Morpeth Harriers’ men retain relay race title

Morpeth’s Senior Men retained their title at the Gordon Smith Relays last Wednesday after a keenly fought battle with North East rivals Sunderland and Elswick Harriers.

By Keith Hamblin
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:20 pm
Sam Hancox on the way to victory in the Gordon Smith's Relays. Picture by Stuart Whitman.
Sam Hancox on the way to victory in the Gordon Smith's Relays. Picture by Stuart Whitman.

Taking place, after a three year break, over the same two mile circuit around Cobalt Business Park, some 60 teams contested the Women’s race and 70 the Men’s in sunny and still conditions which were just about ideal for racing.

Tom Innes had the best possible start for Morpeth, getting ahead of the rest of the lead group after the first mile to open up a small gap of around five seconds and recording 9 minutes 52 seconds.

A key feature of the race is that one leg must be run by an Over 40 runner (Over 35 in the women’s race), and so John Butters went out for Morpeth on leg 2. Clocking 10:48 after a gutsy run that kept Morpeth well in contention, the lead had by now however passed to Sunderland Harriers by a margin of some ten seconds with Elswick also vying for medals.

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However, a very determined Sam Hancox soon set about reeling in the two runners ahead of him and, timing his effort to perfection, he got ahead of the lead runner from Sunderland with less than a quarter of a mile to go and was able to finish with a five second margin of victory.

His time of 9:38 was in fact the fastest of the night and shows what fine shape he is now in, with Morpeth’s cumulative time being 30:18. Sunderland in 2nd recorded 30:23 and Elswick 30:45.

Behind the A team, Morpeth’s B of Mark Snowball (10:25), Lee Bennett (11:10) and Jordan Scott (10:26) were in 10th ( 32:01) with a further C team of Graeme Cook (10:43), Jamie Johnson (12:00) and Anthony Liddle (11:09), in his first relay for the club, in 20th (33:52).

In the earlier run Women’s race, Morpeth were just run out of the medals by the narrowest of four second margins.

Cat Macdonald did, however, run the equal fastest Women’s time of the evening, coming home in 1st place on leg 1 with 11:23. Lizzie Rank, leading out the B team, also had a fine outing, coming in 3rd place with 12:21.

Veteran Shuna Rank ran a determined 4:48 on leg 2, with Rachelle Falloon on last leg now aiming to run down as many of those ahead of her as possible.

Clocking 12:10, she got very close to the final leg runner of Claremont Road Runners in 3rd place, but just ran out of road.

The team’s cumulative time of 38:21 saw them finish 4th behind Elswick Harriers (35:40) , for whom leading veteran Justina Heslop ran the same time as Cat Macdonald. They were nearly two minutes ahead of 2nd place team Tyne Bridge (37:30) with Claremont in 3rd (38:17).

Morpeth’s B of Lizzie Rank, Sue Smith (15:52) and Lindsey Quinn (13:01) placed 16th in 41:14, with a further C team of Sarah Lawson (12:43), Pam Woodcock (17:13) and Tayla Douglas (13:29) coming in 23rd (43:25) out of some 60 complete teams.

At the annual NE Counties Track and Field Championships at Middlesborough the club managed a decent return of some 16 medals, including eight golds, four silver and four bronze.