On Saturday, Alnwick Harriers hosted the fifth of the six Start Fitness North East Harrier League cross country fixtures of the 2015/16 season.
Many thanks to Northumberland Estates for allowing the event to go ahead on a stunning course at The Pastures, Alnwick and also to Alnwick Gardens for the use of their car park.
Over 1000 runners attended the venue to take part in races from U11s to Seniors and were treated to all sorts of weather from sun, to hail and sleet.
The course was very boggy in places which made for hard running and much slower times than in previous years. However, there were more fallen trees in the long tree lined section at the top of the course, which proved extremely popular with the athletes.
There were some excellent performances from our Senior and Junior runners, all of whom acquitted themselves very well in the tough conditions.
Well over 60 Juniors competed in various age groups and it was one of the young stars who got the meeting off to a flyer. Lauren Brown, taking part in the Girls U11 race, was a very easy winner finishing well ahead of her nearest rival.
There were also top class performances in this race by Mille Breese and Eve Lewington, whilst in the Boys U11s Max Murray John was a top 10 finisher. The other Alnwick winner came in the Boys U17s race, thanks to a great run from Daniel Fletcher.
Other notable performances came from Joe Eggleston and Harrison Brown in the Boys U15s race, Sophie Enser in the Girls U15s event and Amy Thorne and Rebecca Reed in the Girls U17s.
The Senior Women were flying high in Division 1 prior to the race and were hoping to maintain this superb position with some good performances.
Thanks to brilliant performances from a number of athletes they were able to stay in fourth position of the 11 teams in the top flight. When you consider that many of the other clubs have a huge number more runners than we do this is a brilliant achievement.
First Harrier to finish the course was female captain and club legend Jo Gascoigne-Owens. Despite her four minute Fast Pack handicap Jo raced past most of the other runners and finished 14th overall, running the third fastest time by a female in the race.
As always she was backed up by Ella Brown, another Fast Pack runner, who despite a gruelling 20 mile race the previous weekend was able to dig deep and finish 29th.
Diana Weightman was thirrd counter, whilst Sarah Syers was making a rare appearance in the mud and was fourth and final counter. Sarah Cross put in a very good run, whilst Sarah Gray was making her cross country reappearance after having a baby and Melanie Buchanan took part in her first cross country race for 25 years!
Despite missing a couple of other key runners the ladies were sixth in Division 1 on the day, thus just hang onto fourth place.
Another season in the top flight is guaranteed, though it would be great to finish strongly at the final race at Wrekenton in a couple of weeks time.
The Senior Men were hoping to leapfrog Saltwell Harriers at the top of the Division 3 table with home advantage, however, it wasn’t to be.
Saltwell put out a very strong team with one of their runners winning the race, meaning that of the 31 teams in the bottom league Alnwick finished second on the day. This strengthened their overall second place in the division and barring a disaster at Wrekenton they should be promoted to Division 2!
It was great to see Dominic Harris run very well again to finish first counter in 56th place, just missing out on promotion to the Medium Pack. Dean Stackhouse was next home, followed by Medium Pack runner Phil Hemsley. Rob Murray John, on his Alnwick debut, was fourth counter, just ahead of Adam Spiller and Fast Pack runner Adam Fletcher.
Graham Syers also had a good run from the Medium Pack, whilst Graham Crow just pipped Jim Lillico after a very good battle.
Full results from the day can be found at http://www.harrierleague.com/results/2015-16/alnwick/ whilst overall league positions are at http://www.harrierleague.com/results/2015-16/teams/.