Only a week after taking on Edinburgh’s Braids Hill north of the border, it was a short trip south to Aykley Heads in Durham on November 23rd. The latest fixture in the Harrier League calendar after back-to-back cancellations of Druidge Bay and Lambton Estate, the North East’s local clubs re-united for a day of proper cross-country racing - heavy rain in the weeks proceeding had turned the fields into a marshland of shin-deep mud.
Granted a lie-in from the usual 9am Parkrun start, the squad convened at Newcastle Central at 10am for their short journey across the county boarder. On arrival, erecting a tent for shelter put the society’s dying Duke of Edinburgh skills to test, Toby Loveday in particular enjoying the puns that came with the activity. Nonetheless, the tent was evetually standing in the first success of the day and Captain Chris Larkin headed out to watch the early races with a keen eye.
First up from NUAXC were the Under-20 women’s team of Emily Oakshott and Meg Ellison. Staying true to her name, Oakshott shot round the 5.15km course in 25:21 to land a 4th place finish in a category of 29. Ellison wasn’t far behind, coming home in 8th with 26:36 on the clock.
Setting the standard for the Senior Women’s 6.7km course, the NUAXC team were raring to go. Erin Gallagher’s confident running saw her cross the line in 4th place with 33:06, posting the same time as Gateshead Harriers’ 3rd place athlete who just managed to pip Gallagher on the final stride. Cross-country captain Lauren Davies-Beckett came through an injury niggle to post an impressive 32:11, followed by Shona Haston, Helen Timmins and Aoife Smith.
The course now pulverised into a slip ‘N slide by the previous races, the Senior Men stepped up for their 9.8km three lap run. s Larkin continued his fine form to overcome the elements and ease into a 2nd place finish in 40:12. James Dickinson was unlucky with a fall forcing him to pull out before the finish, despite a strong start from the front of the pack. Sam Hansen and Loveday’s ongoing in-club rivalry saw Hansen claim the scrap this week in 46:25 compared to Loveday’s 47:06, Toby Bryant also coming home in the top half of the field on his return to Harrier League madness.
Next up for the squad is Leeds XC Relays on December 7th to round off a busy start to the competitive year before all eyes turn to BUCS in Edinburgh next February.