Conditions fail to dampen the spirits of runners at Alnwick

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Alnwick hosted the last of the six North East Harrier League cross country fixtures of the 2016/17 season on Saturday, and what a great success it was once again.

The club’s thanks go to the event organisers, particularly Mark Doctor and Jocelyn Bolam, though all the committee and a decent number of members chipped in to make this a real team effort.

The club would also like to thank Northumberland Estates for the use of The Pastures and Alnwick Garden for its car park. They would also like to thank the first aiders who had their fair share of injuries to attend to.

Finally, a huge thanks go to the North East Harrier League committee, who put such an amazing amount of effort into setting up and making sure the fixtures are a huge success.

On the day the heavy rain of the previous 24 hours stopped just in time for the course set-up, though by the time the first Junior race kicked off just after noon, it was still extremely wet, saturated in parts.

When the final race started, the Senior Men’s race, parts of the course were very muddy, meaning testing conditions.

With it being Alnwick’s home fixture there was a great turnout of Harriers, with some making their Harrier League and club debuts.

There were some top class performances from the Junior and Senior runners, with Max Murray John, Hannah Johnston and Owen Willcox the highest placed finishers for the Juniors, whilst Jo Gascoigne-Owens and Ross Wilson were the top runners for the Seniors.

There was a big turnout by the Junior Harriers, with a good representation across the age groups, and some excellent team and individual performances.

The U11 Boys were first to run on the fast, hilly 1km course, with Max Murray John making an impressive start and holding his position up the hill. Max made an excellent descent and race to the finish, where he took the bronze medal.

In the girls’ race Ellie Price was first home for Alnwick in her first race for the club, finishing a commendable 13th out of a strong field of 70 runners.

Not far behind Molly Johnston ran an excellent race as one of the younger members of the Alnwick team (Y4) to finish in 22nd place, whilst Tess Hindmarsh also impressed. The 25 U11 athletes represented the club admirably and all seemed to enjoy themselves.

The U13 girls fielded an excellent team of runners, with new Harrier Hannah Johnston running an excellent first race to take the bronze medal. Hannah ran hard from the start, leading the race until the final descent where she managed to hold back the rapidly pursuing ‘fast pack’ runners to take a well-deserved medal.

Team mates Lauren Brown and Ailsa Batley were next home to give Alnwick the second overall team place.

The non-counting ‘B’ team, led home by Millie Breese, also ran well to take ninth team place – an excellent day for the girls.

The U13 boys were out in force and managed to field three teams. The team was led home by Owen Douglas, followed by ‘fast packer’ Joseph Godden. The boys exhibited great team spirit and it was good to see the ‘regulars’ being supported by some great new teammates.

In the U15 girls’ race it was great to see Callie Henderson back in action representing her age group so well again on her own.

The U15 boys have had a good season and consistently turned out in force, but they saved their best to the last fixture. Led home by Owen Willcox in sixth position, and supported by Alex Threlfall and Barnabus Harvey, the boys’ team finished in an excellent second place.

Ollie Telfer, from the fast pack, had a good race, finishing in 13.52 to be the fastest Alnwick Junior of the day over the 3km course.

In the overall league standing the boys managed an impressive third place, their best achievement in recent years.

The U17 girls once again put out a good team, with Sophie Enser first home for Alnwick.

In the boys’ race Daniel Harrison Frater was the club’s sole representative, but he ran well and produced a solid mid-table result.

It was fantastic to see nearly 60 Junior club members competing. They ran well, supported each other and produced some excellent, well-earned results.

The Senior Women went into the race knowing that a decent showing would keep them in Division 1 for another season.

Home advantage meant that slipping from eighth at the start of the event into one of the two relegation slots was unlikely, and so it proved. They finished fifth of the 10 teams on the day, thus finishing eighth at the end of the season.

First home was once again Jo Gascoigne-Owens from the fast pack, running the fifth quickest time of the race and finishing 11th overall.

Next was another fast pack runner in Rachelle Falloon, whilst the other two counters were Diana Weightman and a massively improved Mel Steer. Alice Tetley-Paul also impressed in her Harrier League debut to finish just inside the top 100.

In the Senior Men’s race Ross Wilson was running from the slow pack due to not having taken part in a Harrier League event for a while because of injury. He was first home for the club in 24th overall and will be in the medium pack for the whole of next year. As will Richard Johnson, who has converted his brilliant early season road form into the mud of cross country, finishing 41st.

Slow pack runner Jordan Rogerson was third counter, ahead of medium pack runners Adam Fletcher, Shaun Land, and slow packer Adam Spiller.

Amongst the Harrier League debutants were Allan Foggon, James Willoughby, James Smith and Henry Slater. The men finished fourth of the 11 teams on the day and were fourth overall at the end of the season.

Alnwick missed out on promotion, but the team can be proud of this decent placing in the first season back in Division 2.