The start and finish area was on a large playing field but most of the action was to take place in and around the grounds of Summehill Country Park. The course was quite narroiw but it only added to the difficulty and the challenge of it all. There didn't seem to be any complaints on the day.
On a freezing cold day, credit must be given to the marshalls who done a great job out on the course and were a credit to hosts Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers as they dealt with record fields of 348 Senior men and 121 Senior Women.
In the Senior Men's Championship, talk beforehand had been of a two horse race between Morpeth's Peter Newton and New Marske's Andy Wiles with a number of others that were going to be in and around the medal places. So it was, a very positive first half mile saw Wiles take the lead with Newton in close attendance. As the runners entered the second half of the race Wiles was still at the head of affiars and starting to pull away with Newton second and seemengly starting to tire. Behind him were Leed's Carl Smith (recently profiled by North East Runner) and Morpeth's Lewis Timmins.
Into the finishing straight, Wiles sensed Smith was closing but a fall down the steep, muddy downhill section coming into the finishing straight lost him a few seconds. However, Smith was not quite close enough to take advantage and it was Wiles' victory by just 4 seconds. Smith held off Timmins by 5 seconds in one of the closet finishes to the Senior Championship in recent years. Newton, admitted later that it was a bad idea to go off with Wiles, finishing in 4th place.
Wiles stated afterwards that due to overtaking so many lapped runners he was unsure as to how big his lead was, this only added to the excitement for the spectators though! With 6 in the top 33 Morpeth won the team title from Tyne Bridge and Sunderland.
In the ladies race, in the absence of defending champion Rosie Smith who is representing Great Britain at the European Cross Country Championships in Budapest, the favourite's tag was put around the neck of last year's silvert medalist and 2010 Champion Kirsty Legg of Middlesbrough Mandale. She was to the fore early on with only British Armed Forced Champion Danielle Hodgkinson for company. Legg is based in America and had only arrived back in the country at 7pm on Friday but showed little effects as she soon stamped her authority on the race.
Going into the 2nd of 3 laps with a clear lead, she looked comfortable and relaxed. Hodgkinson was paying for her fast start and had been overtaken by Jarrow's Alex Snook and Legg's clubmates Kerry Matthew and Josie Stone. At the line a very happy and muddy Legg was a huge 80 seconds clear of Snook and Matthew and with 3 in the first 4 it was pretty obvious that Middlesbrough Mandale had the team event in the bag.
We will soon be publishing some great pictures from Sportypix so watch this space.
For full results click here.