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

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