MORPETH Harriers defended their senior titles with an impressive display at the re-arranged North Eastern Counties Signals Road Relay Championships held at Hetton Lions Park with thanks again to hosts Houghton Harriers and especially Peter Dodsworth whose tireless work prior to and during the fixture is greatly appreciated.
SENIOR WOMEN – 4x2.4 mile
Morpeth got the day’s proceedings off to a perfect start with victory in the senior women’s four-stage contest thanks to the fastest time of the day by Catriona Macdonald, whose 12:31 was 30 seconds quicker than when she ran the opening stage for the Northumbrians in 2019.
Jarrow and Hebburn (Alexis Dodd) were in second place 28 seconds adrift at the first changeover. However, the South Tyneside outfit were in pole position after moving to the front on stage two thanks to Alex Sneddon’s 13:09 effort which turned round the deficit into over a minute advantage at the half-way point of the contest.
The lead changed once again on leg three when former Alnwick athlete Millie Breeze regained the lead for Morpeth thanks to the second fastest overall time of the day of 12:43. Going into the final stage Morpeth had a cushion of 17 seconds, which saw fit-again Rachel Falloon extend the advantage to 45 seconds at the finish. Jarrow and Hebburn were clear runners-up as Gateshead, with Beth Curran their quickest (13:38), completed the one-one-two-three.
LEADING RESULTS – Senior Women (4x2.4 mile): 1 Morpeth 52:54; 2 Jarrow and Hebburn) 53:39; 3 Gateshead 57:27; 4 Sunderland 1:00:47; 5 Gosforth 1:02:19; 6 Durham City 1:02:33. Fastest legs: 1 C Macdonald (Morpeth) 12:31s; 2 M Breeze (Morpeth) 12:43; 3 A Dodd (Jarrow and Hebburn) 12:59; 4 E Hardie (Houghton) 13:02; 5 A Sneddon (Jarrow and Hebburn) 13:09; 6 R Falloon (Morpeth) 13:09.
MASTERS’ MEN (Over-50) 4x2.4 mile
The Over-50 Masters’ contest was run in conjunction with the senior women and it was the male quartets who held the upper hand with the first three teams finishing ahead of the first senior women’s foursome.
And, once again, it was Morpeth who were celebrating after Guy Bracken – formerly of North Shields Poly – who gave his team the perfect start with the second fastest time of the day of 12:19. North Shields Poly were in second place just five seconds behind thanks to Greg Penn with Sunderland in third (Tim Field) just under a minute further adrift.
The leading positions stayed the same for the rest of the contest with Lee Bennett, not content to ease home, running the last stage for Morpeth and posting the day’s fastest time of 11:56.
Morpeth’s total time was 50:56; North Shields Poly closed in with 52:22 with Sunderland, whose Chris Auld ran a storming last leg of 12:36, finished on 52:45.
LEADING RESULTS - Masters’ Men over-50: 1 Morpeth 50:56; 2 North Shields Poly 52:22; 3 Sunderland 52:45; 4 Houghton 55:21; 5 Birtley 57:19; 6 North Shields Poly B: 57:31. Fastest legs: 1 L Bennett (Morpeth) 11:56; 2 G Bracken (Morpeth) 12:19; 3 G Penn (North Shields Poly) 12:24; 4 C Auld (Sunderland) 12:36; 5 J Baty (North Shields Poly) 13:02; 6 E Sweeney (Sunderland) 13:05.
MASTERS WOMEN 4x2.4mile
It’s a pleasure to report a victory for a club from the south of the region and it was a success for New Marske Harriers on this occasion. Birtley were ahead on the opening stage thanks to Tracy Millmore who handed over just a second in front of Crook’s Joanne Raine with Jarrow and Hebburn (Rachel Brehney) in third place with the eventual winners (Gemma Harcombe-Moore) back in fourth spot.
A sizzling 13:24 by Kay Neesam on stage two, which was the fastest of the day, saw New Marske hit the front and from then on they were never headed despite the efforts of Lorna Graham and Lisa Short on the final two stages for Birtley. Sunderland Strollers, thanks to Aly Dixon’s final stage time of 13:25, helped the Wearsiders’ receive the bronze awards and relegate South Shields into fourth place
LEADING RESULTS - Masters Women (4x2.4 mile) 1 New Marske 58:13; 2 Birtley 58:20; 3 Sunderland Strollers 59:26; 4 South Shields 59:40; 5 Crook 1:00:07; 6 North Shields Poly 1:02:33. Fastest legs: K Neesam (New Marske) 12:34s; 2 A Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) 13:35; 3 F Dembele (South Shields) 13:54; 4 N Newson (North Shields Poly) 14:04; 5 T Millmore (Birtley) 14:13; 6 J Raine (Crook) 14:14.
SENIOR MEN 6x2.4 mile
Morpeth Harriers, with a mix of experienced and younger athletes, held off a determined challenge from 2019 champions, Sunderland Harriers, to retain the impressive Signals by over two minutes.
Ever-improving Houghton athlete Luke Pickering, led the field home at the first changeover with the day’s overall fastest time of 10:39. Sunderland (Liam Taylor) were in second place six seconds behind with Matthew Briggs for the eventual winners a further 11 seconds adrift.
On stage two the title holders moved into the lead thanks to Alistair Douglas’s effort of 11:08 with Sunderland consolidating second place ahead of Tyne Bridge (Marc Fenwick) as Birtley moved into fourth thanks to the efforts of recent triple NE Counties under-17 gold medallist Chris Perkins.
Once ahead there was no stopping Morpeth with David Melling, Tom Straughan, Phil Winkler – fourth fastest overall with 10:53 - and Ross Floyd all producing their fastest stage times to come home in 1:06:18. Sunderland held on to second place despite a strong effort from Gateshead with just nine seconds separating the squads at the line after over an hour’s contest.
LEADING RESULTS - Senior Men (6x2.4 mile): 1 Morpeth 1:06.18; 2 Sunderland 1:08.43; 3 Gateshead 1:08.52; 4 Birtley 1:09.51; 5 Morpeth B 1:10.21; 6 Tyne Bridge 1:11.42. Fastest legs: L Pickering (Houghton) 10:39s; 2 L Taylor (Sunderland) 19:45; 3 C Perkins (Birtley) 10:52; 4 P Winkler (Morpeth) 10:53; 5 M Fenwick (Tyne Bridge) 10:55; 6 M Briggs (Morpeth) 10:56.
MASTERS (over-40) 6x2.4 mile
A strong Darlington sextet were in control from the gun as John Clifford gave them the lead on the first leg after posting the fastest time of the day of 11:26. Sunderland were in second place with Elswick in third position followed by Morpeth back in fourth spot. Darlington continued to dominate as they reached the half-way point with Sunderland still in second place as Morpeth, cheered on by a swift 11:42 by John Butters, moved into third place ahead of Elswick. Sunderland closed slightly on leg four, but Darlington pulled away on the final legs thanks to Wesley Tarn’s closing stage effort of 12:25.
LEADING RESULTS - Masters’ over-40 (6x2.4 mile): 1 Darlington 1:15.36; 2 Sunderland 1:16.39; 3 Morpeth 1:19.21; 4 Elswick 1:21.18; 5 Sunderland B 1:26.12; 6 North Shields Poly 1:26.48. Fastest legs: 1 J Clifford (Darlington) 11:26s; 2 J Butters (Morpeth) 11:42; 3 P Blakey (Sunderland) 11:50; 4 A Ball (Elswick) 12:04; 5 S Thurlbeck (Sunderland) 12:14; 6 C Jackson (Sunderland) 12:15.
Bill McGuirk is the North East's top athletics correspondent. NECAA Chairman and official, Bill can be found at all local athletics events supporting the sport he loves.