Last weekend saw the end of the cross-country season for NUAXC at the final North East Harrier League fixture. 8 members traveled by train and then bus to the scenic Alnwick Castle (a.k.a. Hogwarts) in Northumberland.
Unfortunately, the sunny weather from Newcastle didn’t follow the team, and the wind, coupled with the long inclines on the course, made for a tough last race. Nevertheless, everyone was keen to put in a good performance to finish the season on a high.
The Harrier League has a handicap system where each race starts in three packs, with slow going off first, followed by medium and finally the fast pack, who have to try to chase the rest of the field down. The pack each runner starts in depends on previous performances in the league, as the top 10% of finishers in each race are promoted into the next pack.
The under 20 women were up first, which had Erin Gallagher racing a 2.5-mile loop, starting from the medium pack. She put in a great performance to cross the line in second place, earning herself a silver medal! Her time also meant she was the 6th quickest overall out of the 26 runners in the race.
Next were the senior women, for which NUAXC had three members competing (four with Amy Fuller, who was running for her home club) in 2 lap race, which was just over 4 miles long. All of Newcastle’s runners had a while to wait at the start, as Aoife Smith was in the medium pack, meaning she set off 2.5 minutes after the first pack, and Clara Pettitt, Shona Haston and Amy Fuller were in the fast pack, meaning they had another 2.5 minutes to wait on top of that. Shona crossed the line in 61st place (13th quickest) out of 440 runners, closely followed by Amy in 71st place (15th quickest). Next was Aoife in 96th place (38th quickest), and Clara in 134th place (24th quickest).
Finally, it was the senior men’s race, which was 3 laps, making it 6 miles long in total. NUAXC had two runners competing in it: Dominic Head in the first pack, and Sam Hansen starting from the medium pack. Dominic ran a strong race to finish in 28th place (77th quickest) out of well over 500 runners. Sam Hansen managed to just beat his time to finish 137th (73rd quickest).
Since it was the last race of the league, the final ‘Individual Grand Prix’ table was updated. For each race in the series, the athletes are given a score, with 1000 points going to the fastest time, 999 to the second fastest and so on, with 0 points being given if they don’t do that race. At the end of the season, the best four scores from each runner are added up, with the highest points tally winning. NUAXC ended up with four athletes who completed at least four of the races each. Shona Haston finished 7th, Amy Fuller 12th and Clara Pettitt 13th in the league overall for the senior women. For the senior men, Sam Hansen finished 51st overall in the league.
The event was a great end to the cross-country season, and the whole team put in strong performances. It was also the last away day organised by captains Aoife Smith and Sean Haycock who have done a great job at leading the team this season. Cross-country may be finished for the year, but the majority of the members will now move their focus onto either track or road racing, with the first athletics outdoor competition of the season taking place at Lancaster next weekend, followed by NUAXC’s very own Cow Bell 5k road race around the Town Moor the week after.