Athletics: North East dominate in Northern Cross Country Championships, with five gold medals out of 10

Houghton Harrier Lydia James
Houghton Harrier Lydia James

The North East dominated the Northern Athletics Cross Country Championships at Harewood House, Leeds, on Saturday.

The region provided five individual winners of the 10 events on the programme.

Houghton Harrier Henry Johnson

Houghton Harrier Henry Johnson

Morpeth led the way with three winners, in Carl Avery (men’s winner), Mhairi Maclennan (women’s) and Rory Leonard (Under-17 men).

The other two victories came from Middlesbrough’s Archie Lowe (Under-15 boy) and North Shields’ Joshua Blevins (Under-13 boy).

Avery, a former fell runner, used his downhill expertise to get the better of the race leader, Lincoln’s Matt Bowser, to win the senior 12k event by four seconds in 39min 50sec, with Steve Bayton (Hallamshire) third (40.10).

Sunderland Harriers only had one runner in the first 100, in Kevin Jeffress, who had a solid run to finish 60th.

The others counters were Paul Merrison 268th, Paul Redman 286th, Steve McMahon 304th, Karl Robinson 533rd and Allan McManus 579th. The team finished 33rd.

The first Houghton Harrier home was Lee Dover in 130th.

Morpeth’s Scottish member Maclennan won the women’s 8k race (37.57) from Leigh Harrier Lauren Howarth (38.00).

Morpeth had another two athletes in the top 20, in Emma Holt (16th) and Jane Hodgson (17th), but their fourth counter was 185th to rule them out of the medals.

Sunderland Harriers’ Alice Smith ran to form to finish 65th, while Nicola Woodword was (113th), Vikki Cotton 197th and Judith Shotton 331st. The team finished 25th.

Houghton Harriers’ North East champion, Henry Johnson, was the best placed of the Wearside athletes in finishing runner-up (14.04) in the Under-15 boys’ event.

He had to give way to Middlesbrough’s Archie Lowe, third in the North East Championship, who triumphed in 13.51.

Johnson said: “My legs were heavy from the start and I never really got going until the long downhill section.

“It was a hard race and I had too much to do to close the gap’’

Not far behind him came his consistent club-mate, Will Bellamy, who finished sixth in 14.22. Houghton were 12th in the team race, with Chris Coulson 119th and Jack Seeney 175th.

Houghton came close to the medals in the Under-15 girls’ race after getting off to a dream start by placing Lydia James 13th, Amy Leonard 18th and Anna Pigford 24th. Nicole Phillips had a rare off-day to finish 133rd.

The team ended in fourth place.

Houghton’s Alex Brown, whose season has been upset by injury and illness finished 10th in the Under-20 junior men’s race.

Sunderland Harriers’ hopes of team medals in this age group never got off the ground, with Mark Smith 33rd, Joseph Pomfret 46th, Sean Mackie 57th and Jack Tallentire 65th.

In the Under-17 women’s race, Sunderland’s Sarah Knight ran well for 32nd place and Eve Quinn was 48th.

Birtley’s Chris Perkins finished third Under-15 boy.