Sunderland Harrier Michael Barker tipped to be king of Penshaw Hill race

Sunderland Harriers Brian Rushworth and Nathan Reed.
Sunderland Harriers Brian Rushworth and Nathan Reed.

Sunderland Harriers stage their 27th annual Penshaw Hill Race for the first time with a May date tonight.

The popular North East Vending sponsored race is normally held in early June, but a congested fixture list has forced the move to the new date.

The race attracted a record 127 runners in 2015 and race secretary John Archer would love to see this number challenged.

Sunderland Harriers have dominated the race over the years, having lost the title only five times.

Brian Rushworth is the undisputed King of Penshaw Hill, having won the race 18 times, with his last win coming in 2012.

He has only suffered two defeats, being in 2011 to Liam Taylor and in 2013 to Nathan Reed. His record of 15.04 was set in 1996.

Since Rushworth’s domination of the race, fellow Harrier Reed has took over his mantle with three victories coming in 2013 and 2015 and last year.

It looks likely that he will not be defending his title as he is suffering from an Achilles’ tendon injury.

Of the entries received so far, Michael Barker is the most likely Harrier to challenge for the title.

His most recent performances included winning the Washington Trail 10km on April 23, and eighth place (34.06) in the Sunderland 10km.

His most serious threat could come from North Shields athlete Scott Ellis, who beat Reed for the title in 2014.

He clocked 17.09 in having three Sunderland Harriers behind him, with Reed in second (17.21), Kevin Jeffress third (17.23) and Michael Barker fourth (17 .33).

The women’s race could see Morpeth Harrier Emma Holt going for her hat-trick of wins following her victories in 2015 (19.33) and 2016 (18.44).

Sunderland Harrier Alice Smith chases a place in the frame after winning her first ever prize with third place in the women’s race last year, finishing 19th overall in 19.25.

In both the men’s and women’s events there are prime prizes for the first runner to the top of the hill on the opening lap.

The most prolific Sunderland Harrier woman in the Penshaw Hill Race is Michelle Avery with five wins. Her last victory came in 2013.

The race starts at 7.15pm with the prize presentation in the Monument pub in Penshaw Village at approximately 9pm. Late entries are available.

The Harriers’ cross country Grand Prix, held over the winter months, will also have their presentation.

The winners were Ian Dixon in first with 51pts, Paul Redman second 50pts, Vicky Younger third 49pts, Karl Robinson fourth 44pts and Alice Smith fifth 41 points.

Ian Dixon made his marathon debut in the Edinburgh Marathon on Sunday and the 41-year-old finished 18th in 2hr 44min 58sec. Darren Dodd recorded 3.36.05.

Andy Powell finished fifth in the Half Marathon (72.02) and Martin Blenkinsopp recorded 40.26 for the 10km.

Duncan Mitchell clocked 3.44.49 and Catherine Purdy 3.56.13 in the Liverpool Marathon.

Houghton Harrier Alex Brown won the 5,000m C race at the British Milers’ Club Grand Prix at Sport City in Manchester, clocking a personal best of 15.00.5.

The time is a Grade 2 standard and also makes him the ninth quickest over the distance in the Under-20 category in the UK. Clubmate Lee Dover finished 17th (16.06.14).

The highlight of the meeting was achieved by Crook’s Markim Lonsdale, in his first 800m of the year, winning the race in 1.46.97 for the fastest time by an Under-20 athlete in the UK this year.

It also places him seventh on the UK all-time list behind Jarrow and Hebburn’s David Sharpe’s 1.45.64.

His only previous race this year was earlier this month when he recorded 48.77 for the 400m in the North East Championship where he finished second.