Houghton Harriers’s dynamic duo earn selection for Inter Counties Cross Country Championships

Henry Johnson has been seleceted for the Inter Counties
Henry Johnson has been seleceted for the Inter Counties

Two Houghton Harriers have secured selection for the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships through their performances in the North East Championships at Durham last Saturday.

Alex Brown, who finished second in the Under-20 Junior Men’s race and Henry Johnson, third in the Under-15 event, have booked their place on the team bus.

By finishing in the first three they gained automatic selection for the North East team which travel to the new venue of Prestwold Hall, near Loughborough, on Saturday, March 11.

Both athletes have been selected previously for the championships and this further honour is a growing testimony to their undoubted talent as they make their way through the age groups.

Brown is the Durham Schools senior boys’ 3,000m champion and Johnson won last year’s Under-13 North East Cross Country championship at Sedgefield.

They are coached by twice Scottish Commonwealth Games marathon runner Lynn Cooper.

The North East selectors will meet to finalise their teams the day after the Northern Championships at Knowsley on Saturday, January 28. With 10 events on the programme, there are a total of 128 athletes to be selected for the age group squads.

Other Houghton Harriers who are in contention for a team place for the Inter Counties through their performances at Aykley Heads on Saturday are headed by Under-15 Girls’ Anna Pigford, who finished sixth and Eva Hardie who took eighth. Amy Leonard was sixth Under-13.

Another impressive run in the Northern Championship is what is needed now to sway selection.

Sunderland Harrier Jess Fox will not be available for selection for the Under-20 women’s team as she has secured an athletics scholarship to an American University.

She leaves next month for McNeese State University at Lake Charles, Louisiana. She will join her clubmate middle distance runner Oliver James, who has been a student there since 2013.

Fox finished fourth Under-20 in the North East Championships and would have almost certainly been selected for the Inter Counties, if she had been available.

The Bede College student’s highlight of her athletics career so far was winning the Kielder 10km last year. Her coach is Sunderland Harriers secretary Michael Hill.

Also unavailable for squad selection will be clubmate Michael Wilson, who finished 16th at Durham.

The County selectors name a 16-man squad for the senior men’s team, but there is only nine to run.

Wilson will not be contesting the final selection race in the Northern Championships as he intends to concentrate on the indoor circuit.

Connor Prior, who finished fourth in the Under-13 boys’ race, and Evie Compson, 12th in the Under-13 Girls, plus Sarah Knight, 11th Under-17, need to be competing at Knowsley to catch the Inter Counties selectors eye with a good performance.

Sunderland Harrier Steven Duffy finished third in the Ashington 5km multi terrain race on Sunday.

The first three were: 1 Kurt Herron (16.27), 2 Mark Snowball (Morpeth) 17.03, 3 Steven Duffy (Sunderland) 17.17.

The Saltwell Harriers, 10km Road Race takes place on Saturday at 11.30am.

Race starts at the south end of East Park Road. Race registration and prize presentation will be in Saltwell Park.

The Saltwell Road Race is England’s oldest road race and attracts runners of all abilities as well as some of the region’s top runners.

The race is now full and there will be no entries taken on the day. Race Registration opens at 9.30am and is located next to the lake in Saltwell Park. All runners should collect their number by 11am.

Course Records: Men – Ryan McLeod (Elswick) 30.57 (2011) . Women – Rosie Smith (Durham) 35.05 (2014).

On Sunday, the popular Loftus Poultry Run takes place. The start time is 11am.

It is a multi-terrain course of approximately eight miles, with three challenging ascents. The start/finish is at Loftus Leisure Centre.