North East Harrier League Race 1 – Tanfield

Ladies and Juniors Report

The cross-country season started early this year, with the first North East Harrier League (NEHL) fixture on Saturday at a new venue, Tanfield, in County Durham.  It was a fabulous course, with rolling gradients rather than steep hills, which snaked around farmland and through woods, and even included a water jump!  Thankfully the weather was warm, so frozen feet were not a problem.

The season started with a record turnout of almost 1500 runners from across the north east, from U11s right up to the senior races.  Tynedale started the season strongly with 44 juniors and 24 seniors competing and as a result the club achieved one of its main objectives: to turn out complete teams across every age group.

Biggest Tynedale team and the team with the best Tynedale result on the day was the U15 Girls.  In a field of 65 runners, 13 were wearing the black vest of Tynedale.  The girls finished last season 2nd overall, and made a good start to this season by finishing 2nd on the day.  Bethan Nitsch and Jasmine Couchman (both running from the slow pack) and Ellen Ricketts (fast pack) were their three counters, finishing in 15th, 16th and 18th positions respectively.  They were supported by Sarah Jackson, Freya Barr, Anya Herdman, Bella Chicken, Rhianna Nitsch, Keeley French, Poppy Goldsmith, Alice Hearn, Millie Robertson and Mhairi Shearer.

Seven runners turned out for the Tynedale U15 Boys’ team, but they have a tough battle to retain their winning position of last year as most of the boys are running from the fast pack this season, so have a time handicap to make up.  Alex Wood was first counter, finishing in 15th place, followed by Cameron Grey (29th) and Angus Thomson, who had a really strong run from the slow pack, to finish in 33rd.  They were supported by Samborne Bush, Gabriel Morley, Daniel Emerson and Paddy Lally.  The team finished the day in 7th place.

Tynedale’s U13 Girls finished 5th team, with solid runs from Olivia Milburn (7th), Lucy Thorpe (13th) and Olivia Stewart (28th, from the fast pack).  Olivia Milburn earns herself promotion to the fast pack after finishing in the top 10.  Roisin Lally and Victoria Marshall made up the team.

The U13 Boys had a small team, with all of them running from the slow pack.  Harry Coldwell was first finisher for Tynedale in 38th place, followed by Archie Marston (44th) and Tom Barrett (58th).  Hal Hodkinson was the final member of the team.

Last year, Tynedale was unable to turn out complete teams in the U17/U20 Girls and U17 Boys’ teams.  This year, things are looking more promising, with both teams finishing 3rd at Tanfield.  For the girls, Hannah Pinkney had a storming run from the fast pack to finish first counter in 11th place.  Ellie Bluck (16th) and Rosie Dawson (23rd) were the other two counters.  Their team was completed by Anna Channon and Ellie Barr.  In the U17 Boys’ race, Christopher Jackson was first Tynedale finisher and earned himself promotion to the fast pack after finishing in 9th place.  Robbie Langford (12th) and Jake Duffy (24th) were the other counters for the team, which was completed by Jaycee Shotton, who was running from the fast pack.

Finally for the juniors, the U11s were well represented by Tynedale once again in what are now very large separate fields of around 75-80 runners for boys and girls.  Wearing their Tynedale vests with pride were Hannah Skinner (25th) and Rebecca Green for the girls, and Nathaniel Henderson (15th), Harry Courtney, Blake English and Ciaran Lally for the boys.

Tynedale’s women finished last season in 7th place in Division One, so they were happy with their solid start to the season finishing at Tanfield in 5th place.  After running in the medium pack for much of the last two seasons, and not finishing in the top 10% of finishers, many of Tynedale’s women were happy to have been dropped back to the slow pack this season and be able to start the race without the 2 minute handicap.  This good fortune won’t last for Tynedale’s first 3 finishers though, as they all had excellent runs and earned promotion up to the medium pack from the next race!  In a field of almost 400 runners, 12 women raced for Tynedale.  Lucy Courtney and Charlie Pinkney fought it out in a sprint finish to cross the line in 14th and 15th places respectively.  Leanne Hayter was next to finish in 33rd place, followed by final counter Karen Robertson (who was running from the fast pack) in 54th, overtaking Kim Bluck in the final few metres.  The other members of the team were first timers Lorraine Cowley, Carol Marshall and Rachel Jones, as well as Tamsin Cass, Sonia Morley, Gillian Bell and Kim Firstbrook.

The women’s race was won by Joasia Zakrzewski of Dumfries RC (running from the slow pack, as a guest of the NEHL) in a time of 26:31.  She was followed by Rosie Smith (Durham City Harriers) who was running from the fast pack and recorded the fastest time of the day for the 4.2mile course of 25:03. Dianne Henaghan of Blackhill was third.

By Kim Bluck

Mens report

It is always an anxious wait for the men’s team captain on the opening fixture of the season.  In an individual sport where teammates often don’t see one another for months at a time, getting six runners together to form a scoring team can seem like a bit of a lottery.  With an hour to go before the men’s event, the final race of the day, there were four Tynedale gents at the tent with numbers pinned to vest. The team manager needn’t have worried as another 7 soon drifted in to the starting area, eager to get studs and spikes bedded in to the Tanfield mud.  The serious business kicked off at around 2.15 as around 500 runners stood waiting for the starter to send them off on three laps winding around the rolling gradients that make up this lovely farmland cross-country venue.  Phil Vincent was quickly prominent not far from the sharp end of the field.   Phil is on the comeback trail after a few years parental leave and shown he is right back on form.  It was also a return to the mud for Ivan Newton who has been favouring Cyclocross in recent years.

Phil showed his fitness by maintaining his position over the six challenging miles with a very handy 16th place which puts him straight into the medium pack next time.  Supervet Peter Hearn also showed his strength with a superb 81st place, closely followed by the consistent Paul Hutchinson for 104th. The fastest run was a storming 130th place from Adam Pratt starting from the Fast Pack, backing up his excellent form from the summer season.  Battle of the day was a tight sprint finish between Ian Brown and Mike Broadhurst, in 151st and 152nd place for the last two scoring places in the team. Running in the over 55 age group, Ian and Mike finished ahead of the majority of the field which just showed how well they are both running! Less than a second later and one place further back, team captain Andy Green joined in the dash for the line but was unable to better his 153rd position.

The team finished 7th overall in the first division and was well supported by Ivan Newton (180th), Pete Murphy (267th), Gary Fenwick (379th), Neil Cassidy (419th) and Paul Edwin (456th).  A special mention should go to Gary on his debut in the Harrier League.  Gary is more used to 100m and 200m on the track, so the 6 miles of mud must have seemed a very long way!

By Andy Green


Next cross-country fixture is the Sherman Cup/Davison Shield at Temple Park, South Shields on October 10th.


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