Sunderland Harriers’ Albert James: North Eastern Harrier League destiny is in our own hands

Paul Merrison, left, at the National Cross Country Championships at Donington, heads the Sunderland Harriers Grand Prix.
Paul Merrison, left, at the National Cross Country Championships at Donington, heads the Sunderland Harriers Grand Prix.

After a break of over three months, the North Eastern Harrier League returns to competitive action at The Pastures, Alnwick on Saturday.

Postponements and cancellations through waterlogged courses, have played havoc with the fixture list since the turn of the year.

As a result of the disorder, the fixtures have been reduced from six to five after the loss of the Town Moor event in January. The meeting at Wrekenton on Saturday, March 19, will close the season.

Sunderland Harriers senior men, who top the first division on six points, are one point ahead of Morpeth and two in front of third club Tyne Bridge Harriers.

This will be a crunch match for the Wearsiders, who face a Morpeth team that are virtually on their home course.

Sunderland team manager Albert James has been busy going through the club register to see which runners are still down for the slow pack for the six-mile handicap race.

The race is made up of three packs, slow, medium and fast, with the slow and medium getting a start on the fast pack. Promotion is gained to the faster packs through athletes performances.

James said: “With only two fixtures left, we want to make sure our season will finish with a flourish and we maintain top spot by turning out a full strength team.

“It’s six years since we last won it after dominating the event for many years. Our destiny is our own hands.

“I want the club to rise to the occasion with another good performance.’’

Sunderland’s slow pack runners, who may be available for Alnwick and count for the team in the six-to-count race are: Adam Ridley, Alan Hodgson, Alan Knebel, Brian Bewick, David Lash, Graham Lancaster, Jason O’Neil, Matt Devlin, Paul Collins and Tim Field.

Only nine athletes are left to fight it out for the top five prizes in the Harriers’ cross country Grand Prix, with Alnwick the penultimate fixture.

They are: Paul Merrison 51pts, Nicola Woodward 48, Dean Phillips 47, Emma North 47, Paul Redman 47, Gary Fox 46, Steve McMahon 46, Coleen Compson 45 and Shaun Bagley 43.

The Harrier League location is Alnwick Pastures, NE66 1YU. Directions: North on A1, take turn off to Alnwick onto A1068. At roundabout take B6341 (2nd exit) and follow signs to Alnwick Gardens.

Ample parking at Alnwick Gardens car park. A short walk to the start.

The English Schools’ AA National Cross Country Championship, being held at Wollaton Park, Nottingham, on Saturday, is the most eagerly anticipated event of the winter for young athletes.

It brings together the best athletes in each of the 45 counties in England to compete for the honour of being the best in the country.

Entry to the event is through athletes being selected to represent their county, through the county championships which are held in January and a preliminary county team is then selected before being finalised after the Inter County match, held a couple of weeks later.

Teams comprise a maximum of 12 athletes, of which only eight are allowed to compete.

Houghton Harrier Henry Johnson, the North East under-13 champion and a fine 12th in the National Cross Country Championships on Saturday, is included in the Durham Schools team for the English Schools’ Championships.

The athletes that have come through the Durham Schools selection procedure are the following and the squads selected for Nottingham are:

Junior Boys: Henry Johnson, Matthew Cleugh, Cameron Thomas, Will Bellamy, Dillon Openshaw, Izaak Taylor, Christopher Stoddart, Sam Gibson, Daniel Joyce, Harry Crawshaw, Owen Chaplin, Nathan Bland.

Intermediate Boys: Michael Wade, Jamie Reed, Max Harris, Matthew McGuire, Matthew Wakefield, Cameron Allen, Sean Mackie, Matthew Phillips, Luke Sinclair, Caleb Ellis, Luke Pickering, Jack Brown.

Senior Boys: Kieran Walker, Joe Armstrong, Mark Smith, Alexander Brown, Joseph Bradley, Jonathan Howe, Christian Brown, Christopher Bell, James Wood, Thomas Joyce, Nick McGoay, Jack Smith.

Junior Girls: India Pentland, Rebecca Wren, Megan Noble, Sophie Robson, Lydia James, Lily Hardie, Bethany Chapman, Eva Hardie, Abbie Lewis, Chloe Fairclough, Grace Mackie, Katie Wood.

Intermediate Girls: Lucy-Erin Hunter, Stella Jones, Sarah Knight, Hannah Short, Lizzie Cramb, Katie Noble, Sarah Lipscombe, Eve Quinn, Grace Curtis, Hannah Raw, Jessica Leslie, Bridget Bradshaw.

Senior Girls: Olivia Bateman, Amy Foster, Jessica Fox, Amelia Leslie, Francesca Salter, Shona Haston, Mikayla Jordens, Francesca Best, Aoife Smith, Rebecca Browne, Terri Stuart, Iona O’Shea.

Athletes have been selected for the Tyne and Wear team that will compete at the Under-11, 13 and 15 North East Regional Sports Hall Athletics Final which will take place on Saturday, March 12, at Temple Park.

The team is: Under-15: Molly Gardener (Monkwearmouth), Megan Gunning (Biddick), Luke Carrol (St Roberts), Thomas Bowden (Biddick /Houghton Harriers). Under-13: Phillipa Ellis (Houghton Harriers), Courtney Clark (Houghton Harriers), Joe Armstrong (St Roberts). Under-11: Lucy Scothern (St Michael’s), Neve Hall, (Houghton Harriers), Evie Harrison (Houghton Harriers), Caleb Dunnett (Grindon Hall), Sonny Finch (Hetton Lyons).