Sunderland Harriers improved 15 positions on last year’s result in the Senior Men’s Northern Athletics Six-Stage Road Relay Championships at Blackpool on Saturday.
But the Wearsiders were denied a place in the top 20 – as the club’s six fastest runners were not all in the A team.
To be fair to the team manager, Albert James, early-season form is difficult to judge and he also had to deal with a number of new faces who have recently joined the Harriers.
But the city club can be satisfied with the overall result in finishing 32nd and also having their B team in 68th position.
The Sunderland A team saw the royal blue vests’ fastest man, Andy Powell (20min 57sec), finish 25th on the opening leg around Stanley Park. Then came Steve McMahon 24th (21.49), Ian Dixon 31st (23.39), Michael Wilson 29th (22.23), Nathan Reed 25th (22.26) and Ben Craig 32nd (24.02).
The B team’s fastest runners were Michael Edwards (22.33), Liam Roarty (22.35) and Michael Laws (23.06).
Derby won the championship (2.01.24) from Liverpool (2.02.05). Morpeth were third (2.02.06), with 45-year-old veteran Ian Hudspith claiming the third fastest time of the day on the anchor leg (19.32).
Sunderland also had two teams in the women’s four-stage relay to create a record turnout for the club in the championship.
The A team finished a creditable 29th, with Jess Fox the fastest club runner on the first leg in 27th (19.56), Judith Thirlwell was next off and she finished 28th (21.26) followed by Emma North 30th (23.41) and Colleen Compson with 23.34 as the anchor.
The B teamwas 51st, with Vicky Haswell (23.08), Donna Corrigan (23.27), Lucie Forster (26.27) and Susan Clughen (26.59).
Birtley were the first North East team to finish in 11th, with Tracey Millmore (19.06), Amber Leigh (20.18), Philippa Chambers (20.22) and Sophie Burnett (19.27). Lincoln Wellington took the title ahead of Sale Harriers.