Sunderland Harriers’ double blow at North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships

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Sunderland Harriers senior men’s team suffered at the 110th North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships, where they lost out on team medals to a double blow.

The Wearsiders went into the Sedgefield race confident they could be contenders for silver or bronze team medals, with the gold out of reach, as a powerful Morpeth team were clear favourites.

But their medal bid took its first knock, when one of their expected team scorers walked off the course after the first of four laps of snow and mud.

Steve Potts looked more like an ice skater than a cross country runner when he slipped and staggered around the 3k lap.

He said disgruntly, as he walked to the club tent with his number ripped off:

“I’ve got the wrong spikes in. They are my track spikes. I can’t get any grip.”

Potts, a regular team counter over the years for the Wearsiders, had forgot to replace his tiny track spikes for the larger cross country spikes.

Now, with one of their leading athletes out of the race, club officials looked anxiously down the field to count the clubs first six runners, who would count for the overall team score. Team manager Albert James still thought the club were in the reckoning for at least bronze medals before the computer results were announced.

But further disappointment followed when Tyne Bridge Harriers were awarded third place, due to the count back rule, used when teams have tied with the same overall points score.

Then it comes down to the position of the club’s sixth and final counter. Tyne Bridge Harriers last man was 40th compared to Sunderland’s 44th.

James added: “We are disappointed, but we just have to move on and put it behind us.”

Sunderland Strollers Doorstep Marathon & Half Marathon saw around 90 runners take part.

Thanks to the support of The Marriot Hotel, along with the Moti Raj Indian Restaurant and Rebecca Hargrave, the total raised was well in excess of £2,000. The Strollers committee has agreed that £2,000 will be given to The Phoenix Unit at Sunderland Royal Hotel.

The balance will be added to whatever they raise from tomorrow night’s Turkey Run, with those monies heading to St Benedict’s Hospice at Ryhope.

The leaders in the Strollers winter handicap are: Women -1st Charlie Stephenson, 2nd Joanne Hall,

3rd Sue Cuthbertson. Men-1st David Arkley, 2nd Andrew Bell, 3rd Brian Carroll.

Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon and Leeds City athlete Carl Smith, the winner of the Sunderland 5k last July, are the leading entries in the Saltwell Harriers 10k on Saturday (11.30).

This is a three lap traffic free route finishing by the lake in Saltwell Park.

Course records are: Men – Ryan McLeod (Tipton) 30.57 (2011) : Women – Rosie Smith (Durham) 35.05 (2014)

The race is full with a field of 534 and no entries will be taken on the day.

All runners need to collect their number from race registration in Saltwell Park. No numbers will be posted.

Houghton Harriers’ promising youngster Henry Johnson added the under-13 North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championship title at Sedgefield on Saturday, to the 1500m track title he won in May.

He competed in the first race of the day at Sedgefield and so missed the change in the weather, where snow and arctic conditions tested the most hardy of athletes for the rest of the day.

Nicole Phillips was the other individual Houghton medalist, taking second place in the under-13 girls’ race.

Hylton Lane athlete Sophie Burnett claimed the silver medal in the under-20 women’s race at Sedgefield, finishing 35 seconds behind Middlesbrough’s Philippa Stone.

Burnett also led Birtley to the team title. Sunderland Harrier Jess Fox was fourth.