Sunderland Harriers face battle to emulate 2016 Farringdon Relays success

Sunderland Harrier Graham Lancaster tackles the Farringdon stream which could be back in use on Saturday.
Sunderland Harrier Graham Lancaster tackles the Farringdon stream which could be back in use on Saturday.

Sunderland Harriers will be bidding to match their superb result of last year in their 35th Farringdon Cross Country Relays on Saturday.

The Wearsiders won both the senior men’s and veteran men’s four-stage relays, over legs of 1.8 mile for the first time since 2009.

It was a glorious golden double for the city club who led the Over-40 veterans’ relay from the off and came from behind to clinch the senior men’s title.

Team manager Albert James and veterans’ captain Dean Phillips will be the men who will select the teams and bid to emulate their performances of 2016.

James admits it is a tall order, but he is relishing the challenge.

He said: “It will be a very competitive race with the vast majority of North East clubs involved.

“We won the senior men’s race last year by a big margin from Durham and we would love another success like that.

“But it looks likely that we will field a weaker team this time and we could be up against it.

“It could be a close race and we have to be prepared for that and ensure we get the running order right.

“I expect Morpeth, Gateshead, Tyne Bridge and Durham, all to be strong rivals.”

In contention for a place in the Harriers’ A team are: Kevin Jeffress, Steve McMahon, Andy Powell, Ian Ritchie, Mark Smith and Michael Barker.

The veterans can call upon Ian Dixon, Paul Blakey, Robert Walker, Steve Potts and Tim Field.

Last year’s winning senior team was Steve Rankin (9.14), Kevin Jeffress (9.21), Michael Barker (9.40) and Steve McMahon (9.07).

Durham’s Dan Jenkin clocked the fastest time of the day on the first leg with his sizzling 8.53.

He was one of only two men to go under the magic nine minutes – Birtley’s Adrian Bailes was the other in finishing behind Jenkin in 8.59 on leg one.

Sunderland veterans’ winning team in 2016 was Ian Dixon with the best time of the day (9.16), Steve Potts (9.55), Tim Field (10.23) and Steve Gordon (10.44).

For the first time the event hosts a women’s three stage relay replacing the scratch race, competing over the same distance of 1.8 miles for each leg.

The relays will act as a trial for the Northern Athletics Six-Stage Road Relay championship at Manchester’s Sport City on Saturday, September 16.

There are a total of six events catering for all age groups from Under-11s to veterans’ with over 600 athletes involved.

As well as the three relays over four legs of 3,000m, there are races over the same distance for all the other age groups. But the Under-11s compete over 1,000m and this is the first race on the programme at 11am.

The popular course has been adopted by many as their favourite and is classed as a true cross country test with its mixture of hills, woodland, flat section, twists, turns and a stream to negotiate.

The stream has always played an integral part of the proceedings and will hopefully be back in use again after a diesel spillage from Doxford Park International Business Park contaminated it.

An inspection is to be made this week by the utility company to see if it is safe to use.

Timetable: 11am: U11 Boys and Girls 1,000m, 11.15am: U13 Boys and Girls 1.8 miles, 11.30am: U15 Boys and Girls 1.8 miles, 11.45am: U17 Men and U17 Women 1.8 miles, 12noon: Senior Womens and Veterans Relay 3x1.8m, 12.45pm: Senior Mens and Veterans Relay: 4x1.8m.

This is the ideal event for club’s to prepare their athletes for the forthcoming cross country season, with the first Harrier League race at Wrekenton on Saturday, September 30.

Late entries will be accepted on the day in the academy hall. Car parking is in the school yard.

Sunderland Harriers and Houghton Harriers enjoyed some success in the Gateshead Harriers’ Tartan Games.

Sunderland’s Alix Waites won the senior women’s 400m (61.09), Vicky Haswell was first in the women’s 800m (2.37.83), Mark Smith was second in the senior men’s 800m (1.58.60) and Sean Mackie filled the same position in the junior men’s 800m with a personal best of 2.03.68.

Houghton saw Philippa Ellis win the Under-15 75m hurdles (11.68) and was also third in the 100m (13.04), while Thomas Bowdon won the Under-17 triple jump (12.40).