SUNDERLAND Harriers, the most dominant senior men’s club in the North East Harrier League for three decades, got off to a poor start in the opening fixture at East Cramlington on Saturday.
The Wearsiders finished seventh of the ten competing clubs, while newcomers Sunderland Strollers placed ninth in the six-mile handicap race won by Gateshead Harriers.
The city club had to rely on their over-50 veteran Paul Merrison, running from the fast pack with a five minutes start, to lead them home in seventh place.
The other five counters for the royal blue vests were George Harden 67th, Paul Redman 69th Steven Graham 75th, Noel Hitchcock 76th and Jake Archer 91st.
The Strollers were steered home by Niall McCardle in 11th and Ken Maynard 37th. Houghton Harriers finished second in division three to new club Tyne Bridge Harriers. Houghton’s top man was Thomas Grey in 51st.
The fastest runner on the course was Jarrow and Hebburn’s Graeme Taylor who finished 23rd in an actual time of 31.55.
Sunderland Strollers women finished fourth in the newly formed division one to winners Heaton Harriers. The club’s counters were Ashleigh Thorpe in tenth, Alyson West 21st and Jill Kisler 47th.
Sunderland Harriers had Alison Seadon in second and Amy Coulson fourth in the under-20 women’s race. They also placed fourth team in the under-15 girls’ through Danielle Elliott ninth, Anna Robinson 18th and Alex Pearson 19th.
The Harriers’ fared much better in the boys’ age groups, finishing teams in each of the divisions. They finished second to Gateshead in the under-17s with Patrick Crombie third, Jack Kelly 15th and Michael Hind 23rd. The under-15s were fourth through Ben Craig in eighth, James McAnaney 13th and Joel Jones 20th. Houghton finished seventh and their best run came from Liam McGrath in ninth. Kieran Watson in 11th led the under-13s to fifth place. Luke Phillips in 21st and Jack Smith 30th completed the scoring.