Sunderland Harriers’ will be bidding to emulate their performances of last year in the North East Masters’ Cross Country Championships at Wallsend on Saturday.
Last year, the event saw record fields with the Wearsiders having their best ever turnout and being rewarded with a bagful of medals.
Kevin Jeffress goes for his hat-trick of over-35 titles when he leads his squad in defence of the team title.
The Seaham athlete beat Crook’s Carl Chapman and Matthew Hornsby (Durham) to lift the crown in 2016.
Backing Jeffress in the three-to-count team race was Ian Dixon (5th) and Paul Blakey (11th), but both these athletes are likely to be missing on Saturday.
Jeffress missed out on the Northern Championship at Knowsley on Saturday in order to save himself for this race.
A bronze medal was also won by clubmate Tim Field in the over-50 race, but the team that finished second will be missing over-55 winner Paul Merrison who is on the injured list.
Sunderland Harriers celebrated winning their first ever medals in the women’s over-35 team race, finishing second to the all powerful North Shields outfit.
They had Nicola Woodward in eighth, over-40 Colleen Compson 18th and Vicki Cotton 22nd.
They will be stronger this time with the inclusion of Vicky Younger and a much improved Compson.
Sunderland Strollers took third spot with Ashleigh Bennett in sixth, Vicki Booth 15th and Vanessa Hogan 34th. They could lift medals again with the same team.
Timetable: Race 1 (12.30) - Women and Over-65 Men -3.5k over two laps. Race 2 (1.15) - Men 35-64 - 5.25k over three laps.
The event takes place at Barking Dog Sports Ground, Kings Road North, Wallsend NE28 9JJ.
Selectors have named 128 athletes (including reserves) to represent the North East for the 10 events at the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships and World Trials at Prestwold Hall near Loughborough on Saturday March 11.
The senior men’s team goes for their seventh win in a row and a strong squad has been named to continue the sequence of victories.
Included in the team is former Sunderland Harrier Jack Martin, who has kept his allegiance to the North East despite living in Manchester. He is looking to step up to the marathon and is eyeing the Amsterdam Marathon in the autumn.
Durham City Harrier Rosie Smith has recovered from an Achilles’ tendon injury to lead the North East women’s team. Sunderland’s Sophie Burnet (Birtley) is in the Under-20 women’s team.
Houghton Harriers have five of their young athletes selected and two are named as reserves. Durham Schools champion Alex Brown is in the Under-20 Men’s team and North East Cross Country bronze medallist Henry Johnson is included in the Under-15 team.
In the girls’ teams, Houghton’s Nicole Phillips, the North East Under-13 1500m champion, is in the Under-13 team.
Lydia James, who ran well for 23rd position in the Northern Championships at Knowsley on Saturday and Anna Pigford sixth in the North East Cross Country Championships, are also selected for the Under-15 team. Eva Hardy is second reserve. Ryan Clark is an Under-20 men’s reserve.
Sunderland Harriers have only one selected in Junior Under-20, Chris Bel, while Eve Quinn is reserve for the Under-15 Girls’ team.
Jess Fox (Under-20) and Connor Prior (Under-13) would have been selected but they are unavailable for various reasons.
The senior men’s team is: Johnny Taylor, Nick Swinburn, Carl Avery (all Morpeth), Dan Garbutt (Durham), Jack Martin (Stockport), Phil Wylie (Cheltenham), Andy Burn (Jarrow and Hebburn), Calum Johnson (Gateshead) and Greg Jaysuriya (Middlesbrough).
Women’s team: Rachel Lundren, Helen Warburton (Gosforth), Emma Holt, Josie Cram (Morpeth), Rosie Smith (Durham), Mary Ferrier (Gateshead), Ashley Gibson (Tonbridge), Georgia Campbell and Gina Rutherford (Jarrow and Hebburn)
Sunderland Harrier Oliver James finished second in the invitation indoor mile (4.14.79) competing for McNeese University at Lake Charles, Louisiana in the States
Just a couple of weeks previously he clocked a personal best of 8.21.26 for 3000m.