Report by Bill McGuirk


INCLEMENT weather failed to dampen the spirits of the competitors
who braved the North East elements for the Northern Athletics 12
and six-stage Road Relay Championships hosted by New Marske
Harriers on an out-and-back course along the sea front in Redcar.

And it was smiles all round for newly crowned champions Blackburn
Harriers and Morpeth Harriers who claimed the women’s and men’s
titles respectively. And for the Lancashire sextet especially, it was a
dream come true for all the backroom team for not only is it the club’s
first-ever victory it is the first time the blue-and-whites have made it onto
the podium!

Morpeth, meanwhile, are no strangers to claiming top spot having a
run of success from 2002-2005 then winning again in 2007 and 2011.

But back to the women’s contest, yes, they had passionate racer
Jessica Warner-Judd in the team, but as team manager Lindsey Davis
quickly pointed out after the girls received their awards: “Jess
certainly helped the cause – the international was way out quickest
over the long course – but we lined up a strong, young team around
her and while I had high hopes of a top five place I didn’t think we
would medal never mind win. It’s a great result for the club,
however, the only downside is that George (Davies) – the long-time
chairman of Blackburn – was not here to see it. This win is especially
for him I’m sure it will give him a lift for he was a bit unwell today
and couldn’t make the trip.”

Leeds City, who won in 2015, 2016 and 2018 were the early leaders
heading their rivals for the first four stages thanks to Jenny Walsh,
Rachel Friend, Alice Leake and Eleanor Curran while Blackburn were
back in sixth place at the first changeover behind City of Hull, York
Knavesmire, Vale Royal and Steel City Striders while eventual silver
medallists Salford, were in seventh spot.

On stage two Salford moved into second place behind Leeds City with
City of Hull dropping back to third ahead of Knavesmire and Rotherham,
who were ninth on the opening stage. Blackburn lost four places and were
now in 10th place nearly four minutes adrift of the leaders.

Leeds City extended their advantage further over the eventual
winners on stage three with City of Hull consolidating second place
ahead of Rotherham and Vale Royal as Salford dropped back to fifth
ahead of Holmfirth with Blackburn now in seventh place.
Eleesha Charnley, Katie Buckingham and Amynicola Davies gave
Jessica Warner-Judd the platform to attack those athletes ahead of
her and she set about her task in determined fashion and after taking
over around 4min 34secs adrift of their Yorkshire rivals she managed
to cut back the deficit to 1:43 at the penultimate changeover after
moving through into second place before passing over to Abigail

“I really enjoyed myself out there despite the strong wind on the run
back to the finish,” said Warner-Judd. “It’s lovely to be part of the
team for it’s only on rare occasions that happens. Now I can look
forward to the track season and while I don’t want to put any
pressure on myself I want to get my pbs down especially over 5k,”
added Warner-Judd.

Vale Royal were now in third spot ahead of
Salford, City of Hull and Rotherham. It didn’t take long for Stratton to
work her way into the lead and by the final changeover had given
Blackburn a cushion of over a minute before handing over to Ellen
Sagarhesketh to run the glory leg. City of Hull had moved into second
place as Leeds City slipped back to third ahead of last year’s
champions Vale Royal and Salford. Sagarhesketh kept her cool as the
weather deteriorated and, to rousing cheers with Blackburn and
Northern Athletics chairman Tony Wood among those on the
sideline, brought Blackburn home safely though the winning margin
had been cut back significantly to 15 seconds as Sinead Bent, with
the day’s quickest short-course time, brought Salford through into
silver medal position with Leeds City finishing a further eight seconds
adrift in third place. City of Hull were next home closely followed by
last year’s champions Vale Royal.


Northern under-20 cross-country champion, Matthew Ramsden
switched to the roads to give Blackburn a one-second lead over
Hallamshire on the opening stage with Rotherham in third and
eventual winners, Morpeth, in fourth just ahead of Sale with last
year’s champions, Leeds City back in 10th position.

Hallamshire moved to the head of affairs on stage two with Blackburn
slipping back to second ahead of Morpeth with Sunderland now in fourth
place thanks to the fastest overall short-stage time of the day of
14min 42secs by Joe Armstrong – Morpeth’s James Young was
second quickest. It was still a Hallamshire-Blackburn one-two a
quarter of the way into the contest with Sale now in third place
ahead of Salford, Morpeth and Leeds City.

Hallamshire still had the upper hand at the end of stage four with
Sale now second ahead of Salford, Morpeth and Leeds City.
Morpeth hit the front on leg five thanks to the second quickest long
stage of the day by Carl Avery, the 2018 NA senior cross-country champion
and this year’s silver medallist. From that point the Northumbrians were
never headed despite plenty action taking place behind them. Following
Morpeth at the fifth changeover came Sale, Hallamshire, Salford, Leeds City
and Blackburn.

Approaching the half-way point Morpeth had just
over a minute advantage over Hallamshire with Salford now in third
spot ahead of Leeds City, Sale and Blackburn. Leeds City moved into
second place on stage seven behind Morpeth thanks to Linton Taylor
whose figures of 28:28 was the quickest of the day over the long
course. Hallamshire were in third place ahead of Salford, Blackburn
and Sale. On stages eight and nine the top six placings remained the
same while on stage 10 Leeds City were still in second place as
Salford moved up into third relegating Hallamshire to fourth,
Blackburn were still in fifth place and Sale sixth.

On the penultimate stage Leeds City continued in second place
though the gap behind Morpeth had widened. Hallamshire were
back up to third, Salford fourth, followed by Blackburn and Sale. On the
run to the finish young Philip Winkler had the honour of bringing Morpeth
home to a rousing reception from his team-mates and supporters which
included former Commonwealth marathon champion Jim Alder.
Euan Brown, with the stage’s fastest time and the fourth quickest
overall, brought Salford through into second place with Leeds City
completing the podium places ahead of Salford, Blackburn and Sale
as Liverpool, Sunderland, Border and Rotherham completed the top
10 placings.

Morpeth team manager David Swinburne was naturally delighted to
see his charges come out on top after a number of lean years. “It’s
certainly a good feeling seeing the lads win for it’s been a while since
we won the Northern 12-stage. We didn’t have a weak link today,
everyone performed well on the day, I’m really proud of them all,”
said Swinburne, who has been at the helm since taking on the role in


Morpeth’s William de Vere-Owen claimed victory in the under-17
men’s contest crossing the line nine seconds ahead of Rotherham’s
Jonson Hughes. Then came a trio of de Vere-Owen’s Morpeth teammates
Liam Roche, Elliot Kelso and Ethan Phillips which gave the
Northumbrian’s an overwhelming team victory. Durham City finished
runners-up with East Hull claiming the bronze awards.

In the under-17 women’s championship it was a day to remember as
the leading individual medallists were from the North East. Victory
went to NA cross-country silver medallist Charlotte Dillon who was
having her first outing for Houghton Harriers. Silver and bronze
medals went to Elswick duo Imogen Bungay and Poppy Old and with
Isabella Russell backing up the duo in 15th place it was a comfortable
team victory for the Newcastle club as Salford finished in second

Greater Manchester cross-country champion Ewan Grime led the
field home in the under-15 boys championship, the Salford athlete
crossing the line 24 seconds clear of Keighley and Craven’s Owen
Ashdown with Jack Sanderson (Settle) a further 11 seconds adrift in
third place. Grime led Salford to team success ahead of Blackburn
and North Shields Poly.

It was a Salford one-two in the under-15 girls’ event with victory
going to Darcy Slattery by 29 seconds over Jasmine Wright with
Durham City’s Grace Carter completing the podium places. Salford,
with fourth-placed Sophie Nation backing up Slattery and Wright, for
a comprehensive team success as Durham City finished in second

**Northern Athletics are indebted to New Marske Harriers, and in
particular Graham Hall and his team, for hosting a widely-acclaimed
road relay championships; and a huge thank you to all the technical
officials who were at their posts for over five hours in conditions
described by many as ‘horrendous.’ Also grateful thanks to multi
Paralympian medallist Tanni Grey-Thompson for being on hand to
present the awards to the young athletes’ prize winners.

***Entries for the ERRA relays close on Friday April 7th

Full results via this LINK

Karen Harland’s event photos via this LINK

Pictures of winning relay teams and fastest leg runners from Eileen Ingham.

Further pictures including the winners crossing the line thanks to David Hewitson.