An army of Alnwick Harriers battled through the mud at the fourth of the six North East Harrier League fixtures at Bedewell Park, Jarrow, on Saturday.
Possibly spurred on by the lure of Grand Prix points, there was a marked increase in the number of Seniors compared to previous races.
Top team, once again, were the Senior Women’s team who took third place of the 37 in Division Two on the day.
Meanwhile, the Senior Men improved on their poor showing so far this season by finishing fifth of the 11 in their division on the day.
Morpeth Harriers Robert Balmbra, Karl Taylor and Jordan Scott, affectionately known as Amble Army, as all three reside in the coastal town, finished within 16 seconds of each other in a rare front-running one-two-three for their club.
For Alnwick Juniors, the highlights were top-10 finishes for Lauren Brown and Lydia Smith in the Girls’ U11s race.
The Senior Women’s race clocked in at almost exactly four miles, with the first finisher being team captain Jo Gascoigne-Owens once again.
Other counters were Jo’s fellow Fast Pack runner Ella Brown, Lesley Miller and medium packer Diana Weightman.
There were also eye-catching performances by a number of the team, including Ruth Doctor and Maureen Bartrum.
In the overall standings after four events, Alnwick closed the gap on leaders Morpeth Harriers, though local team South Shields Harriers came out in force to win Division Two on the day and leapfrog Alnwick into second.
It’s very tight at the top with promotion to Division One remaining a possibility, particularly with home advantage of the next fixture at The Pastures, Alnwick, at the end of February.
First home for the Senior Men in his seasonal cross-country debut was our 2014 Athlete of the Year Phil Hemsley.
Phil finished the 5.75-mile route 18th of the 466 finishers and is now back in the medium pack for the next two races.
For much of the race, three Harriers battled it out to be next home, with Steve Patterson prevailing over fellow Medium Pack runners Graham Simpson and Ross Wilson.
It was good to see Richard Agan running well again to finish as our fifth counter, with fairly new recruit Gary Hall finishing sixth and final counter for us.
Among the others, Adam Fletcher put in a good shift from the Fast Pack to finish a few seconds behind Gary. Ian Simon had a good run back from a recent injury, Graham Crow made his Harrier League debut and Jock Bolam ran his first cross-country for many a year and loved every minute of it.
Fifth on the day gave Alnwick easily their best showing of the season and meant they moved into eighth place of the 11 teams in the division.
Again on their own turf in a few weeks’ time, hopefully they’ll banish the fear of relegation into the bottom tier of the Harrier League.
Finally for the Juniors, as well as the good performances already mentioned, the consistent Callie Henderson ran well from the Fast Pack in the Girls’ U13s to finish eighth, while Adam Shafiq was seventh from the Fast Pack in the Boys’ U17 race.
Results – Senior Women: 10-Jo Gascoigne-Owens 30.32 (F); 24-Ella Brown 31.50 (F); 64-Lesley Miller 32.41 (S); 115-Diana Weightman 33.37 (M); 149-Tracey Sample 34.35 (M); 156-Ruth Doctor 34.52 (S); 159-Maureen Bartrum 35.03 (S); 212-Rachel McCoy 36.54 (S); 215-Samantha Fender 37.06 (S); 218-Shelley Coates 37.14 (S); 260-Sue Skirrow 41.44 (S); 271-Eileen Guthrie 44.37 (S); 276-Sheona Duffy 45.40 (S).
Senior Men: 18-Phil Hemsley 39.07 (S); 51-Steve Patterson 40.36 (M); 76-Graham Simpson 41.09 (M); 86-Ross Wilson 41.29 (M); 145-Richard Agan 42.36 (S); 194-Gary Hall 43.43 (S); 198-Adam Fletcher 43.40 (F); 201-Ian Simon 43.53 (S); 223-Stuart Morris 44.32 (S); 228-Adam Spiller 44.36 (S); 231-Graham Crow 44.42 (S); 243-Terry Fountain 44.58 (S); 273-Jock Bolam 45.39 (S); 291-Andy Squires 46.09 (S); 296-Mark Doctor 46.19 (S); 343-Micky Aiston 48.22 (S); 381-Graham Skirrow 50.23 (S); 397-Dave Bartrum 51.38 (S); 442-John Ross 57.18 (S).
Boys U17s: 7-Adam Shafiq 28.38 (F). Girls U15s: 21-Jenny Bolam 17.35 (S); 38-Ciara Healy 18.59 (S); 39-Sophie Enser 19.02 (S); 41-Layla Shafiq 20.16 (S). Boys U15s: 9-Alfie Murton 14.44 (S); 15-Ben Kelly 14.55 (F). Girls U13s: 8-Callie Henderson 16.28 (F). Boys U13s: 22-Harrison Brown 15.36 (S). Girls U11s: 4-Lauren Brown 5.13; 8-Lydia Smith 5.37. Boys U11s: 21-Joseph Godden 5.27.
The next fixture is Alnwick’s very own, considered by them to be the best of the Harrier League fixtures. It’s on Saturday, February 28, more details will follow. The club needs as much help to marshal on the day as possible.
Earlier on Saturday, cold, windy conditions and lots of ice underfoot meant that times were down for some of the Harriers taking part in the Druridge Bay parkrun. Nevertheless, there were still some age category wins for Mike Telfer (male 40) and Jim Lillico (male 55), while Dave Hindmarsh notched a course pb.
The same conditions met Peter Grey at the South Shields parkrun and his time was his course slowest. However, Peter still won the male-55 category and posted the best WAVA score at the event that day.
Over at Workington Richard and Gay Eastoe both won their age 60 categories.
Results - Druridge Bay: 6-Mike Telfer 19.53; 11-Jim Lillico 21.20; 13-Dave Hindmarsh 21.25; 37-Claire Miller-Grossett 25.46; 42-Rhona Lawson 26.44; 48-Karl Baxter 27.12; 61-Finlay Telfer 30.31.
South Shields: 8-Peter Grey 20.20.
Workington: 23-Richard Eastoe 22.38; 30-Gay Eastoe 25.17.
Finally, the following day Gay and Richard Eastoe were in action once again in the Resolution 10k at Carlisle Racecourse.
The pair ran together and finished in 53.10, with Richard 191st and Gay 192nd.
Latest Grand Prix standings and details of 2015 membership subscriptions, which are now due, are to be found at www.aln wickharriers.co.uk
Druridge Bay parkrun, top five.
Male: 1-Mark Snowball, (Morpeth Harriers), 18.30; 2-Craig Batson, (Unattached), 18.57; 3-Brad Wake, (Unattached), 19.29; 4-David Hulse, (Unattached,) 19.42; 5-Mike Telfer, (Alnwick Harriers), 19.53.
Female: 1-Helen Waugh, (Unattached), 19.49; 2-Rachelle Falloon, (Blyth RC), 22.37; 3-Vivienne Heaton, (Unattached), 24.18; 4-Sarah Wilkes, (Morpeth Harriers), 25.06; 5-Sandra Watson, (Unattached), 25.10.