern Cross-Country Championships returned to the region with Sedgefield Harriers, only formed in 2005, hosting what, on reflection, was an excellent day’s sport enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike. With the championships being on our doorstep there was an extremely healthy turn-out from North East club athletes with a number of them making it onto the podium and a number near misses. East Park was the venue and despite the recent heavy rains in the region and cold wind throughout the day, the twisting course was relatively mud-free much to the delight to those facing a long trip home.



The last event on the 10-race programme had anyone with North east connections smiling throughout as the three-lap contest unfolded. Despite a cautious start it wasn’t until around 1,500m that eventual winner Calum Johnson joined the leading group of four, which included Morpeth’s Carl Avery, though it was a ploy the Gateshead and 2020 champion had planned prior to lining up. 

Closing in on the completion of the first circuit Johnson decided it was time to stamp his authority on proceedings and quickly opened up a gap of 30 or so metres which he had extended to 100m at the bell as he strode out relentlessly weaving in and out lapped runners to come home to a rousing cheer from those lining the finishing straight. 

At the line Johnson had opened up a 30-second cushion over double Yorkshire and European Cross representative and last year’s Northern under-20 champion Angus McMillan (City of York) with Blackburn’s Matthew completing the podium placings a further similar distance back in third place. Despite a gritty final lap Avery was just outside the medals finishing in fourth spot 23 seconds behind the bronze medallist. 

Next home from the region was Avery’s Morpeth team-mate Phil Winkler in 15th place followed by Birtley’s Aidrian Bailes (23rd), Ellis Hetherington (Blyth) in 26th and Sunderland’s Stephen Jackson one place and one second further adrift. Special mention to Sedgefield’s Chris Lines, the main instigator on making the championships happen who actually found time to face the starter and cross the finish in 298th place! It was a double whammy for Avery for his 

Morpeth team also missed out on making it onto the podium after closing in their six counters in fourth place. Sunderland finished seventh, Gateshead 10th, North Shields Poly 11th, Durham City 12th, Darlington 13th and Crook 15th.

Before making it to the presentation I caught up with a beaming Johnson who was by no means out of breath after his sterling effort and commented: “I didn’t feel I had to go off really fast at the start and maybe suffer a bit in the later stages so the plan was to pull back the leaders gradually before the completion of the first lap and that’s what I did. Once I hit the front I felt really comfortable and just concentrated all the way to the finish. It was great having so much support all around the course which I greatly appreciated. I can now go into the National – he won in 2020 – and the Inter Counties – which he also won in 2022 – with a lot of confidence.”



North East champion Phillipa Stone came agonisingly close to making it onto the podium for the second year after finishing runner-up 12 months ago at Blackburn. Unfortunately, the Middlesbrough Mandale athlete had to be content with fourth place on this occasion just nine seconds behind the leading trio. 

Finding 8.1k no problem to former Commonwealth Games 800m representative, North Shields Poly’s Charlotte Penfold was next North East finisher in an excellent 16th place followed by Durham City’s Louise Mitchell (19th), Catriona MacDonald (Morpeth) was 24th, Gateshead’s Shona Haston 30th, former under-17 national champion Elswick’s Justina Heslop 31st, Wallsend’s Jenny Berry 37th and Durham City’s Nicole Burlinson was 39th. Former Gosforth athletes, now competing for Sale, Helen Warburton and Hariett Buswell, finished 18th and 44th respectively. 

Durham City were the region’s first team to close in in seventh place followed by Elswick, 9th, North Shields Poly were 10th, Jesmond Joggers 13th, Birtley 14th and Tyne Bridge 15th.



Last year Josh Blevins finished in 13thth place in this age group in Blackburn, however the Gateshead athlete made a mockery of that result with an exhibition of how to front run despite it not being in the pre-race plan. Blevins took an early lead on the first of two circuits and was never headed as the field spreadeagled behind him and at the line, Blevins, who won the Northern at under-13 level back in 2005 as a North Shields Poly athlete, had 22 seconds over his nearest rival. 

Afterwards, Blevins commented on his performance saying: I was happy with that, two laps over 8k is a tough ask for me but I think I handled it rather well though on the second circuit I was wondering to myself ’had I gone too early.’ I worked really hard on that second lap which sets me up nicely for the BUCS next weekend.” 

Just missing out on an individual medal was Morpeth’s William De Vere Owen. After putting in a strong second lap the Northumbrian crossed the line just 13 seconds adrift of the bronze medallist. Next home was fellow Morpeth athlete Joe Dixon in seventh place followed by Blackhill’s Duncan Hughes in 11th. Middlesbrough’s Max Creasey finished 18th, followed by Bertie Marr (Morpeth) 20th, Zak Kettle (Tyne Bridge) 23rd and Sunderland’s Alex Seed 24th. With their three scorers inside the top 20 Morpeth were clear team winners; Gateshead finished sixth and Durham City seventh.



In the smallest field of the day – just 37 finishers – North Shields Poly’s Holly Waugh was the region’s leading athlete finishing in 13th place. Birtley’s Katie Francis was next in 18th followed one place behind by Elswick’s Imogen Bungay with the Poly’s Katie Joslyn next at 28th. Gosforth’s Alice Lewis finished 31st, NSP’s Mili Diddee was 32nd and Durham City’s Shauna Portwine 37th. North Shields Poly were the only NE team to finish a team in fourth place.

UNDER-17 MEN (5.7k)

North Shields Poly’s Ben Sproats missed out on making the podium by an agonising 11 seconds despite producing a strong second lap. It was an excellent performance after going into the contest on the back of his victory in the Sherman Cup three weeks earlier. Elliot Kelso (Morpeth) was next NE athlete to finish in 11th place with Crook’s Rory Hart finishing 20th, Alex Boyer (Darlington) 21st followed by Middlesbrough’s Jacob Brown one place further back. North Shields Poly were the only NE outfit to close in a team in seventh place.


UNDER-17 WOMEN (4.7k)

North East champion Charlotte Dillon just missed making it onto the podium for a second year running after finishing runner-up 12 months ago in Blackburn. This time round the Houghton athlete finished in fourth place just 13 seconds behind the bronze medallist. Following her home was Darlington’s Zara Zones in fifth position. Blaydon’s Ellie Fellows was next NE athlete to finish in16th place then came Iona Johnstone (Gateshead) 20th closely followed by Blackhill’s Hatti Stead in 22nd place. Poppy Old was next in 27th leading the Poly to team bronze medals, the other members being Amelie Sillence (36th), Darcy Tullis (47th) and Hannah Atkinson in 57th place. Elswick, led home by 42nd-placed Erin Blight, finished fifth.


UNDER-15 BOYS (3.8k)

TS Harriers’ Dawit Asmelash led the region’s charge to finish an excellent 10th just getting the bragging rights over Gateshead’s Alfie Cook who finish just one place and four seconds adrift of the Teessider. 

New Marske’s Zander Gribbon was next NE runner home in 17th position then came a host of NE representatives: Arthur DiLullo (Tynedale) 23rd, Noah Williamson (NE Project) 24th, Freddie Palmer (Tyne Bridge) 26th, Rowan Steel (Darlington) 27th and Middlesbrough’s Charlie Jones in 28th spot. In the team stakes Darlington finished fifth, Tyne Bridge were eighth and Sunderland ninth.

UNDER-15 GIRLS (3.8k)

Anna Johnson was first NE athlete home finishing in 15th place one place and two seconds ahead of Houghton’s Holly Robison. Durham City’s Grace Carter was next across the line in 20th spot closely followed by Houghton’s Kathryn Pye in 21st place. Then came Darlington’s duo Matilda Owens (25th) and Charlotte Owens (29th) with Durham City’s Evie Hall in 31st position three seconds behind Charlotte. Durham City finished 10th and Darlington 12th in the team section.


UNDER-13 BOYS (2.9k)

A great result for the region with the first two athletes home representing NE clubs. Victory went to Middlesbrough’s Thomas McCartie, Thomas admitting afterwards that it was a tough course but was extremely happy to have won. Morpeth’s Ewan Line came through strongly in the later stages to claim the silver medal, crossing the line 16 seconds behind the Teessider. Tynedale’s Wilfred Pugh was next NE athlete to finish in 10th position; Darlington’s Ollie Curran finished 12th and a superb run by Henry Engelhart saw the Phoenix Flyers’ athlete finish 16th, two places ahead of Elswick’s Dominic Kelso. In the team section, Darlington finished sixth, Tynedale were eighth, Elswick ninth and Tyne Bridge 11th.

UNDER-13 GIRLS (2.9k)

Gabrielle Pinder (New Marske) missed out on a medal place by the narrowest of margins as she crossed the line just one second adrift of the bronze medallist. It was an exceptionally good run by the Teessider who finished runner-up in the NE Championships at Temple Park before Christmas. Next NE runner home was Alnwick’s Emilia Waugh in 14th place, Birtley’s Izzy Hall was 18th, Elswick’s Aylia Blight was 19th, Kitty Graham (Birtley) 23rd, Emma Blackburn (Gateshead) 32nd, Sasha Patterson (Darlington) 36th, Faye Heatley (Morpeth) 41st and Evie Kleiser (Phoenix Flyers) 44th. In the team section Morpeth finished in eighth place and Elswick ninth.


**A great Championship thanks in a big way to Sedgefield Harriers whose marshalls were superb giving encouragement to everyone throughout the long day. Congratulations to all the region’s athletes who took part whether a medal winner or not. Thanks also go to Start Fitness for their continued support to Northern Athletics and to all the NE officials who manned their posts diligently from first to last event.

Results: Here

Photos - Stuart Whitman Photography & Mick Hall Photos

Saturday 13 January 2024

Sherman Cup - Davison Shield 2024



Tyne Bridge Harriers claimed the Sherman Cup for the first time while North Shields Poly did likewise in the Davison Shield contest, the Newcastle outfit denying Morpeth Harriers another victory, the Northumbrian club having triumphed for over a decade and finishing fifth on this occasion. 

While Tyne Bridge had reason to celebrate winning the men’s contest they were pipped on making it three consecutive wins in the female section due to the Poly’s strong performance over the days’ proceedings consequently having to finish runners-up after victories in 2022 and 2023. While numbers were down overall, possibly as a football game was taking place just a few miles down the road, though it’s interesting to note that senior women’s numbers (253) were close to the men’s (268) despite another testing Temple Park circuit.


Despite having little time to warm up having being informed of a later start time North Eastern Counties champion Cameron Allan still managed to show a clean pair of heels to his rivals. Content to stay in touch with the leading bunch on the first of three circuits having no time to survey the course, the Houghton athlete stormed to the front at the commencement of the second lap, quickly opening up a significant gap with Morpeth’s Lawrence McCourt desperately trying to keep in touch as a group of Sunderland pair Liam Taylor and Stephen Jackson, Morpeth’s Alex Brown and Durham City’s Dan Garbutt being locked together a further 20 metres or so behind McCourt. Entering the final lap there was no doubt about the winner baring an accident as Allan continued to cut out a lone furrow as he weaved his was past the lapped runners. McCourt looked certain of the runner’s up spot but an exciting battle was taking place in the charge for the final podium place. 

It looked for a long while that would go to Taylor but Garbutt, the former England cross-country international and 2014 Northern champion, managed to reel in the Wearsider and claim the bronze medal. Before going for a warm down Allan, the recently-crowned North Eastern XC champion, said he was delighted with his run adding: “I wasn’t too sure of the course having arrived quite late but once we had completed the first lap decided to push and see if anyone came with me, as it happened I quickly opened daylight over the rest of the lads which meant I could then just relax and run at my own pace. The muddy sections didn’t bother me and now I can look forward to the Northerns with some confidence.” 

Morpeth were comfortable team winners with 14 points followed by Durham City with 26 and Gateshead with 41. James Anderson, 12th place overall, led the Poly to team victory in the Masters section ahead of Elvet Striders and Sunderland.


Catriona MacDonald led throughout the contest opening up a significant advantage over the chasing athletes at the completion of the first of the two circuits. Gateshead’s Shona Haston was in second place closely followed by Jane Hodgson (Morpeth), Nicole Burlinson (Durham City), Jacqui Penn (North Shields Poly), Wallsend’s Jenny Berry and Heaton’s Ellie Reed. MacDonald came home a comfortable winner (11 Seconds) though a superb second lap by Hodgson had closed down the day light considerably resulting in an excellent second place with Haston claiming the final podium place ahead of Penn, Burlinson and Berry. Morpeth claimed team victory ahead of Jeamond Joggers with North Shields Poly finishing in third place. The Masters category was held in conjunction with the senior contest with Judith Nutt leading Elswick to victory ahead of South Shields and the Poly.


UNDER-17 MEN (5k)

It was a North Shields Pole one-two with victory going to Ben Sproats who had 16 seconds in hand over team-mate Daniel Watson at the line with Crook’s Rory Hart claiming the bronze award for the North West Durham club. Elliott Moore, in sixth position, backed up Sproats and Watson for a convincing team with Tyne Bridge closing in in second place ahead of Sunderland.


UNDER-17/20 WOMEN (5k)

North Eastern Counties champion Charlotte Dillon (u17) led the field home with the biggest winning margin of the day finishing 42 seconds clear of fellow u17 Ellie Fellows (Blaydon) with Birtley’s Katie Francis first u20 in third place. Gateshead’s Iona Johnson finished fourth overall and third u17 while Sedgefield’s Abbie Walker was second u20 ahead of Gateshead’s Sophie Johnstone. Birtley were team winners finishing just one point ahead of the Poly with Gosforth in third spot.


UNDER-15 BOYS (3k)

Tyne Bridge Harriers’ Freddie Palmer led throughout coming home 20 seconds clear of North Shields Poly’s James Sturman with Tynedale’s Magnus Riddell completing the one-two-three. Palmer led the Newcastle club to team victory ahead of Sunderland and Wallsend.



North Shields Poly’s Anna Johnson held off Houghton’s Kathryn Pye to claim the gold award with Darlington’s Matilda Owens a close-up third ahead of team-mate Charlotte Owens. Once again, the Poly were convincing team winners ahead of Tyne Bridge and Heaton.


UNDER-13 BOYS (3k)

Morpeth’s Ewan Line led the 42-strong field home winning by 13 seconds with Phoenix Flyers’ Henry Englehart putting in another good stint to finish runner-up ahead of Elswick’s Dominic Kelso. In a tight team contest Morpeth came out on top just two points clear of Elswick with Low Fell, led home by James McClean, celebrating third place.



Emma Blackburn (Gateshead) led the 45-strong field home to claim a 10 second victory over Elswick’s Ayla Blight with Morpeth’s Faye Heatley a further five seconds adrift in third place. Elswick were comfortable team winners ahead of Gateshead and the Poly.


UNDER-11 (1k)

As is customary, under-11 “Try Cross-Country” contests open all harrier league fixtures and once again it was a success for North Shields Poly brother and sisters Noah and Ada Penfold, Noah heading the 44-strong field and Ada leading home her 52 rivals. Following Noah across the line were Low Fell duo William McClean and Charlie Wilson with just one second separating the pair. In the girls’ contest, Martha Carr (Prudhoe Plodders) finished in second place behind Ada with Chester-le-Street’s Faye Evans claiming the third place award.


**Once again the NEHL is indebted to South Shields Harriers for hosting another excellent event; to all their club marshalls and to all the technical officials all of whom were at their posts throughout the day. Also, thanks to Start Fitness for their continued support, to the First Aid team and to South Tyneside Council for the use of their facilities.  

Report by Bill McGuirk

Photos - Stuart Whitman Photography

Wednesday 3 January 2024

Sherman Cup & Davison Shield 2024


Hi all, and Happy New Year from all at SFNEHL. Apologies for longish post; here is the update for Saturday. Many thanks to Ashleigh Little, Darren Watson and all at South Shields Harriers & AC for arranging / hosting the event.
Please find below course map. It's the 'usual' course, different to the NECAA XC Champs used December 2023. 

Please ensure that you wear your Harrier League number. A separate competition to the usual League fixtures; also find attached League rules where an outline for the competition (age groups etc) is included. Races are off scratch ie no packs / handicaps for the cup/shield races. Latest report is that the course is fairly soft to 'heavy going' underfoot.

A few more marshals would be welcome. Just add names in comments if you are able to help.
Car Parking:
Marshalled car parks at Epinay School, Nevinson Ave, South Shields NE34 8BT. The school has very kindly offered the parking area and a cash fee of £2 will be required and gates open from 8:30am. We ask all runners to park in the bays and not in unmarked areas as certain areas of the school require 24hr access.
Car parking is also available at Temple Park Centre, but this will not be marshalled and the normal South Tyneside parking rules apply, charges/parking in a considerate manner etc.

Temple Park (car park)

Temple Park (course)


12.00 Under 11 Boys
12.05 Under 11 Girls
12.20 Under 17 men
12.25 U17 and U20 women
12.40 Under 15 Boys
12.45 Under 15 Girls
12:55 Under 13 boys
13:00 Under 13 girls
13.20 Senior & veteran women
13:50 Senior & veteran Men

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 NEHL Tent next to the finish 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.

RACE HQ OPENING TIMES: 1100 to 1300 

On the day entries 
I'll be taking limited entries on the day from clubs - DO NOT expect to rock up with 20 juniors and have them all sorted.  Race HQ will be extremely busy.  
Remember I need Name, Club, Date of Birth, and Sex (if it's not obvious).
If you have this pre-written on a bit of paper that would be great.

No DoB - No entry

Guests - register on the day as per normal

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 2023.  
Under 15 - must be 13 on 31st August 2023.
Under 17 men - must be 15 on 31st August 2023.
Under 17 & 20 women - must be 15 on 31st August 2023.
Senior Men - must be 17 on 31st August 2023.
Senior Women - must be 20 on 31st August 2023.

Athletes may NOT move up or down age categories

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.

M65+ Team Competition.
It was proposed and agreed to at the AGM that the M65 runners choosing to compete in the 2 lap shorter race with the ladies could have their own team competition.
The format will include 3 runners from the same club forming a team, and the runners must be M65+
It's a little something to keep our running legends motivated and competitive.
So - You guys normally in the 2 lap race don't need to do anything different to normal (just keep on running), and any Masters 65+ fellas who feel like they'd prefer to give this a go instead of slogging it round 3 laps need to come and swap out their numbers at race HQ.

Results will be available on the usual link http://www.harrierleague.com/results/2023-24/