The highlight of the running calendar for many an Alnwick Harrier kicked off on Saturday when the first of the 2016/17 North East Harrier League cross country fixtures took place at Wrekenton.
For the Senior teams the men started life back in Division 2 after their promotion last season, whilst the women continued in Division 1 after their great showing last year.
Under the leadership of Jo Gascoigne-Owens and Dominic Harris a decent number of Harriers had signed up prior to this season curtain opener, and on the day a good number of Harriers, particularly the men, rocked up at mud free Wrekenton!
For the Seniors the standout individual performance was by new Harrier Rachelle Falloon, who had travelled all the way up from Cambridge to wear the coveted Alnwick vest for the first time.
Running from the Slow Pack she finished ninth overall and now takes her place in the Medium Pack for the remainder of the season.
For the Senior Men there was a brilliant turnout and a great team effort. There were also some brilliant performances from the Juniors who turned up in good numbers as well. In particular Lauren Brown stood out once again, winning the Girls U13s race in her first appearance in that age group. Lauren dominated the Girls U11s fixtures last season, so to step up an age group and win by 20 seconds in her first race is a great achievement.
The team performance of the day was undoubtedly from the Senior Men. Twenty men turned out for this fixture and raced brilliantly, meaning they finished third of the 11 Division 2 teams overall on the day!
What was more pleasing was that none of the contingent were promoted meaning all start in the same packs at next week’s second fixture at Druridge Bay!
First Harrier home was Adam Fletcher, though after a mix-up with which pack he was running from sadly he was disqualified.
Therefore first counter was Medium Pack runner Graham Simpson.
After spending last year in the Fast Pack Graham was pleased to be back down a pack and finished 65th overall, just outside the promotion positions.
He was followed soon afterwards by Phil Hemsley in 78th. Two Harrier League debutants were seconds behind Phil and showed excellent promise, in the shape of Shaun Land and Jordan Rogerson.
Team captain Dominic Harris was the fifth counter, whilst Ian Simon was sixth from the Medium Pack.
Slightly further down there were also good runs by other Harriers including Geoff Campbell, Fast Pack runner Steve Carragher, Jon Duffy and Paul Godden to name but a few.
For the Senior Women sadly there were a number of last minute pull-outs and availability issues. Despite Rachelle’s fine performance Alnwick finished a disappointing ninth of the 10 teams in the top flight.
Ella Brown ran well from the Fast Pack to finish 21st overall. Early days yet but Ella is currently top of the Harrier League Veteran Women standings! Karen Kelly was third counter from the Medium Pack and Tracey Sample was fourth. Tracey has been struggling with injury of late so to finish as high up as she did was a great performance.
Jocelyn Bolam and Emma Murray were the club’s other finishers.