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Saturday 2nd March 2019 will be remembered as a great day within Washington Running Club. Four and a half years after the club re-formed, its ladies team won promotion to Division Two in the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League. This is a team performancethat has only been made possible by hard work fromeverybody who has turned out and worn the team colours at one or all of the races this season, no matter where you finished.

To reflect on how we got here, consider that the new Washington first entered the Harrier League in the 2015-16 season, with the men’s team finishing sixth and the ladies twentieth. Back in that first season it was a struggle to field complete teams and the club didn’t have a tent for much of the year. 2016-17 saw progress as both teams finished tenth, and a year later the ladies were ninth and the men seventh.

Fast forward to this year and Washington hasbeen the club on the move. The first race of the 2018-19 season was at Wrekenton on a sunny but windy late September day. The repaired tent (thanks Mrs Lawson) struggled with the conditions and ended up as a roof shelter only. The windy conditions meant the side walls were acting as large sails, and the tent almost took off on more than one occasion,so the walls had to be removed! However, the running more than made up for it with the Juniors competing in numbers for the first time, with U11 and U13 boys and girls representing the club, and a huge turnout at senior level. The club fielded six ladies’ teams (our nearest rivals had three teams) and three men’s teams (matching our rivals). Wrekenton saw the debut of Julieann Castling to the club. Most new members come to a session, but Julieann decided her introduction would be at a race! She impressed, being first lady finisher for the club (74th out of 450). The ladies finished the day in 5th place, with our second team 12th (ahead of Houghton’s and Sunderland Strollers’ A teams), and our third team 16th (ahead of Aurora, Prudhoe and Newcastle Frontrunners). The men enjoyed Wrekenton too, ending the day in 9th place. Top finisher on the day was Craig Smith (117th out of 594), but there were impressive performances throughout the teams. The competitive nature of the men’s leagues shows through with both the men’s second and third teams finishing joint 18th out of 18!

The next race in the calendar was at Druridge Bay. This saw the debut of our impressive new Khyam Megatop tent, the previous blue one rendered damaged beyond repair after Wrekenton. A doddle to put up and take down, it was the envy of many other clubs who came to take a look at it. The new tent clearly had a positive effect on performances with the ladies coming home 3rd, 11th and 17th and the men 8th and 14th. Special mention must go to Julieann finishing 28th and Sarah Turnbull finishing 30th out of a field of 358, meaning both won promotion to the medium pack. This meant the club now had three ladies in the medium pack (Kathryn Common being the other one), which would make things harder going forwards. The men also had two medium pack runners at Druridge, Tim Jones and Peter Setterfield.

Late October saw a new cross-country venue at Gosforth Park and the ladies competed well coming in 4th, 14th, 17th and 20th. Jason Oshin made his debut for the men’s team andpromptly won promotion to the medium pack by finishing an impressive 36th out of 623. His debut helped the men to a 5th place finish, with three other complete WRC teams coming home in 18th.

Aykley Heads in Durham was the next race in mid-November. More mild conditions greeted the club (it’s snowed here before) and another impressive debut for the club with Helen Clark finishing in 11th place out of 416. Washington now had four ladies running out of the medium pack. Sterling performances all round saw the ladies finish Aykley Heads in 2nd, 8th, 15th, 16th and 18th places. The men came home in solid 8th, 15th and 16th places.

The regular Harrier League season then had a break in January whilst the Sherman Cup/Davison Shield were contested at Temple Park in South Shields. Without packs these were pure speed races, with the ladies’race won by elite 1500m and 5000m athlete Laura Weightman of Morpeth Harriers. Our ladies came home a fantastic 14th at senior level (Helen Clark, Radina Tahtadzhieva and Anna Race) and 10th in the veterans (Kathryn Common, Julieann Castling and Alex Charlton), both out of 50 clubs. The men finished 15th at senior level (Jason Oshin, Tim Jones and Craig Smith) and 26th in the veterans (Nick Butchart, Chris Clarke and Dan Lawson).

Normal service was then resumed at Thornley Hall Farm near Peterleein February. Traditionally the muddiest and most technical of the Harrier League season, the 2019 vintage didn’t disappoint, although there were no lost shoes or non-finishers this time round. The ladies came home 3rd, 10th and 12th, with special mentions to Katherine Conway and Becky Swindells who mixed it up near the head of the field. The men had a great turnout at Thornley Hall Farm and finished in 7th, 13th and 15th. Some of the team followed this up with a run at the Lambton No Ego Head torch event later that night, with some having even done parkrun before the cross country - a double run day is clearly not enough for some!

And so onto the season finale at Alnwick Castle, where the club’s ladies team had the opportunity to gain promotion. The club were really well represented with a record 6 ladies’ teams and 3 men’s teams- there was no bigger female presence at Alnwick than Washington! The club that Washington had to watch were Derwent Valley Running Club, who started the day in third place just 7 points behindour ladies. Kathryn Common brought the team home with a 40th place finish out of 440 runners, thereby earning promotion from the medium pack and into the fast pack – a club first! The combined might of the ladies saw Washington have teams finish in 3rd, 8th, 14th, 16th and 17th, whilst Derwent Valley’s sole team could only manage 16th - proof of the importance of having as many runners as possible and why everybody taking part in cross country has a part to play! The men also had a successful day at Alnwick with special mention to Paul Roddy who won promotion to the medium pack by finishing 34th out of 543, helping the team home to 9th, 13th and 14th on the day.

So at the end of our best ever cross country season the ladies finished Division 3 in second place with 20 points, ahead of Ponteland Runners and behind Wallsend Harriers. Washington’s men finished in 8th, just behind Derwent Valley Trail Runners. At an individual level special mentions must go to Sarah Turnbull (41st), Radina Tahtadzhieva (55th) and Kayleigh Ross (58th) for their overall finishing positions in the Senior Ladies category, and Kathryn Common (25th), Julieann Castling (49th) and Becky Swindells (88th) in the Veteran Ladies. For the men Peter Setterfield (58th), Jason Oshin (59th) and Tim Jones (63rd) were our top 3 in the Senior Men, and Nick Butchart (105th), John Dodds (106th) and Steven Idle (169th) led the way in the Veterans.

These are achievements to be proud of and as a club we thank everybody who has put on the club vest and ran at any of these events, or who has supported or helped in any way. Cross country really is a team event, and whether you’re our first finisher, our twenty first finisher, a supporter or a baker you’re part of the team and are doing a job on behalf of the club. We’re an inclusive club and cross countryembodies this perfectly, as anybody who has ran it or spectated at it will testify.

Our thanks once again - the celebratory prosecco, beer and pop were well deserved, and we hope you’re all up for it again in September when the new season starts!