Sunderland Harriers aim to make history

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SUNDERLAND Harriers will be involved in a part of cross-country history when they compete in the Saucony National Championships at London on Saturday.

This will be the 125th time that the senior men’s National has taken place and all finishers will receive a commemorative anniversary pin badge.

It is actually 136 years since the first championships were held at Buckhurst Hill, but there were gaps when the race was not held during the two world wars. The first championships ended in disarray when the whole field went off course!

Now it is regarded as one of the greatest cross-country races in the world and a total of 8,000 entries for all the events on the programme is up on previous years.

This is the 12th time that the National has been held at Parliament Hill Fields and the senior men’s race has attracted 2,906 entries.

“It is not a record but it is a continuing upward trend. It is our best entry since 2005,’’ said Ian Byett, the English Cross-Country Association secretary.

The handful of Sunderland senior runners that are expected to make the trip to Hampstead Heath to pick up their anniversary pin after the gruelling 12k race are Fred Judson, Alan Hodgson, David Savage, Dean Phillips, Craig Isherwood and Roy Baker.

Houghton Harriers have a sole representative in Kevin Daglish.

Sunderland brothers Patrick and Jack Martin compete for a strong Stockport Harriers team that will be contesting for a team medal. Patrick is expected to improve dramatically on his previous performance at Parliament Hill when he finished 94th three years ago. Jack makes his debut in the National. The Stockport team also includes defending champion Steve Vernon.

Durham City Harriers will be led by Dan Garbutt, Michael Crawley and Dan Jenkin.

Two interesting entries are that of brothers Alastair and Jonathan Brownlee. The Bingley Harriers are both contenders for medals in the triathlon at the London Olympics.

Sunderland also have James McAnaney, Ben Craig and Joel Jones making their National debut in the under-15 boys’ race and Michael Wilson is down for the under-17s.

H The new over-50 course record set by Sunderland Harriers in the Royal Signals North East Road Relay Championships at Hetton Lyons Country Park last Saturday could last just 12 months. There are moves afoot to reduce the six-stage relay to four legs and run the event alongside the women’s relay.

With a record entry of over 110 teams and 85 teams finishing the race, the relay became congested around the changeover zone. It will be proposed that the women’s and over-50 men’s relay should be combined with an earlier start before the senior men’s and veterans over-40 relay gets under way.

Brian Rushworth was the second fastest veteran on show at Hetton, clocking 11.29 – one second slower that North Shields athlete Iain Twaddle.

The next major road relays for clubs is the Northern 12-stage event and women’s six-stage at Sefton Park, Liverpool on Saturday, March 31.

H The North Eastern Counties Indoor track and field championships will be held at Gateshead this weekend. Sunderland Harrier Hollie Lancaster, fourth in the Northern 60m, competes again over the distance in the under-15 girls’ event.

Also included are under-20s Anthony Barnes, Samantha McKenzie.

Other sprinters include veterans Amanda Edwards, Sandra Jackson, Graham Lee and Steve Scott.