Dixon is Morpeth’s star man at National XC

It was a long day indeed for the handful of athletes from Morpeth Harriers who made the journey South on Saturday morning to compete in the Saucony National Cross Country Championships.

By Keith Hamblin
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 9:45 am
Joe Dixon of Morpeth Harriers battling his way through the mud on Parliament Hill in the National Cross Country Championships.
Joe Dixon of Morpeth Harriers battling his way through the mud on Parliament Hill in the National Cross Country Championships.

Held for the 17th time at Parliament Hill Fields on the Southern end of Hampstead Heath - considered by many now to be the spiritual home of the English Championships - the hugely demanding course offers spectators panoramic views of the London skyline but is also renowned as one of the toughest in the country.

With conditions exacerbated by a week of heavy rain in the south, there were a lot of on the day drop-outs during races – though thankfully none from Morpeth – with the club’s competitors to a man acknowledging a degree of difficulty that trumped anything they had encountered so far over the Winter, even despite the challenges of local races at Aykley Heads and Thornley Farm.

Mercifully the day itself was at least sunny with, as expected, big crowds of spectators, and there was one stand-out performance for the club in the Under 17s as well as a highly respectable team count from the Senior Men.

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The U/17 performance came courtesy of Joe Dixon, younger brother of Team GB triathlete Daniel, who finished in an excellent 10th place.

Clocking 22 minutes 16 seconds for the 6km course, he was just over a minute behind race winner Sam Mills of Exeter Harriers (21:14), with some 304 finishers in total.

Still at the bottom end of the age group, Dixon will have another shot at the race when it comes North in 2023.

Behind him, James Tilley had a good run to come home in 125th (25:07) with Ryan Davies three places behind in 25:09, though half-term holidays meant that, sadly, there was no fourth counter to make a team up.

Later, running on his own in the Junior Men’s 10k race, Dan Melling placed almost exactly half the way down the field, 211th in 38:50.

Largest field of the day, with just over 2000 finishers, was the Senior Men’s 12k. Demanding from the off, with a steep, uphill start, a gruelling battle at the front saw Southampton AC athlete Mahammed Mahammed eventually triumph in 40:52 with Leeds City AC’s Emile Cairess 2nd in 41:07 and Olympic triathlete Alex Yee 3rd in 42:04.

Carl Avery was Morpeth’s first counter, 44th in 44:50, and behind him Sherman Cup winner Matty Briggs, in his first ever National, 86th in 46:03, a tremendous performance that pleased watching coach Jim Alder MBE greatly.

The club’s other counters were: Finn Brodie, 103rd in 46:29; James Taylor, 157th in 47:20; Sam Hancox, 164th in 47:27 and Connor Marshall, like Briggs in his first ever National, 287th in 49:30.

The team count of 841 points placed the club in a respectable 15th position overall but first from the NE (with Sunderland Harriers 43rd and Tyne Bridge 88th,) and also four th from the North of England, with Leeds City, Sale Harriers and Hallamshire Harriers ahead.

The team competition was won by Southampton AC on 209 points, with Leeds City on 265 and Cambridge and Coleridge on 270.