SUNDERLAND Harriers edged outside the relegation zone in the first division of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at Blaydon on Saturday.
In a much-improved performance, they finished fourth senior men’s team in the race that saw a record-breaking field of 460 finishers.
With five men inside the first 35 runners home, the Harriers looked to be in contention for a top three finish. But they had to wait until 87th position before they closed the scoring in the six-to-count competition.
St Aidan’s sixth former Patrick Crombie (left), at 17 one of the youngest competitors in the race, led the city club home in sixth (28.45), running from the slow pack in the handicap cross country race. The all-round sportsmen was followed by medium pack man Nathan Reed in 22nd (27.48), then came Steve Gordon 27th (30.32), Steve Graham 31st (30.39), Paul Redman 35th (30.42) and Michael Barker, running from the medium pack, in 87th (29.15).
Sunderland Strollers finished sixth team with Steve Rankin in eighth (29.06), Tim Allsop 19th (30.08), Gavin Sword 74th (31.29), Anthony Wilton 78th (31.34), Steve McMahon 145th (30.04) and Kevin Crutwell 173rd (31.01).
Durham City Harriers bounced back from finishing tenth and last in the first fixture at Cramlington to win easily at Blaydon.
They got off to a great start with five men inside the first 11. But they then suffered the team disqualification of their winner, Ben Douglas (26.52), who is not yet eligible to compete for them following his transfer from a southern club.
The fastest runner of the day was Morpeth’s Peter Newton who got through to 18th from the fast pack, clocking an actual time of 25.07. Sunderland Harrier Kevin Calvert was the sixth fastest in 94th (26.54).
League table: 1 Gateshead 5pts, 2 South Shields 6, 3 Morpeth 8, 4 Durham 11, 5 Low Fell 11, 6 Heaton 12, 7 Sunderland Harriers 13, 8 Sunderland Strollers 14, 9 North Shields 15, 10 Wallsend 15.
Sunderland Harrier Melissa Groark, who came back into the sport just months ago through Eddie Maddison’s Run England group at Silksworth, showed what is possible to newcomers by winning the bronze medal in the senior women’s race.
The 27-year-old was one of the fastest runners on the course with her time of 21.59, in another record field of 198 finishers.
Sunderland finished third team in the second division with Michelle Avery, running from the medium pack and clocking 21.26 and Helen Higgins in 98th (25.54), closing the scoring.
The Strollers had Vicki Booth in 23rd (23.35), Alyson West 49th (24.37) and Dawn Elliott 62nd (25.03) for eighth team in the first division. The winner was Birtley’s Tracy Millmore in 21.07.
Sunderland Harriers under 17 /20 team finished third in their event with Anna Robinson 15th, Alex Pearson16th and Amy Coulson 19th.
The girls’ and boys’ under-15 teams were also third in their events. Danielle Elliott in 12th, Jessica Fox 16th and Elisha Richardson 17th were the girls’ runners with Christopher Bell in fifth, Jack Smith ninth and Luke Phillips 26th for the boys.