Six medals for the North East in Northern Cross Country Championships

Ian Dixon enjoyed an improved run for Sunderland Harriers
Ian Dixon enjoyed an improved run for Sunderland Harriers
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The North East came away with two gold medals, three silvers and a bronze in the Northern Cross Country Championships at Knowsley Safari Park on Saturday.

Well over 2,000 athletes took part in the championships where conditions changed from dry to a mud bath from overnight rain.

It was a true test of stamina and gritty determination as the runners negotiated their way round the testing course with some formidable hills to negotiate.

National senior men’s champions Morpeth Harriers missed out on the team gold by a whisker.

Sale were the ones to deny the Northumberland club their place at the top of the podium, by taking first place by just two points.

Morpeth placed Peter Newton in third, after pushing through from a cautious start to climb into the frame (41min 58sec). He was followed by Nick Swinburn in ninth (42.38) and Carl Avery 13th (42.51), but had to wait until 44th, 45th and 75th positions for their three final counters in the race won by Derby’s Ben Connor (41.13).

Durham City Harriers finished second North East team in eighth, with 2014 champion Dan Garbutt in 19th (43.37) leading them home.

The other team counters were James Askew 49th, Mathew Hornsby 58th, Dan Jenkin 61st, Robin Linten 102nd and Robert Eaton 111th

Sunderland Harriers’ hopes of a top-10 spot collapsed at the 11th hour when a number of drop-outs ruled out any expectations.

Veteran Over-40 Ian Dixon was the only Harrier that finished inside the first 100 in 89th – an improvement of 61 places on his 2016 result.

The other counters in the team, which finished in 28th position, were Jason Waite 201st, Aidan Crowe 240th, Paul Redman 396th, Michael Edwards 413th and Karl Robinson 493rd.

Morpeth Harriers’ promising junior, Scott Beattie (Under-20), came out on top with a gold medal performance, where Houghton Harrier Alex Brown ran well for 13th position.

Sunderland Harriers placed Jack Tallentire in 37th, Mark Smith 44th and Chris Bell 63rd.

Chester-le Street’s Emily Chong secured a silver medal in the Under-13 Girls’ race, while Middlesbrough Athletics Club’s Philippa Stone won a silver with second place in the Junior Women’s race (Under-20) and her club also won team gold in the Under-15 Boys’ event.

The women’s race was won by 2011 Penshaw Hill women’s race winner Claire Duck of Leeds (30.46).

Emma Holt, of Morpeth, was the first North East finisher in seventh (32.10). Durham’s international Rosie Smith, back from an Achilles’ tendon injury, was a pleasing 14th (33.00). Sunderland Harrier Vicky Younger had a good run in finishing in 79th.

Houghton Harriers’ talented Henry Johnson, after struggling with illness, was reduced to 56th position in the Under-15 Boys’ race.

Houghton finished ninth team in the Under-15 Girls race, thanls to Lydia James in a fine 23rd, Eva Hardie 43rd, Anna Pigford 78th and Lily Hardie 114th.