SUNDERLAND Harriers senior men slipped further into relegation gloom in the penultimate North Eastern Harrier League fixture at Alnwick on Saturday.
The Wearsiders are now just one point above relegation and the drop to division two, for what would be the first time in their history.
Although improving two places on their last result, eighth place was just not good enough as the two clubs who were immediately below them, South Shields and Tynedale, finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Now, only a much improved result in the final meeting at the rearranged fixture at Wrekenton on March 22, can save them.
With only two men in the first 100 in the handicap six-mile event, over the challenging course at The Pastures, you did not have to be a mathematician to work out that Sunderland were in trouble before the results were declared.
Jake Archer, running from the slow pack finished 32nd (40.56) and medium pack man Noel Hitchcock in 52nd (39.09) were the athletes that led the city club home.
But there was a yawning gap to the team’s next counter, Tom Campion in 120th, to emphasise the club’s struggle.
Sunderland Strollers, rooted to the bottom of the division, had their best result of the season to finish one place ahead of the Harriers in seventh.
They had four men in the first 100 and they were Michael Laws 20th (40.23) medium pack man Liam Taylor 27th (38.16), Adnan Khan 75th (42.05) and Stuart Percival 95th (42.39).
Durham City Harriers had Dan Jenkin in seventh (33.57) as the fastest runner on the course. Clubmate Ben Douglas was the third fastest (34.12). Durham are three points behind league leaders Morpeth in second place.
Sunderland Strollers had their worst result of the season to finish eighth in the women’s first division and slip to sixth in the league.
The club’s counters were Ashleigh Thorpe, from the medium pack, 13th (30.14), Joy Champion 66th (33.41) and Jenna Maynard 98th (34.22).
Morpeth Harrier Emma Holt got through to third running from the fast pack with the best time of the day (26.37).
Houghton Harrier Alex Brown had an outstanding run in the under-15 boys’ race to charge through the race from the fast pack and win.
He clocked the fastest overall time to beat fellow fast packer Max Pearson (Tynedale) into second place by 20 seconds.
Houghton’s Jamie Reed was second under-13 boys’ and the team finished third with Henry Johnson 23rd and Matthew Smith 29th, providing the support.
Will Bellamy was third under -11 and Anna Piggford was fifth girl.
Eva Hardie was seventh under-13 girl.
The best Sunderland Harriers performances came from Sarah Knight with ninth in the under-13 girls’ and Alex Mitchell was also ninth in the under-17 men’s race.