Silver medal for Morpeth U17s at Northern XC

A well-deserved team silver for the U17 Men’s team was the highlight for Morpeth Harriers of the Northern Cross Country Championships at Pontefract on a windswept Saturday afternoon.
Silver Medallists at the Northern, with left to right Joe Dixon, Ralph Robson, James Tilley and Bertie Marr.Silver Medallists at the Northern, with left to right Joe Dixon, Ralph Robson, James Tilley and Bertie Marr.
Silver Medallists at the Northern, with left to right Joe Dixon, Ralph Robson, James Tilley and Bertie Marr.

With Storm Malik continuing to whip all day across the wide open fields of Pontefract race course, all those running had a real struggle to compete not just against some of the best runners in the North of England, but also a battle against the elements, with no real shelter anywhere on the course for either competitors or spectators.

Morpeth’s one medal of the day came courtesy of the U17 Men. Having been in fine form recently, the team were led home by Joe Dixon in 8th place, who finished in 21:27 seconds for the 6.4km course. He was followed by Bertie Marr, 24th in 22:35 and triathlete Ralph Robson, 45th in 23:05. Final counter was James Tilley, 59th in 24:04.

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Morpeth’s only other complete team on the day was the Senior Men’s squad, who also overcame the loss of several athletes who had had to withdraw to finish outside the medals but in a very respectable fifth place overall.

In only his third outing since a long spell out with injury, 2018 North of England Cross Country Champion Carl Avery led Morpeth’s team home with an excellent ninth place in 43:25 with Alex Brown again finishing like a train behind him in 10th (43:28).

Sam Hancox was delighted to make the top 30 with a 29th placing (44:55) and, in his first Northern as a Senior, Connor Marshall was 75th in 47:26. The team count was completed by Leeds University student Alex Cunningham in his first race in blue and white colours for some time (122nd in 49:30) with Mark Snowball completing the team count not far behind in 29th (49:56).

The team’s combined score was 374 for fifth place behind Sale Harriers on 281.

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First race of the day had seen a good run by triathlete Millie Breese, 10th in the Under 17 Women in 18:35 with the race won by Jess Bailey in 17:32. Like many others, Caitlin Flanagan found the going tough but still battled on to finish in 22:19 and 80th place.

Emma Tomlinson was sadly Morpeth’s only representative in the U/13 girls 3.1k race, with Covid infections having run through the rest of what would have been a competitive squad. At the bottom end of the age range and in her first Northern, she was 62nd of some 117 runners in 13:20.

Similarly, Tabitha Robson, younger sister of Ralph, was on her own in the U/15 girls 4.1 k, finishing in 60th out of 120 finishers in 17:57 and Kate Gaffing 55th and the club’s only representative in the U/20 Women’s 5.7k.

The Senior Women’s two lap 8.1k race that preceded the Men’s saw an exciting battle at the front in which race favourite and British Olympian triathlete Georgia Taylor-Brown took an early lead which she was unable to hold on to with the race finally won by Eleanor Bolton of Ribble Valley Harriers in 31:13 with Taylor-Brown having to settle for 3rd.

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NE Cross Country Champion Cat Macdonald came through for Morpeth on the second lap to finish comfortably inside the top 20 in 16th place in 34:27. Sister Lindsey Quinn also ran well to finish in 84th in 38:57.