Tynedale Harriers hit the ground running, in more ways than one, in the first fixture of this season’s North East Harrier League, which took place on a sunny, bone-dry course at Wrekenton on Saturday. Unusually, there was not a drop of mud to be seen.
36 members of the Hexham club joined over 1500 other runners from across the North East at Wrekenton, and were rewarded for their efforts with not one, but two team firsts and two individual medals! It was a cracking start to the season for the club.
After the first fixture, Tynedale’s women are at the top of their league, after some excellent performances from their 10-strong team. Lisa Tang, running from the slow pack, was the outright winner of the women’s race, earning herself a gold medal. She recorded the 5th fastest time of the day. Rachel Vincent and Jeannie Brady, also running from the slow pack, finished in 6th and 15th places respectively. All three women will be promoted to the medium pack from now on. Kim Bluck was the final team scorer, finishing in 48th place from the slow pack, narrowly avoiding promotion by 4 places.
This year, the handicaps for the women’s race have increased substantially, making it much harder for runners from the medium and fast packs to finish high up the field. The slow pack had a head start of 2 minutes 40 seconds on the medium pack, and a massive five minutes on the fast pack. On a course of around 4 miles, this is huge!
The effects of this were immediately obvious, when some of Tynedale’s faster runners finished further down the field than perhaps they are used to. Elizabeth Earle, running from the medium pack, crossed the line in 90th, with Kirstie Anderson doing her best to make up the 5 minute handicap from the fast pack, in 115th. Steph Bingham, Charlie Pinkney (medium pack), Carol Marshall and Louise Griffin completed the winning team. This was a gutsy performance from the team, in a field of 450 runners.
After struggling to field a full team at several fixtures last season, it was a really positive start for Tynedale’s senior men, as they turned out a 12-strong team at the weekend. Steve Reynolds was first across the line for Tynedale, finishing in 87th place. Andy Green, running from the medium pack and Ben Heathcote, from the fast pack, clawed their way through the massive field of almost 600 runners, to finish in 103rd and 140th places respectively. Peter Murphy (177th), Philip Jameson (291st) and Hugh Bingham (309th) were the other counters for Tynedale, leaving the team in 6th place in Division Three after the first fixture. Pete Watson, Jaycee Shotton, Paul Edwin, Bernard Kivlehan, Chris Young and Vincent Thornley completed the enthusiastic team. Peter Graham has chosen to run in the shorter women’s race this season, which is an option for the older male runners.
For the juniors, team performance of the day must go to the U15 boys’ team, who won their league. Ralph Robson finished just outside the medals in 4th place, with Marcus Laws in 8th. Both boys will now be promoted to the fast pack. Harry Courtney was the final scorer for the team, crossing the line in 18th place. Also on the strong U15s’ team was Charlie Daley who recorded the second fastest time of the day. With a 1 minute 40 second handicap from the fast pack, he finished in 22nd place overall.
In the U13 boys’ race, Nathaniel Henderson pulled out all the stops to win a silver medal. Solomon Couchman finished only 25 seconds later, in 11th place, holding off a Morpeth athlete in a sprint for the line. Both boys will be promoted to the fast pack.
In other junior races, Jemima Hawkins made her cross-country debut in the U15 girls’ race, finishing in a very respectable 25th place. Joe Green crossed the line in 19th place in the U17 boys’ race.
Finally, in the supposedly non-competitive U11 age group, Tynedale was represented by five youngsters and competition was fierce! Jem Henderson finished well up the large boys’ field, in 7th place, with Owen Forbes only a few seconds later in 16th. Benji Southern and Morgan Vincent also put in strong runs. In the girls’ race, Olivia Courtney made the most of the dry course to finish in 63rd.
The runners hardly have time to catch their breath before the second fixture of the season at Druridge Bay on Sunday.