Durham’s double delight

LEADING PACK: The Under-20 women at Temple Park on Saturday.
LEADING PACK: The Under-20 women at Temple Park on Saturday.
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DURHAM CITY Harriers celebrated a golden double in the windswept 108th North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships at South Shields on Saturday.

The Cathedral club stormed to success through Dan Garbutt winning the senior men’s race and Rosie Smith scooping gold in the senior women’s event.

Garbutt became the first Durham City Harrier to win the senior championship since J.W. Breed triumphed, 100 years ago.

Smith knocked up her third victory after having won in 2009 in Darlington and then in Cramlington in 2011.

The top two races of the day provided a delight for Wearside spectators. Former Sunderland runner, Jack Martin, competing for Stockport Harriers, was runner-up in the men’s race, while Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon was second in the women’s event.

In what was the best senior men’s race assembled for years, Garbutt and Martin, whose brother, Patrick, won the title in Sunderland Harriers’ colours in 2009, broke away from the pack on the second circuit of the three-lap 12.4k Temple Park course.

They headed London 5000m Olympian Nick McCormack (Morpeth) and Ethiopian Yared Hagos (Wallsend), followed by another five Morpeth Harriers in a record field approaching 400 runners.

Garbutt said: “Jack and I had a chat going into the last lap – we said we had to keep the pace going as we had got a 15-metre gap on McCormack. But he managed to haul us in before we pushed on to break away again.

“Then it was just down to the two of us and Jack was doing all the work to try and break me. I knew I just had to stay with him, as I was confident I could beat him in a sprint, if it came down to that.”

The superior leg speed of Garbutt, a 3.45 1500m runner, proved decisive, beating the dogged Martin, who finished third two years ago, by six seconds, recording 39.05.

Hagos claimed third (39.29), McCormack was fourth (39.31), and then came Morpeth’s Nick Swinburn (39.35), Peter Newton (39.36), Lewis Timmins (40.06) and eighth placed Richard Morrell (40.28).

Sunderland’s Harriers’ hopes of a team medal were dashed when an injured Mark Hood pulled out and two of the team dropped out during the race. But Kevin Calvert had a good run, moving up the field from 18th to a final 13th (41.42). Then came Nathan Reed 27th (43.37), Noel Hitchcock 54th (46.14), Paul Merrison 61st (46.45), Paul Redman 82nd (47.40) and Steven Gordon 84th (47.44), for sixth team (321pts).

Morpeth (40) won from Gateshead (167) and Durham (171). Backing Garbutt were Dan Jenkin 11th (41.19), James Askew 19th (42.39), Ben Douglas 20th (42.42), Robert Eaton 32nd (44.24) and Chris Walker 88th (47.52).

Sunderland Strollers were 11th, with Steve Rankin 36th (44.54) and Tony Allen 71st (47.12), their leading runners.

Rosie Smith, a World Championship runner, made her bid for victory going into the final lap. She stretched her lead to 11 seconds at the finish (29.09) over Dixon, who took the silver medal ahead of third-placed Danielle Hodkinson (Wallsend), who recorded 30.46. Jarrow and Hebburn (22pts), led in by Alex Snook in fifth (31.26), won the team title from Durham (37) and Wallsend (44).

Backing Smith in the Durham team were Aiveen Fox in tenth (33.04) and Emma Bain 26th (35.00).

Sunderland Strollers finished 10th, with Ashleigh Thorpe 36th (35.56) and Jenna Maynard 82nd in support of Dixon.

Houghton Harrier Jamie Reed was second in the under-13 boys’ race and his team took bronze medals with Henry Johnson 13th and Matthew Smith 36th.

Birtley’s Lydia Turner, just back from the European Cross Country Championships in Serbia, was a comfortable winner of the under-17/20 race. With Sophie Burnett third and Robyn Waugh 11th, Birtley won the team title.