Wednesday 13 March 2024

Intercounties Cross Country 2024 Report


Leading up to the final event of the day at the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships in Wollaton Park, Nottingham, the North East had already tasted some success in the earlier races with Thomas McCartie picking up an individual bronze medal in the under-13 boys contest and the under-13 girls and under-17 women mounting the podium in third place in their respective events. However, the best was yet to come with the senior men set to bring down the curtain on an excellent day’s competition and it couldn’t have ended on a finer note with Calum Johnson racing home to victory as well as leading the North East team to a comfortable 116 points success in the six-to-score over second-placed Yorkshire as well as having a 200-point cushion over Surrey in the overall nine-to-score result.


The long uphill start saw Cameron Allan (Houghton) quickly showing among the leading group with Calum Johnson (Gateshead) swamped around 25 metres adrift as the 300+ strong field made it’s way round two small laps before embarking on two large circuits of the relatively dry park. At the completion of the first lap Allan was still in the leading bunch with Johnson making slight headway just ahead of Morpeth’s Carl Avery. Even at this stage all North East interest was focusing on which members of squad would be back-up to the trio ahead in the six-to-score team contest. 

Senior Men's start

Going into the first of the long laps Johnson had joined the leaders as Allan started to drift off the pace. Johnson, who won the title two years previously in Loughborough, was tracking every move as one by one his rivals dropped away until he was one of just three practically going stride-for-stride with just over a kilometre to go. With spectators lining the final steep climb before a sharp turn into the long run down to the finish Johnson found another gear and quickly opened up a significant gap of nearly 30 metres at the top which saw him extend his advantage all the way to the line to finish with a seven-second cushion over Leicestershire and Rutland’s Tom Evans and Scott Stirling, representing Scotland East, both athletes credited with the same time. 

Senior Men - 1st place Calum Johnson

It was a tougher victory this time round for the Tynesider who admitted later: 

The course was extremely dry but the steep hill on each lap was a real test so, while I was reasonably confident going up the final hill when there were only the two us I knew I had to make a break just in case the lad had a fast finish so I just went for it and it paid off.” 

Johnson, who kept his feelings to himself this time round after breaking the tape, added: 

Naturally. I’m over the moon to have won the title for a second time and earn my place in the World Championships but I’m just as happy for the North East to win the team race, the rest of the lads ran really well.” 

Really well the rest of squad certainly did with Allan plugging away to finish 10th, Avery moving through to finish 13th, first year senior Chris Coulson (Houghton) 30th, William Cork (Morpeth) 60th and Adrian Bailes (Birtley) 68th being the back up to Johnson while late call-ups into the squad certainly didn’t disappoint with Steven Jackson (Sunderland) finishing 68th, Ellis Hetherington (Blyth) 93rd and Phil Wylie (Western Tempo) 98th.

Senior Men's winning gold medalists

UNDER-13 BOYS (2.9k)

Earlier in the day Middlesbrough Mandale’s Thomas McCartie also made it into the podium after producing a storming run to finish in third place. The Northern champion was always in touch with the leaders and at the line was just 10 seconds adrift of the gold medallist. In a close team contest the NE finished in fifth place with Kasper Pearson (Wallsend) 34th, Ollie Curran (Darlington) 50th and Henry Englehart (Phoenix) 62nd backing up McCartie while Dominic Kelso (Elswick) 69th, Wilfred Pugh (Tynedale) 167th, Thomas McCann (Wallsend) 212th and Louie Heslop (Darlington) 216th were the non-scorers.


Under 13 Boys - Thomas McCartie

UNDER-13 GIRLS (2.9k)

This was the second event on the 10-race programme and it was an excellent result with the NE team finishing in third place out of the 40 counties. Led home by Olivia Murphy (Birtley) in 12th place, with solid packing behind by Gabrielle Pinder (New Marske) 16th, Poppie Phillipson (Birtley) 36th, the youngest member of the squad, and Emilia Waugh (Alnwick) 54th saw the team finish on 118 points behind an exceptionally strong Essex quartet who totalled just 38 points with Yorkshire claiming the silver awards with 77 points. The NE non scorers were: Izzy Hall (Birtley) 61st, Ayla Bright (Elswick) 70th,  Emma Blackburn (Gateshead) 101st and Ellie Bradley (Durham City) 103rd.

Under 13 Girls - Olivia Murphy


A superb run by Charlotte Dillon saw the North East team make it onto the podium once more. The Houghton athlete was always in touch with the leaders and at the line her eighth-place finish saw her just miss out on an individual medal by 20 seconds. The team finished in third place (103pts) behind a strong Scotland West foursome who totalled just 31 points with Berkshire claiming second place on 56 points. Backing up Dillon were Zara Jones (Darlington) 16th, Ellie Fellows (Blaydon) 38th and Aoife Bell (Gateshead) 41st with Poppy Old (North Shields Poly) 54th, Ania Stobbart (Tynedale) 81st, Iona Johnstone (Gateshead) 97th and Hattie Stead (Blackhill) 106th being the non-scorers.

Under 17 Women - Charlotte Dillon

UNDER-20 MEN (8k)

This race opened the day’s action and Morpeth’s Joe Dixon was notable among the leading group in the early stages. Despite dropping away midway through the contest the Northumbrian finished a creditable 18th in a highly-competitive contest with places in the forthcoming World Championships up for grabs. Backing up Dixon in the team stakes with the North East finishing sixth place were fellow Morpeth team mates William De Vere Owen (31st), Bertie Marr (39th) and Ethan Phillips (61st) with Zak Kettle (Tyne Bridge) 73rd, Ethan Bond (Gosforth) 74th, Thomas McKie (Middlesbrough Mandale) 76th and Ben Brunton (Tynedale) 83rd the non-scorers.


Senior Women's start

Just as she was last year (23rd) North Shields Poly’s Charlotte Penfold was the region’s leading finisher, this time just three places further back in 26th place. The former Commonwealth 800 metres finalist has turned her attentions to longer distances since moving to the region and is the one to beat in local contests when she takes her place on the start line. Unfortunately, the six-to-score event saw the North East go agonisingly close to making it onto the podium but the squad had to be content with fourth place with Catriona MacDonald (Morpeth) 44th, Shona Haston (Gateshead) 50th, Louise Mitchell (Durham City) 59th, Amy Fuller (Kenilworth) 66th and Nicole Burlinson (Durham City) 71st backing up the Poly runner. The non-scorers were: Anna Pigford (Houghton) 90th, Jennifer Berry (Wallsend) 113th and Ellie Reed (Heaton) 146th.

Senior Women - Charlotte Penfold


UNDER-15 BOYS (4k)

 Unfortunately, the region lost North East champion Davit Asmelash at the 11th hour due to illness but nevertheless the team did well to finish 13th out of the 41 counties to close in. An excellent run by Gateshead’s Alfie Cook saw him finish in 15th place with Freddie Palmer (Tyne Bridge) 76th, Charlie Jones (Middlesbrough Mandale) 79th and Zander Gribbon (New Marske) 116th supporting Cook as Noah Williamson (NE Project) 137th, William Jardine (Durham City) 169th and Alex Smith (Heaton) the non-scorers.


Under 15 Boys - Alfie Cook

UNDER-17 MEN (6k)

North East champion Elliot Kelso (Morpeth) was the region’s leading finisher in 32nd position as the team closed in in 11th place with Liam McDonogh (Alnwick) 55th, Joseph Close (Morpeth) 93rd and Jacob Brown (Middlesbrough Mandale) 98th backing up Kelso. The non-scorers were: Ben Sproats (North Shields Poly) 101st, Rory Hart (Crook), 104th, Oliver Tomlinson (Morpeth) 137th and Alfie Bower (Darlington) 177th.


Under 17 Men - Elliot Kelso


This was the penultimate race on the programme and still the course was in excellent condition and it was Houghton’s Holly Robinson who led the North East team home in 31st place followed by Durham City duo Grace Carter 84th and Evie Hall 97th with Houghton’s Kathryn Pye the final counter in 122nd position to close in the team in 17th spot. The non-scorers were: Anna Johnson (North Shields Poly) 155th, Charlotte Owens (Darlington) 156th, Frances Elliott (Gosforth) 168th and Matilda Owens (Darlington) 175th.


Under 15 Girls - Holly Robinson


Millie Breese (Morpeth), the NE champion, led the region’s charge crossing the line  in 28th place - an improvement of nine positions on last year - as the team finished in 10th place. Backing up the Northumbrian was: Imogen Bungay (Elswick) 35th, Katie Francis (Birtley) 63rd and Katie Joslyn (North Shields Poly) 90th. The team’s non-scorers were: Macy Kelly (Darlington) 117th, Mili Diddee (North Shields Poly) 122nd, Sophie Johnstone (Gateshead) 128th and Lauren Blyth (Gosforth) 132nd

Under 20 Women - Millie Breese

**THE North Eastern Counties is extremely grateful to all the team managers and their assistants, Lynn Cooper, Bernie Caygill, Aly Dixon, Rachel Dillon and Stewy Bell for their commitment to making it a long but great day for the region’s athletes, I’m sure it’s greatly appreciated by all parents and supporters.

by Bill McGuirk
Photos by David Hewitson

Wednesday 6 March 2024

NEHL Lambton Castle - Cancellation of Fixture


Hi all, I very sorry to report that the re-arranged fixture for Lambton scheduled for 17th March is cancelled. Communications with Bob (the Estate Manager) are that the Estate grounds and car parking area are still waterlogged and will not dry out sufficiently, so we've taken the decision to cancel this season's fixture.

Looking ahead, changing climate is here to stay and will undoubtedly continue to influence society including sports fixtures. We are going to be working with landowners and host clubs to possibly re-configure fixtures around parking etc. As is at the moment, this will be on condition of landowners willing to give us access and when they can give access. Many of them host other events throughout the year.

Thank you.

John Stephens

Tuesday 5 March 2024

NEHL Alnwick - 2 March 24 - Race Report


ON another occasion the Alnwick Harriers’ Start Fitness Harrier League promotion, under the backdrop of the imposing castle, usually brings down the curtain on the campaign, however, due to parking problems at both Lambton and Thornley, those two fixtures have been rearranged in the coming months consequently, weather permitting, there are two fixtures for cross-country enthusiasts still in the pipeline. That didn’t dull the enthusiasm in anyway of the Northumberland club however, who once again pulled out all the stops to host another well organised event which we have come to expect which is greatly appreciated by everyone who lined up in the Pastures despite having to face heavy squals of driving rain at times.


SENIOR MEN (11.2k)

At one stage in the proceedings it was a Morpeth one-two-three going into the second of three undulating circuits with Thomas Prentice heading Bertie Marr and Adam Pratt. However, entering the final circuit Newcastle University student Ed Woodhead had moved ahead of Pratt while Houghton’s Chris Coulson, working from a five-minute penalty, was steadily working through the 440+ strong field though the gaps were significantly large behind the leading quartet. 

Prentice continued to cut out a lone furrow at the head of affairs despite it being his first ever outing over the country to come home 25 seconds clear of Marr with Woodhead over a minute further adrift in third place. Coulson meanwhile, worked his way into the top 10 to finish eighth to be rewarded with the fastest overall time of the day. Second quickest was Heaton’s Chris Larkin, who crossed the line one place and a minute behind Coulson with Sunderland’s Stephen Jackson next best in 10th position. 

Despite having three counters in the top four Morpeth were denied team victory by Gateshead, led home by former Morpeth member Liam Roarty in fifth place, and Tyne Bridge with the Northumbrian outfit finishing third. Despite that Morpeth still head the Division One table with 10 points, three ahead of Gateshead with Durham City in third place four points further adrift. In Division Two Elswick came out on top ahead of Heaton with Crook in third place while in Division Three Newcastle University were clear winners ahead of Gosforth with South Shields in third place.



The first three athletes home took full advantage of a five-minute cushion to hold off their 300+ rivals with victory going to Durham City’s Nicole Burlinson who had a 52-seconds cushion over Gateshead’s Mary Ferrier, with Sunderland’s Grace Carroll a further eight seconds back in third place. Going into the final lap of two Burlinson, who will represent the North East at next weekend’s Inter Counties XC Championships, already had a comfortable lead with Ferrier, a former Northern XC champion at under-13, 15, 17 and 20 and now competing in the F35 age group, 40 metres or so ahead Carroll. 

All the while Morpeth’s Catriona Macdonald, who finished 10th in the previous weekend’'s Scottish National XC Championships, and Gateshead’s Shona Haston, were working their way steadily through the field from a five-minute handicap. MacDonald and Haston, who eventually came home in fifth and sixth places respectively with the two quickest times of the day, will also head for Nottingham as part of the North East team so, together with Burlinson, are in good fettle and should do well. 

In a tight Division One team contest Durham City came out on top with 39 points, Morpeth finished second with 42 and Elswick third with 43. Sunderland headed Division Two ahead Elvet Striders with Washington in third place. Host club Alnwick came out on top in Division Three despite having many members on marshalling duties, with Crook in second place ahead of Blyth.


UNDER-17 MEN (4.8k)

Elswick’s Sam Allison led throughout thanks to a 2min 5sec start over the fast pack. At the line Allison finished 48 seconds clear of Alnwick’s Harry Knox with team-mate Liam Mcdonough working his way through the field from the fast pack to claim the bronze award. Second quickest on the course was Crook’s Rory Hart in fifth place with North Shields Poly’s Ben Sproats next best. Morpeth, led home by sixth-placed Harry Armstrong, won the team race ahead of North Shields Poly and Low Fell.


UNDER-17/20 WOMEN (4.8k)

Durham City’s Ophelia Vesely (u20) held off all her rivals thanks to a 2:05 handicap while Charlotte Dillon (Houghton, u17) chased her all the way home to finish runner up from the fast pack. Blackhill Bounders’ Hatti Stead (u17), running from the medium pack, finished in third place. Second quickest u17 behind Dillon was Blaydon’s Ellie Fellows followed by Iona Johnstone of Gateshead. Quickest u20 was Birtley’s Katie Francis followed by Vesely and Elswick’s Imogen Bungay. Elswick won the team race finishing ahead of Tynedale and Durham City.


UNDER-15 BOYS (3.3k)

The 1min 40sec handicap proved to be not a problem for the medallists in the closest finish of the day as Tynedale’s Magnus Riddell got up on the line to beat Gateshead’s Alfie Cook with Freddie Palmer (Tyne Bridge) finishing in third place just edging ahead of team-mate Joe Whitfield in the closing stages. Tyne Bridge with Isaac Snell backing up Palmer and Whitfield, were comfortable team winners ahead of Sunderland and Blaydon.


UNDER-15 GIRLS (3.3k)

Holly Robison hauled on long-time leader Anna Palacin (Heaton) to claim victory from a 1min 40sec handicap. The Houghton athlete who also heads to Nottingham this Saturday, finished 35 seconds clear of Palacin with Durham City’s Grace Carter, running from the fast pack, crossing the line a further nine seconds adrift. Third quickest on the course was North Shields Poly’s Anna Johnson. Durham City won the team race ahead of Heaton and North Shields Poly.


UNDER-13 BOYS (3.3k)

It was a case of no problem for the medallists once again who finished one-two-three despite giving away 1min 40sec start. Wallsend’s Kasper Pearson was first home six seconds ahead of Tynedale’s Wilfred Pugh with Elswick’s Dominic Kelso completing the podium spots. It’s rare, with Henry Engelhart (Phoenix Flyers) finishing fourth also from the fast pack, for so many quicker runners working their way to the head of affairs with two fixtures still to come which augurs well for the Inter-Counties as all four boys will represent the team next weekend. Elswick won the team race with Tyne Bridge edging out Wallsend on countback to claim second place.


UNDER-13 GIRLS (3.3k)

Birtley’s Poppie Phillipson also defied a 1min 40sec penalty to break the tape 40 seconds clear of Gateshead’s Jessica Gould with Durham City’s Ellie Bradley, who was also from the fast pack, claiming third spot just ahead of Elswick’s Ayla Bright, also from the fast pack. Birtley came out on top in the team section finishing ahead of Elswick and Chester-le-Street.


UNDER-11 BOYS (1,000m)

Another close finish saw Low Fell’s William McClean hit the front close to home to edge out Alnwick’s Finlay Waugh by three seconds with Finlay Harwood (Tyne Bridge) a further two seconds adrift in third place. While numbers were down in the senior contests it was pleasing to see so many under-11s turning out – 62 in the boys contest and 59 in the girls’ event.


UNDER-11 GIRLS (1,000m)

Prudhoe Plodders, a club gradually growing in stature - they had eight finishers completing the tough course, had plenty to celebrate as Martha Carr claimed the gold award ahead of Wallsend’s Isla Aiston with Ruby Collins (Gosforth) finishing in third place.


**A HUGE thanks once again to Alnwick Harriers who certainly look forward each year to hosting a harrier league fixture; to all the marshals and technical officials who stood at their posts throughout the ‘inclement’ weather; to the first aid team who unfortunately, but rarely, had a number of incidents to contend with; and to Start Fitness for their continued support and finally to the Duke of Northumberland for the continuing use of the Pastures.



Full Results: North Eastern Harrier League 2023/24 Sponsored by Start Fitness

Photos - Stuart Whitman Photography

Friday 1 March 2024

NEHL Alnwick Castle - 2 March 24

NEHL Alnwick Castle

Travel by road: easiest access is via the B1340 junction, off the A1 north of Alnwick.

The course map is below and is located just off the B1340 north of the River Aln ('Alnwick Castle View' at,-1.7016737,15...).

PARKING, - No parking other than in the allocated car park at Alnwick Gardens (NE66 1FJ). COST OF PARKING £2 (CARD PAYMENT ONLY). Parking on verges etc jeopardises the event's future. Event car park what3words location is
- Tent and club kit drop off is allowed at the entrance to the pastures off the B1340 what3words location is



1200 U11 Boys
1210 U11 Girls
1220 U17 Men
1225 U17 / U20 Women
1240 U15 Boys
1245 U15 Girls
1255 U13 Boys
1300 U13 Girls
1320 Senior & masters women, O/65 men
1350 Senior & masters men

Course Map

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 at the start 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+
At the moment this is a manual process (i.e. I'll be pulling the information from the results and posting an update once it's ready), and there's no prize unless someone wants to donate a cup, although I'm sure I can rustle up a few bottles of wine for the winning team.
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