Sunderland Harriers gunning to remain ahead of pack

Michael Edwards, who has been promoted to medium pack.
Michael Edwards, who has been promoted to medium pack.
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Sunderland Harriers are sitting on top of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League First Division going into the second fixture of the season at Aykley Heads on Saturday.

They enjoyed a runaway victory in the opening event at Tanfield in September to capture top spot.

Now they have to have another successful outing to maintain their push for glory as the season’s fixtures unfold.

Team manager Albert James is finalising his squad for the six-to-count team race in the six-mile handicap race.

At Tanfield, they provided the winner in Michael Edwards followed by Kevin Jeffress in fourth, Paul Merrison seventh, Jonny Howe 10th, Ben Craig 14th and Steve Gordon 34th.

They have all, through their performances, been promoted from the slow pack to the medium pack, apart from Jeffress, who has been moved up to the fast pack.

The medium pack gives the slow pack a two and a half minutes start, while Jeffress, with being in the fast pack, has a five minutes handicap.

Edwards is expected to be on the starting line again, but with his handicap from the medium pack, he faces a difficult task to be one of the six counters for the team.

Howe and veteran Gordon will join Edwards and again a team counting position may beyond them.

Sunderland University student Jack Ridding, over-45 veteran Michael Thompson, under-20 Jack Tallentire, making his senior debut and former Sunderland Stroller Aidan Crowe, all go from the slow pack. In the fast pack are Steve Potts, Michael Laws, Nathan Reed and Andy Powell.

The Harrier League is unique in the country with its handicap system, with all club members playing their part in helping their team with their points scoring.

The men’s and women’s competition are split into three divisions and the popularity of the league is seen by the record numbers turning out.

At Tanfield, a record 591 men finished and there was a record of 388 women finishing their race. Sunderland senior men had a record of nearly 30 runners at Tanfield and they expecting a similar number to be at Aykley Heads.

Sunderland Strollers are lying eighth in the second division and Houghton Harriers are sixth in the third division.

In the women’s competition, Sunderland Strollers are seventh in the women’s First Division and Sunderland Harriers are placed fourth in the second.

The race is the third in the Sunderland Harriers cross country Grand Prix and the leading places are: Kevin Jeffress 13pts, Paul Merrison 13, Vicki Cotton 13, Steven Graham 12, Michael Edwards 12, Ben Craig 12, Coleen Compson 12, Catherine Purdy 12, Catherine Morris 11, Susan Clughen 11 Lucie Forster 11, Steve Potts 11, Nick Kileen 11, Paul Redman 11, Peter Richardson 11, Alan McManus 11, Gary Fox 11 and Dean Phillips 11

Directions to Aykley Heads: The course is located near County Hall in Durham City. County Hall is well served by the B6532 north of the City Centre which passes the main entrance. Public transport to the site is good with bus services within walking distance.

Parking: There are over 1,200 car parking spaces on site or within five minutes walking distance.

The rest of the season’s fixtures are: Saturday, November 28 – Druridge Bay, January 9 or 10- Newcastle Town Moor, Saturday, March 5 – Alnwick, Saturday, March 19 – Wrekenton.

Morpeth Harrier Ian Hudspith broke the UK over-45 10k record of Welshman Martin Rees, which has stood for 17 years, in the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k on Sunday. He finished 15th in 30.15 to slice two seconds off the former mark.

East London runner, Brendan O’Grady, competing for Sunderland Strollers, clocked 35.15, Sunderland Harrier Michael Edwards recorded 36.34 and over-45 veteran Alan Hodgson stopped the clock on 37.22.