Sunderland Harrier team manager expects his A-team to finish in top 25 at North of England Senior Men’s Six-Stage Road Relay Championship

Sunderland Harrier Len Christopher finished third Over-70 in the Great North Run, with a time of 1.49.28.
Sunderland Harrier Len Christopher finished third Over-70 in the Great North Run, with a time of 1.49.28.

Sunderland Harriers are one of 10 North East clubs that travel to Manchester on Saturday for the North of England Senior Men’s Six-Stage Road Relay Championship.

The Wearsiders have two teams entered for the 6x6.5km relay at Sport City, and the other North East clubs involved are Elvet Striders, Gateshead, Tyne Bridge, Durham, Morpeth, New Marske, Birtley, Jarrow and Hebburn and North Shields.

A total of 136 teams are down to run on what is a tight course at Sport City over two laps, with the start and finish on the track.

Sunderland team manager Albert James will do well to equal last year’s performance where the team finished 15th at the same venue.

He said: “The two travelling teams are a blend of youth and experience and I expect them to run up to form.

“The A team have got to finish in the top 25 to qualify for the National final at Sutton Coldfield.

“It is something to aim for and that is the carrot for the team. I would expect them to achieve that.”

The A team will be selected from Andy Powell, Kevin Jeffress, Ian Dixon, Paul Blakey, Matty Devlin and either Mark Smith or Jack Tallantyre.

Powell is in good form after clocking a personal best (15.53) in the Sunderland Parkrun on Saturday.

Last year’s team was Andy Powell (17.53), Kevin Jeffress (17.51), Steve McMahon (17.31), John Morley (17.53), Barry Maskell (17.54) and Jack Tallentire (18.29).

Two of Sunderland Harriers oldest members, Len Christopher and Eddie Maddison, had significant performances in the Great North Run.

Christopher, aged 70, the 2002 London Marathon Over-55 champion, clocked 1.49.28 to finish third Over-70. The consistent runner was not much slower than last year (1.48.32).

Maddison, 69, maintained his ever present record in the GNR by completing his 37th in 1.55.49. He is among a dwindling group of runners that have competed in every Great North Run since the first in 1981.

He improved on last year’s time of 2.00.57, which was his slowest time ever. Maddison ran his fastest time as a 39-year-old (1.13.34). All his treasured GNR T-shirts are unused and hanging up in the wardrobe.

The Sunderland Stroller of the month is Denis Hargrave, who, at the age of 72, completed his 250th Parkrun in August, only five years after his first Parkrun.

Sprinting is not normally Sunderland Harriers fore, but there are signs that progress is being made under the coaching guidance of Andy Abbott.

For the first time, the city club had a senior men’s team competing in the Sprint Relays meeting at Monkton Stadium.

With the help of Tobi Oladipo, who trains with the club, but is a member of Scottish club Lasswade, they finished in the frame in three events.

The team of Jordan Beavers, Oladipo, Reece Carroll and Declan Murray finished second with their slick baton changing in the 4x100m (46.10), 4x400m (3.54.8) and third in the 4x200m (1.38.41).

Abbott was further impressed by the performances of the Under-17 women’s team of Lauren Stokoe, Aimee Hunter, Robyn Taylor and Paige Dembry, who finished second in the 4x100m (55.00) and second in the 4x200m (1.59.20).

The sprint group based at the Silksworth track continues to grow and it could be just a matter of time before they further enhance their progress.

On Saturday, the North East Counties and Masters Open Pentathlon takes place at Monkton.

The event also hosts the British Masters’ 10,000m championship.

The South Park 10-mile road race takes place at Darlington, and Sedgefield Harriers host their Serpentine 6.5 multi-terrain race on Sunday.

The Tynedale 10m, on September 24, hosts the North East Championships.