Sunderland Harriers determined to make impact in big Durham City Summer Cross Country Relays tonight

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Sunderland Harriers will be out to impress in Durham City Harriers’ Summer Cross Country Relays at the Racecourse in Green Lane tomorrow night.

Each team is made up of three athletes who each run two laps of a fast, largely flat, grass course of 3000m. There are races for senior men and women, veterans, mixed teams and unattached teams.

It is a big event with nearly 200 teams taking part.

Sunderland defend their veteran men’s title and captain Dean Phillips faces a difficult selection problem in selecting his best team.

Kevin Jeffress, Ian Dixon Steve McMahon, Ian Richie are all enjoying good form, while over-45 Michael Thompson also comes into the equation after impressing in recent events.

The Seaham athlete is pushing for England veteran selection for the British and Irish Masters Cross Country International at Cardiff in November. McMahon is also seeking England selection after winning the reserve race in Ireland last year, while Jeffress has won two vests and is after a third.

Last year, Dixon (9min 57sec), Jeffress (9.32) and McMahon (9.40) beat Tyne Bridge Harriers by 29 seconds to crown their second victory at Durham, after winning the club’s winter relay.

The senior men’s team, who finished fifth last year, are relying on Steve Rankin, Andy Powell and Sparrow Morley to push for a top three position.

Rankin was a member of the Sunderland team which won the Gosforth Cross Country Relay on Sunday, while Morley is the North East 1500m champion and has been impressing on the track and road throughout the summer. He has set personal bests for 1500m (3.59.82) and 3000m (8.47.32) and finished fourth in the South Shields multi-terrain 10 mile (59.01) on Sunday.

The Sunderland women’s team is hoping to be at full strength, with under-20 athlete Jess Fox, Michelle Avery and Alice Smith down to run. They should improve on their 13th position of 2014.

Smith is the most improved female athlete at the Harriers and has reduced her 10k time to 38.02.

Athletes should be aware that the event has an earlier start time of 6.30pm. Timetable: 6.30 senior men and women, 7.05 veteran men and women.

Houghton Harriers’ talented Henry Johnson, the North East under-13 cross country champion, won the bronze medal in the under-15 Northern Championship 3000m (9.39.32) at Middlesbrough.

The Sunderland Stroller of the Month award for July went to Dan Anderson after contesting the Ironman competition and then going on to complete the tough Lakeland 50-mile race. His nominees were keen to mention his never-fading enthusiasm, his help and advice offered freely.

Sunderland Stroller Mark Anderson had a good run in the Gateshead Trail 10k to finish sixth (36.24) in the event won by Tyne Bridge Harrier Kurt Heron in 33.45.

Lyne Valentine was first over-60 in 45.30 and other Strollers to make the first 200, in the race with nearly 1,000 finishers, were: 147th Luke Kennedy 45.08 and 150th Stephen Allen 45.09.

The first Sunderland Harrier to finish was Steve Rankin in 15th (38.37) and then came Darren Stoker fourth over-40 in 34th (40.21), with Graeme Weeks 91st (43.02), Anthony Erskine 144th (45.03) and Karl Wilkinson 192nd (46.07). The club’s first woman was Jenna Wilkinson in 271st (47.51).

In the South Shields multi-terrain 10m race, Sunderland Harrier Rachael Moore finished third female in 72.29 and Susan Clughen was first over-60 in 87.23.

The race winner was Durham City Harrier Mathew Hornsby (55.55), with Cheryl Parkin (Low Fell) the first woman home in 71.02.

The Billingham Marsh House Ray Harrison 10k takes place on Sunday (11am).

This is a mainly a flat 10k race consisting of a 3k loop and a 7k loop all on road, the only inclines being the two railway bridges each one being crossed twice. All finishers will receive a technical T-shirt. Further details and maps on http://www.runbillingham.co.uk