Sunderland Harriers’ team rebuilding plans are starting to take off, following a solid performance in the England Athletics National 12-Stage Road Relay Championship at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday.
The Wearsiders were one of five North East clubs who qualified for the event after the Northern Championship at Silksworth two weeks ago.
They were delighted to finish second club from the region in the 50-mile event, the distance being covered by completing alternate six long legs of 5.58 miles and six short legs of 3.165 miles.
Team manager Albert James said: “Our target was to finish inside the first 30 clubs and we managed that in 29th.
“It was a good all-round team performance in which we were delighted to finish second North East team.
“It was a step in the right direction and our short term aim is to reach the heights we reached during the 1980s. Then, hopefully, we can move on from there and start to challenge for honours.’’
The Harriers’ best position was seventh in 1985, followed by eighth and 10th with a team which contained a number of internationals.
On Saturday at a bitterly cold Sutton Park, Andy Powell set the ball rolling on the opening long leg, finishing 36th with the club’s fastest time (28min 25sec), then Jake Jensen completed his short leg in 17.07 to maintain that spot.
Then came Ian Dixon 40th (30.01), Ian Ritchie 41st (17.23), Nathan Reed 37th (28.29), Mark Smith 36th (17.23), Matt Devlin 35th (29.36), Mark Hood 34th (17.00), Steve McMahon 31st (29.04), Jack Tallentire 30th (17.53), Steve Rankin 29th (29.13) and Michael Edwards 29th (17.39). Their total time was 4hr 39min 13sec.
It was a pleasing run from Mark Hood, who ran the club’s fastest short leg as he continues his comeback to full fitness after injury.
Morpeth Harriers, last year’s champions, finished eighth this time in 4.22.28. They had Peter Newton (26.27) and Lewis Timmins (15.55) as their fastest long leg and short leg runners. Gateshead finished 31st (4.40.48), Tyne Bridge were 42nd (4.48.40) and Blackhill Bounders 64th (5.52.48).
Highgate (4.16.30) won the title from Aldershot (4.17.15) and Bristol were third (4.18.08).
The fastest long leg time of the day came from Dewi Griffiths (Swansea) with 25.28 , while Gateshead’s Ross Murray was joint fastest in the short leg with Matthew Jackson (Liverpool) in 15.14.