THE Start Fitness North East Harrier League returns on Saturday after a mid-winter break with the fourth fixture of six promoted by Saltwell Harriers at Wrekenton.
The three local clubs, Sunderland Harriers, Sunderland Strollers and Houghton Harriers have all got plenty to go for in the run-in to the finish at Prudhoe on Saturday, March 24.
The Harriers are lying fourth in the first division, while the Strollers are in a relegation fight. Houghton Harriers are in the frame for promotion from the third division.
Sunderland Harriers are on 12 points, seven points behind leaders Gateshead and Morpeth and one point adrft of third club Heaton.
The Strollers are firmly rooted to the bottom of the division on 27 points, one behind Alnwick and five points away from safety.
Houghton are in second place with seven points, three behind Tyne Bridge and four ahead of Blyth and look to be heading for the second division.
Sunderland Harriers have been in this position before, when all has seemed lost, only to finish with a flourish to steal the league championship. They face a mammoth challenge, but manager Paul Redman has not given up the ghost.
“We have a remarkably record in this competition, better than any other club, so we will certainly be out there trying to claw more points back from the leaders,’’ he said.
“We have a big task, I realise that, but it is not impossible. We should have a good team out on Saturday and I expect us to move up the division.’’
The Wearsiders are expected to turn out two new men in Craig Isherwood and Michael Barker and they could lead the royal blue vests home in the six-mile handicap race, running from the slow pack.
Three-times North East Cross Country champion Mark Hood could also appear as he is deciding if he should use this race as his comeback following injury.
With the race included in the Harriers’ grand prix the competition for the leading positions could not be closer.
Only four points cover the first four with Alan Hodgson leading the way, closely followed by Fulwell bricklayer Fred Judson, 51, an ever-present in the league.
Sunderland Strollers are fifth in the first division of the women’s league, 11 points behind leaders Tynedale. Sunderland Harriers under-15 team of Danielle Elliott, Alex Pearson, Merial Smithson and Anna Robinson head their division.
Sunderland Harriers are second in the under-17s men’s league, sixth in the under-15s and fifth under-13s. Patrick Crombie heads the under-17 grand prix and Joel Jones is four points off the lead in the under-15 boys.
Race headquarters and registrations are at Cardinal Hume School on Old Durham Road, Wrekenton. There is no under-11s race. The senior men’s race starts at 1.15pm.
H Former Sunderland Harriers Patrick Martin and his brother Jack finished 21st (29.13) and 44th (30.26) respectively, competing for Stockport Harriers in the European Clubs Cross Country Champioships in Spain.
Steve Vernon was the first Stockport Harrier in 12th (29.04).
H Markim Lonsdale, a 13-year-old Gateshead Harrier and North East under-13 Cross Country champion beat a field of 206 to win the Durham parkrun on Saturday.
He clocked an outstanding 16.50 to win by four seconds and achieve an age graded performance of 86.14 per cent.
South Shields Harrier Jak Watson won the Sunderland parkrun in 17.36.
The best age graded performance was achieved by Sunderland Harrier Peter Richardson, 57, with his 20.11 for an 78.78 per cent grading.