North East Counties XC Championships 2023 Temple Park, South Shields – 9th December 2023

by Brad Wight

One of the things I’ve loved most about this club since joining three years ago is the team spirit and camaraderie at team relays and cross country meets. There’s something about bad weather that amplifies this and Saturday was no exception, we had some good individual and team results and as far as I know, everyone really enjoyed the day!

After a quick detour to South Shields parkrun, we had the tent set up in time for the first junior races. The rain was relentless but the club’s young athletes didn’t seem bothered in the slightest! Joe Hall Junior was first up in the U11 lads race, he completed the one mile course in 9:17 with a sprint finish and a smile on his face.

One of my friend’s daughters wants to run competitively but hasn’t ever been able to come along to Crook Juniors due to football and dancing clashes. With the U11s being an enter on the day open event and her football being called off due to a water-logged pitch, I asked if she wanted to race. She lined up as the only non-club runner in the field, wearing a football shirt and heavy football boots, and finished 6th, completing the one mile course in 7:54. Hopefully one day she will join the club!

Next in a Crook vest was Matty Richardson who ran a really strong U13s boys race. Matty might be young but he has a wise head on him when it comes to pacing races. Resisting the temptation to follow the early leaders, he set off steady and gradually cut his way through the pack finishing in 8th place, little more than a minute behind the run away leading trio. All top ten finishers at the NE Champs will be considered for selection for the Inter Counties teams. Fingers crossed Matty!

Due to car park congestion, Maisy Newby-Higginbottom arrived literally as her U13s race was starting, she got out the car, stripped down to her vest and leapt straight in to action… the only problem being that her race number was in the folder in the tent! Step in Colin Everson who smoothed it over with the officials and handed Maisy her number mid-race!

More number issues were avoided when Alex Merryweather asked me for some safety pins before the U17 lads race and I noticed he was pinning his Harrier League number to his vest instead of the County Champs number! Thankfully we caught this in time and Alex avoided adding his name to the illustrious list of people who’ve been disqualified for running in the wrong number!

Joining Alex in the U17s race was new member Rory Hart who recently won the NEHL meet at Aykley Heads from the slow pack. With the championships being a scratch start, all eyes were on Rory to see how he’d compete against the best lads in the region. Disaster almost struck after 50 yards when he tried to cut through a wall of runners and tripped but no harm was done and Rory settled in to a comfortable position in a pack of half a dozen runners vying for third place. The front runners gradually extended their lead but despite a fall in the mud, Rory held on for a highly commendable 5th place finish, completing the very muddy four mile course only 45 seconds behind the winner who is a sub 2 minute 800m runner. Like Matty, Rory will also be in consideration for an Inter-Counties spot!

On to the seniors…
There were a few missing due to injury or illness but nine of us lined up for the senior mens race which was three laps of the park, totalling around 7 ¼ miles. The lap is best described in three sections; a long muddy grassy section around the playing fields, a tarmac path which benefited runners in trail shoes but had verges for spikes to run on, then a ridiculous undulating section of calf deep mud and a knee deep burn you had to cross twice but was too wide to hurdle, followed by a freezing cold flooded section which shocked the feet. Lots of runners lost their shoes and socks and I saw one lad just give up and walk off the course. Safe to say it wasn’t for everyone! Thankfully all the Crook runners kept their shoes on and found their way through the clag. Apart from Ian having a minor tumble in the burn, I think everyone got round incident free! Credit to Phil Healey bringing up the rear. With it being a championship race there weren’t too many veteran entrants but Phil (as always) plugged away and got the job done!

When the results came out we were pleasantly surprised to see that we’d finished 7th overall – behind six of the usual ‘big’ clubs but ahead of several others you might have expected to be up there. Well done lads, let’s have a big push for the Northerns and get our strongest possible squad out!

Mens Results:

Mens Team Results:


Last up for the day was the Senior Ladies race, five Crook runners set off with Amy Etherington having a very strong run as our first home, finishing 32nd overall covering the 5 ¼ mile course in 40:45. Ladies Captain Lisa Donaldson was next home, easing ahead of team mate Jo Raine in the final mile. And Denyse, smiling her way round as usual, was our 4th counter. Like Phil, a special mention to Patricia who was last runner home of the day, coming in to a sunset finish and round of applause from the officials!

Most of us went home cold wet and tired but pleased with our day’s work however that wasn’t enough to satisfy everyone. Amy and Sam Etherington headed home, washed and dried their vests then toed the line at 7PM for the Greener Miles Moonrunner series at Blanchland – racing another 7 ½ miles on a hilly course in the pitch black. Sam placed 2nd overall and Amy took the first lady spot. You two are mad!

Ladies Results:

I’d also like to say thanks to our non-running supporters; Paul Smith who was there all day, Colin Everson, Colin Etherington, Simon Pickering and Milo, Danny Oakley, the Junior Parents who mucked in with setting up the tent and getting kids to the start line on time, and anyone else I’ve forgotten!