A long journey to Peterlee at the beginning of the half term holidays had potential to reduce the number of Alnwick Harriers racing at the penultimate North East Harrier League cross country fixture at Thornley Hall Farm on Saturday.
However, a quality group of runners once again turned out to represent the club and they should all be pleased with their efforts.
Conditions were harsh, a cold day on a soft course made the going tough and hanging onto your running shoes was certainly a challenge. The general consensus amongst those taking part was that this is the toughest of the courses in the series.
In the week the Girls Under 13s cross team were crowned joint winners of the Alnwick and District Sports Awards Junior Team of the Year, the pressure was on a slightly depleted team to maintain their position at the top of the league.
Beth Carragher set off first from the slow pack, doing well over the steeply undulating course. The remaining four Alnwick runners, all racing from the fast pack, would need to run hard to secure top places.
Lauren Brown had an outstanding race working her way to the front of the field after just 2km. Over the last 1km where the going got very tough Lauren extended her lead from 50 to 200m comfortably winning the race by over 30 seconds.
Millie Breese was next home in sixth place putting in a very strong performance. However, the team position is based on the all-important combined result of the first three runners. Sam Potts and Hannah Johnston supported each other well and their strong tactic resulted in Hannah being next home in 14th place to give the girls the team win too.
The Under 15 Boys had two runners from each pack, Max Breese and Owen Douglas set off first from the slow pack with Ollie Telfer and Ben Murray John chasing. Ollie and Ben raced hard closing on the slower runners just before the final straight.
In a very close finish Ollie just passed Max to finish 11th followed by Ben and Owen not much further behind. Competition was tough amongst the top clubs but the boys still secured an excellent fourth team place.
Max Murray John was Alnwick’s only Under 13 Boy but finished 12th completing the tough 3.2km course in 13.53.
The Under 11 Girls raced a 1.6km and first home for Alnwick was Lilia Purvis in 12th place followed by Molly Johnston, Tess Hindmarsh and Xara Purvis in 25th place.
For the Senior Women a much depleted team acquitted themselves well on the relentlessly tough course. Jo Gascoigne-Owens, winner of the Senior Womens award at the midweek awards ceremony, was first Harrier home from the fast pack in 11th overall.
Next was medium packer Alice Tetley-Paul, followed by Beverley Blythe and Emma McGee. Well done to the non counters Ruth Doctor and Mary Plumley who both had solid runs.
The team finished bottom of the league on the day but are still comfortably mid-table, and with the final fixture being the home race at The Pastures next month Division 1 status is all but assured for another year.
The Senior Men finished sixth of the 11 teams on the day and now sit third overall in Division 2, just outside the promotion slots.
David Milne looked impressive once again from the fast pack to finish 36th of well over 400 runners, just over a minute ahead of medium pack runner Steve Patterson. Team Captain Dominic Harris was next home in 113th, followed by Jon Archer, Adam Fletcher and Allan Foggon.
There were some good runs by the non counters including Steve Studley who is continuing to improve and Chris Calvert, whilst Adam Spiller and Mike Telfer battled it out to finish just a second apart.
With the one fixture to go realistically the men need to finish top of the Division 2 standings on the day at The Pastures and hope that either Gosforth Harriers or Jarrow and Hebburn AC slip up to give Alnwick promotion to the top flight.
Last but by no means least many congratulations to Mike Henry who was first over 65 male. The over 65 men have the opportunity to take part in the womens race, which Mike did, comfortably finishing the foiur mile course first in his age category in 39.04.
Elsewhere that day, Peter Grey was the quickest Harrier in action at the morning parkruns, thanks to his 21.08 at the Rising Sun Parkrun near Wallsend.
Closer to home at Druridge Bay Carole Page, yet another winner at the Alnwick and District Sports awards in the week, was first Harrier and first female home in 10th overall. She was just ahead of David Barnes, who in turn was ahead of the third female finisher Justine Norman. Junior Harrier Rebecca Heeley ran a course pb.