Joy and dismay at league’s close

The Senior Women's team at Wrekenton.
The Senior Women's team at Wrekenton.

Alnwick Harriers

Saturday saw the last of the 2014/15 North East Harrier League cross-country series, sponsored by Start Fitness, writes Mark Doctor.

Going into this final event at Wrekenton, it looked as though the Senior Men needed a great result to stay in Division Two, while the Senior Women needed a good performance and some luck to gain promotion to Division One.

On the day, only one of those happened. Well done to the Senior Women for promotion and commiserations to the Senior Men after their relegation.

Prior to this final event, the Senior Women were lying in third place, some way off second-placed Morpeth Harriers.

It would have taken a good result from Alnwick and some poor results from the likes of Morpeth to give them a chance of getting that second promotion spot.

On the day, they finished fourth of the 37 teams in Division Two, but with results going the Harriers’ way, they managed to finish second overall, and will take part in the 2015/16 season in Division One.

For the women, the two fast-pack runners performed superbly once again with captain Jo Gascoigne-Owens finishing 16th and a slightly under-the-weather Ella Brown 28th. Third counter was one of the heroes of the season, Lesley Miller.

Lesley is the only female to have taken part in all six races and has done extremely well on each occasion, managing to finish just outside the medium-pack promotion places each time.

Fourth and final counter for the second race running was Ruth Doctor, who just held off a fast-finishing Diana Weightman, who has more than held her own in the medium pack all season. Also, well done to non-counters Sheona Duffy and Claire Sapwell, the latter running for Alnwick as a second claimer.

Alas, now for the men. Going into this final race, their destiny was still in their hands as they were just outside the relegation zone and only needed a reasonably good result on the day to stay up. Sadly, due to injuries, work and family commitments, Alnwick finished bottom of the 11 teams in Division Two on the day.

Overall, they finished 10th of the 11 teams and find themselves down in the bottom tier of the Harrier League, the third division. But let’s not be too downhearted, let’s remember where Manchester City were just a few years ago.

On the day, Graham Syers followed up his good showing at Alnwick with a 33rd-place finish, which sees him promoted to the medium pack for next season.

Graham Simpson, from the fast pack, was next home, just outside the top 100, with Richard Agan not far behind.

During the race, there was a great battle with the final three counters with Stuart Morris just heading off Micky Aiston and Graham Crow.

A special mention should go to Adam Fletcher, who has taken part in most of the races this season and has travelled further than any other Harrier to race. He started off the season in the slow pack and has worked his way up to the fast pack.

Also a mention to Micky Aiston, who is the only man to have taken part in all six races, and who has improved throughout the course of the season.

Only a handful of Juniors took part in this final event, with the headline act being Lauren Brown, who once again finished second in the Girls’ U11s race, again showing that she is a great prospect. Adam Shafiq put in his usual consistent performance in the Boys’ U17s race.

Results – Senior Women: 16-Jo Gascoigne-Owens, 28.49, (F); 28-Ella Brown, 29.21, (F); 47-Claire Sapwell, 29.31, (S); 58-Lesley Miller, 29.31, (S); 185-Ruth Doctor, 31.41, (S); 194-Diana Weightman, 31.59, (M); 312-Sheona Duffy, 41.48, (S). Senior Men: 33-Graham Syers, 37.21, (S); 109-Graham Simpson, 38.37, (F); 133-Richard Agan, 38.47, (S); 235-Stuart Morris, 40.25, (S); 238-Micky Aiston, 40.28, (S); 239-Graham Crow, 40.29, (S); 257-Adam Fletcher, 40.46, (F); 318-Mark Doctor, 42.25, (S); 319-Jim Lillico, 42.27, (S); 354-Gary Cowell, 43.45, (S); 496-Stuart Bruce, 56.14, (S).U11 Girls: 2-Lauren Brown, 6.30; 22-Millie Breese, 7.51. Girls U15s: 24-Amy Thorne, 12.30, (F); 25-Jenny Bolam, 12.51, (F).

Boys U17s: 5-Adam Shafiq, 26.09, (F).

Earlier that day, a good number of Harriers took part in various parkruns. Star performance was at Druridge Bay where Sarah Syers, making her debut at the event, was first female finisher. Sarah took time out of her London Marathon preparations to clock 21.30 over the 5k course.

Third female finisher was Jackie Prouse, Jocelyn Bolam ran a course pb, and Holly Moscrop made her Harriers debut.

For the men, Mark Cockburn made his first appearance since an injury in the autumn to finish 12th overall.

Elsewhere, Peter Grey won the male-55 category at Newcastle, while at the same event, new Harrier Dominic Harris benefited from training in Jackie and Kim’s group with a 5k pb.

Richard and Gay Eastoe won the age-60 categories at Workington, while Dave Hindmarsh finished off his festival festivities with a trot round the Cheltenham parkrun.

Results – Druridge Bay: 12-Mark Cockburn, 20.18; 18-Sarah Syers, 21.30; 23-Jackie Prouse, 21.51; 50-Kim Bronze, 25.33; 67-Mike Henry, 28.27; 76-Jocelyn Bolam, 29.40; 82-Holly Moscrop, 30.51; 85-Karl Baxter, 31.00; 106-William Fortune, 34.05. Newcastle: 31-Peter Grey, 19.22; 58-Dominic Harris, 20.57. Workington: 22-Richard Eastoe, 21.39; 43-Gay Eastoe, 24.38. Cheltenham: 61-Dave Hindmarsh, 22.18.

Finally for Saturday, across The Pond, John Ross was taking part in the Washington DC Rock and Roll Marathon. John finished the race, held for the most part in heavy rain, in 4.38.53.

On Sunday, Jo Gascoigne-Owens was racing again in the Locke Park 20-mile race at Redcar. On this multi-lap course, Jo, training for the London Marathon, was third female finisher in a splendid 2.14.43. She was 16th overall of the 117 finishers.