Sunderland Harriers lifted themselves from the First Division relegation mire by finishing third senior men’s team in the North East Harrier League at Thornley Hall Farm on Saturday.
The Wearsiders are now five points off a relegation spot and five points off second place in the 10-strong league, at the halfway point of the season.
With a mixture of mountainous hills, rutted frozen ground plus heavy going in places, the traditional course was not for the faint-hearted.
By packing their six counters inside the first 39 finishers they finished behind league leaders Tyne Bridge and Morpeth Harriers in the 10k handicap race.
They were led home by a resolute Jason Waite, running from the medium pack, finishing 13th in an actual time of 36min 56sec.
Then came England veteran international Kevin Jeffress, from the fast pack, in 21st (35.19).
Medium pack man Craig Harriman ran his socks off for 30th (38.12), Ian Dixon, despite a nasty bloodied tumble was 31st (35.44) from the fasts, Over-45 Jason O’Neil, returning after long-term injury finished 36th (40.55) from the slows and fast pack man Andy Powell closed the scoring with a superb sprint finish to hold onto 39th place (36.00).
Sunderland Strollers ended seventh in Division Two, with Ken Maynard, in 76th, and Chris Dwyer, in 86th, their top men.
Houghton Harriers finished third team in Division Three to keep their promotion chances on track.
They had Tom Whelan in 50th, Alan Foster 73rd and Lee Dover 77th to lead the team home.
Sunderland Harriers senior women finished second in Division Two to Gosforth.
Alice Smith produced a good run in ninth, running from the medium pack, in an actual time of 28.44. Colleen Compson had her best run yet in 23rd (mediums – 29.56), Rachael Moore was 97th (mediums - 32.26) and Vikki Cotton 128th (mediums -33.19). Gemma Frost, running as a non counter as her club transfer is not yet complete to Sunderland, finished 11th from the slow pack in 30.34.
Sunderland Strollers, who finished eighth team, had South Hylton’s Dawn Elliott in 28th.
Houghton Harriers won the Under-13 Girls team race by placing Amy Leonard in fifth, Nicole Phillips seventh and Madelaine Turner 18th.
They followed that performance with another first place in the Under-15 Girls event, having Amy Leonard in fifth, Nicole Phillips seventh and Madelaine Turner 18th.
The Under-15 Boys finished third team, with Henry Johnson in fourth, Will Bellamy 15th and Jack Seeney 20th.