A WELL-TIMED, last-gasp dash to the finish line saw a north Northumberland runner land the title at a top athletics meet.
Whittingham youngster Phil Winkler snatched the U15 Boys’ gold medal by the narrowest of margins during the North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships (NECCCC), at East Cramlington Nature Reserve earlier this month.
And the 15-year-old’s heroics, which saw him win by just one second, also spearheaded a victory for his running club, with the Morpeth Harriers taking top spot in the team event.
It was the first time that Phil had won at the NECCCC and he beamed: “It was one of the best feelings I have had.”
A thrilling race, attracting the cream of the region’s running crop, was settled in dramatic fashion.
With 500 metres left of the 4.2k course, Jarrow and Hebburn’s Thomas Coyne made his move at the front of the leading pack and gave himself some daylight up top.
But Winkler was able to live with the pace and coming round the final bend and into the straight, he moved up onto Coyne’s shoulder.
The lads went toe-to-toe, but it was Winkler who pulled clear, taking the lead in the final 10 metres to snatch victory at the death.
That wasn’t to be Winkler’s only silverware on the day though.
The youngster, a pupil at Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School, helped inspire Morpeth Harriers to U15 Boys’ team victory.
His first-place finish, alongside fine runs from club colleagues Elliot Kelly and Ryan Green, saw Morpeth take the honours.
Winkler’s efforts on the day were testament to the commitment and dedication he has shown to his sport, including working with his coach Mike Bateman, an experienced endurance trainer.
Phil added: “I really put the effort in and trained hard. I am glad it paid off.”
His gold medal was a much-coveted addition to the silver he won at the NECCCC when he was an U13.
The win also gave him automatic qualification to represent the North East at the Inter-county National Finals in Birmingham next year.