THE weekend snow might have made for some picture-perfect pre-festive scenes, but it ensured gruelling conditions for the North-Eastern Counties Athletic Association (NECAA) Cross-Country Championships that were staged in Hardwick Park.

The event, which was hosted by Sedgefield Harriers, was the 110th edition of the championships, and attracted 1,453 senior and junior runners.

Despite some of the toughest conditions that any of the runners had faced in a race, the event achieved its highest ever number of overall finishers at 964, including a record number of 410 in the men’s senior event. 

The men’s senior race was won by Stockport Harriers’ Patrick Martin, who triumphed in a time of 40:53secs.

Morpeth Harriers’ Carl Avery was the highest-placed North-East finisher, coming home in second position some 27 seconds behind Martin.

His fellow Morpeth runner, Peter Newton, finished third, with Middlesbrough and Cleveland Harriers’ Greg Jayasuriya finishing fourth.

The senior women’s race turned into a thrilling battle between three of the North-East’s leading middle-distance and long-distance runners.

After a close battle in some desperately difficult conditions, Durham City’s Rosie Smith eventually triumphed, stopping the clock at 31:55secs.

Commonwealth and European 1,500m medallist Laura Weightman finished second, representing Morpeth Harriers, with Sunderland Strollers’ Alyson Dixon, who is hoping to compete in next year’s Olympic marathon in Rio, coming third.

Tyne Bridge Harriers’ Danielle Fegan was fourth, with another Morpeth runner, Emma Holt, completing the top five.

The Under-20 men’s race was won by Gateshead Harriers’ James Cripwell, with Sunderland Harriers’ Michael Wilson finishing second.

Philippa Stone, of Middlesbrough Harriers, won the Under-20 women’s race ahead of Birtley’s Sophie Burnett, with Gosforth Harriers’ Rhian Purves claiming the Under-15 girls crown.

The Under-15 boys race was won by Middlesbrough’s Josh Cowperthwaite, with Morpeth’s Daniel Dixon filling the runners-up spot.

Alyson Dixon paid tribute to the officials and volunteers who braved the sub-zero conditions to ensure the event could take place, saying: “Massive big thank you to all officials and volunteers at today's North Eastern Cross Country Champs.  By far the worst conditions I've ever raced in.”

Phil Houghton, chair of Sedgefield Harriers, added: “It was a momentous day in our club’s history.  Sedgefield Harriers was founded ten years ago and this was a fitting finale to our birthday celebrations.

“We can’t thank all of the volunteers enough – from the club and its friends, the NECAA and First Sedgefield Scout Group.

“We were very grateful to the NECAA for giving us the opportunity to host the championships - I think we did this great event justice.  Finally, well done to every single runner who took part in what were hugely challenging conditions.  You were all amazing.”

Sedgefield has hosted one major cross country event in the past.  In 1955, the Northern Counties Cross Country Championships were staged on Sedgefield Racecourse, and there was a thick carpet of snow on that day too.