Tuesday 20 February 2024

NECAA Royal Signals Relays 2024


IN-FORM Calum Johnson was in record-breaking form at Hetton-le-hole in the latest edition of the North Eastern Counties Signals Six-Stage Road Relays while Morpeth Harriers came out on top overall once again.

Johnson, the recently crowned Northern XC champion, donned his road racing shoes to equalling effect as he scorched round two circuits of Hetton Lyons Park to post a course record time of 10min 01sec, eight seconds inside the old figures of 10:09 set by Ricky Stevenson (New Marske) back in 2012.

However, despite the Gateshead athlete’s herculean effort, it was Morpeth who eventually claimed the major honours and the impressive Signals trophy.

Morpeth led on the opening stage thanks to Finn Brodie’s fourth quickest equalling time of the day of 10:34. Gateshead were in second place (Lewis Liddell) and Blyth third (Ellis Hetherington).

On stage two Johnson took over from Liddell and quickly surged into the lead and at the third changeover had turned round a seven-seconds deficit into a 31-seconds lead before passing over to Jack Douglas. Blyth moved into second place thanks to Josh Fiddaman’s 10:35 with Morpeth (George Lowry) now third with the Northumbrian outfit’s second string just edging out Sunderland at the changeover in fourth and fifth place respectively. On stage three Douglas still held the advantage for Gateshead though Ally Douglas moved Morpeth up into second, clawing back 12 seconds on the leaders as the blue and white’s B sextet moved up to third ahead of Sunderland as Adrian Bailes brought Birtley into contention with the stage’s quickest time of 10:29. Morpeth hit the front for a second time on leg four thanks to Alex Brown’s 10:34 relegating Gateshead (Dave Richardson) into second, Morpeth B were still third and Sunderland fourth. Morpeth surged further ahead on legs five and six thanks to Connor Marshall (10:48) and Carl Avery, whose 10:23 was the second quickest of the day. Morpeth had nearly two minutes in hand at the finish (1:04:01), well outside their 2022 record of 1:03:66. Gateshead finished in second place in 1:05:55 thanks to Alfie Cook (11:2) and Dan Alexander (11:22) on legs five and six. Unfortunately, the Morpeth B team of Peter Smallcombe, Oliver Calvert, James Tilley, Elliott Kelso, Tom Balsden and Mark Banks which crossed the line in third place were denied the bronze awards as the rules state that a club can only receive one set of medals which meant the third set of medals went to the Sunderland sextet of Stephen Jackson, Steve Rankin, Liam Walshaw, Michael Baker, Nathan Reed and Liam Taylor.

The Masters over-40 championship was held in tandem with the senior men and it was a triumph for the North Shields Poly sextet of James Anderson, 11:07; Gavin Duke, 12:35; James Macleod 12:48; Steve Colby 12:38; Phil Coulson 13:01 and Rory McConnachy, 12:29 to finish in 17th place overall in a total time of 1:14:38. Elvet Striders’ Michael Mason, 12:48; Phil Ray 12:58; Lindsay McEwan 12:43; Michael Littlewood 12:39; Mark Warner 12:42 and Graeme Watt 12:41 finished runners-up 1:16:32 with the Morpeth six of Tony Lewis, Andrew Hebden, Lee Bennett, Ben Heatley, Colin Archer and Andrew Ball totalling 1:17:55 to finish in third place ahead of Crook and Durham City.



Thanks to the overall fastest leg of 11:55 on stage two by Commonwealth Games 800 metres finalist, Charlotte Penfold, North Shields Poly were triumphant in this combined four-stage contest.

Joined by Jacqui Penn (12:38), Natasha Harvey (13:12) and Molly Pace (12:38) the Poly finished in 50:23 ahead of the Birtley quartet of Katie Francis 12:21; Tracy Millmore 13:29; Helen Arrowsmith 14:25 and Chloe Bailes 13:20 totalling 53:35. The Jarrow and Hebburn foursome of Kayleigh Wright, 13:52; Jenna Killock, 13:51; Alexis Dodd 13:11 and Alex Sneddon, 13:09, finished third in 54:03 ahead of the Poly’s B string, Gateshead, Morpeth and Gosforth.

In the Masters Women over-35 contest, victory went to Sunderland Strollers, thanks in a big way to Olympian Aly Dixon whose 12:47 stint was the second quickest overall. Dixon was joined by Rachel Pullan (15:35), Wendy Chapman (14:03) and Kirsty O’Neill-Lowery (13:48) to claim the gold awards with a total time of 56:13. Elswick finished runners-up with the foursome of Hazel Bough (13:47); Felicity Smith (14:19); Louise Allen (16:12) and 12:45 by former English under-17 cross-country champion, Justina Heslop to bring the Newcastle outfit home in 57:03. South Shields finished a close up third in 57:14 thanks to the quartet of Claire Simpson (13:49), Faye Carter (14:13); Fran Dembele (14:41) and Kelly Beard (14:14). Tyne Bridge finished fourth, Elvet Striders were fifth and North Shields Poly B sixth.

In the Masters Men Over-50 victory wasn’t decided until the final leg when Crook eased ahead of North Shields Poly to claim victory by just 14 seconds with Elswick a further 12 seconds adrift in third place. The teams finished second, third and fourth overall behind the Poly senior women’s quartet. Gosforth were in the lead at the first changeover thanks to the fastest time of the day of 12:05 by Martin Murray but it was Crook who had the final say thanks to Jason Alison (13:26); Peter Clough (13:00); Chris Auld (3:12) and Wayne Pearson (12:33) to give the team total of 52:11. The Poly’s quartet of Greg Penn (12:59), Michael Parkinson (13:05), Guy Bracken and club stalwart Vaughan Hemy (13:47) closed in 52:25 while the Elswick quartet of Mark Turnbull (13:24), Jason Old (13:10), Mike Russell I13:13) and James Douglas (12:33) were not far behind in 52:37. New Marske finished in fourth place ahead of Gosforth, Sedgefield and Tyne Bridge.


**Thanks once again to Houghton Harriers for hosting and organising another excellent day’s sport and a special mention for Maureen and Peter Dodsworth for their untiring work on the day and on the build up for without their input the relays would not be as near as successful; also a huge thanks to the technical officials, the marshals, the first aid team and the staff who manned the cafĂ© throughout the day and finally, to Start Fitness for their continuing support to the NECAA.



Photos: Stuart Whitman & Lee Cuthbertson

Friday 9 February 2024

NEHL Thornley Hall Farm - Cancelled


Hi all,

Unsurprisingly the message from Thornley is that the parking area is once again waterlogged and unusable. With the rain set for the day, this wont change so we have no alternative but to cancel tomorrow's fixture. Thanks go to John, especially and also Stewy / Blackhill Bounders (host club) who have worked to try and get the fixture on. We will continue to work with John and Stewy to look at possible future dates.

John Stephens