Northern Cross Country Championships – 27th January 2024

by Brad Wight

The Northern Cross Country Championships were held last Saturday at Sedgefield and what a cracking event it was. The organization was excellent, the weather behaved, and we had some cracking results!

Rory Hart and Alex Merryweather were first up for Crook in the U17s race. The front runners were extremely fast, covering the 3.5 mile course in little over 18 minutes. Rory finished 20th overall in a time of 19:28 (roughly equal to a 5K time of 17:15) which is pretty impressive over an undulating course with long grass and claggy mud! Rory was 3rd place among the North East clubs so hopefully has earned a call up to the North East team for the Intercounties at Nottingham on 9th March!

Alex was last runner home but this doesn’t tell the full story. At 15, Alex was one of the youngest runners in the U17 race. His favourite athletics disciplines are field events where he excels in the throws but he still enjoys cross country running. He demonstrated extraordinary grit and determination to complete the championship distance, never entertaining the thought that he might withdraw after one lap. The round of applause he received from spectators and official was one of the biggest of the day and thoroughly deserved!

Matty Richardson ran next in the U13s race. Like Alex, Matty is at the younger end of the age bracket but still put himself in contention for a North East vest with a top ten run at the North Easterns last month. Unfortunately Matty was suffering from a cold and felt slightly under the weather on Sunday. He still ran a cracking race coming home 52nd out of 109 and putting in a good strong sprint finish. The start was a bit of a melee and it was good to see Matty getting stuck in with the elbows to make himself some space, that confidence might come in handy on the track!

Senior Ladies Race:

236 ladies started the race including some elite level internationals but it was Crook’s Amy Etherington who led them out for the first 200 metres, she was off like a rocket! Kate Storey soon settled in to a good position and was first home for us. Jo Raine had a cracking run too, Amy and Lisa followed to complete the counting team of four. Seven other Crook runners completed the race with Patricia bringing up the rear with her usual smile!

Crook finished 12th out of 26 complete A teams and were 4th North East team behind Durham, Elswick and North Shields! A very impressive result!

Senior Men’s Race:

439 runners finished the 7.5 mile long race which was won convincingly by Gateshead’s Calum Johnson. John Firby was first home for us, 10 seconds ahead of Kieron Day, with Joe Addison and Sam Etherington a couple of minutes adrift. Completing the team of six was Dean Stockdale who’s in very good form at the moment and Rob Murdoch who finally made his cross country debut after a frustrating couple of injury hit years! Debutant Alistair Hart was seventh home, looking extremely strong on the last lap after a sensibly paced start. Alistair should be a great addition to our strong V50 squad! Alex Hird has been out of action since the Great North Run, it was good to see him back racing too! Ian Thompson had a characteristic solid run followed by myself, Ben Auld and Anthony Dolan a few minutes later.

Like the ladies, our team result was excellent, especially as we are missing some of our usual counters. Crook finished 15th out of 29 complete A teams and were 7th amongst North East teams.