DEFENDING senior men’s champions Sunderland Harriers suffered their worst performance in the Start Fitness North East Harrier League at Newcastle’s Town Moor yesterday.
The Wearsiders, the winners of the coveted Sisterson Cup 10 times during the past 11 years, finished ninth of 10 competing clubs in the first division.
Fielding the bare bones of a team of just six runners, the city club’s disastrous massive score of 918 points put them down among the also-rans. They finished an embarrassing 22nd out of the 24 clubs competing over the three divisions.
They now drop from fourth to sixth in Division One with 17 points, behind table-toppers Heaton on eight points. The Newcastle club are followed by Wallsend (10), Morpeth (10) South Shields (11), and Gateshead (14).
With three fixtures remaining, Sunderland, one of two North East clubs who have never been outside the first division, face a mountain to climb if they are to threaten once again for the title.
The only bright spot for Sunderland was Noel Hitchcock’s debut run, which saw him finish eighth (42.34), running from the slow pack in the handicap race.
Sunderland Strollers suffered their first defeat in the Second Division, being beaten by Crook. They were led home by Tim Allsop in 33rd, Gavin Sword 41st and Michael Rennison 54th.
Houghton Harriers finished fourth in Division Three and Shaun McGarth in 109th was the clubs first counter.
The Morpeth pair of Peter Newton (36.34) and Ross Floyd (37.23) in third and fourth were the fastest on the course.
Sunderland Harrier Michelle Holt had her best league run of the season in the women’s race, finishing third from the fast pack in 10th (34.45) overall behind winner Jane Mooney (33.17) and Wallsend’s Danielle Hodgkinson in third (34.10).
Holt’s club-mate Hayley Reed was 32nd. Sunderland Strollers finished eighth team, with counters Allison Pattinson in 21st, Vicki Booth 34th and Rachael Ball 38th.
In the other events, Houghton Harrier Jonathan Dobson was eighth in the under-13s and Sunderland Harriers, headed by Kieran Watson in 16th, finished fifth team.
Houghton’s Rachel Jones was fourth under-13 girl, Lewis Thompson was 10th under-15 boy and Rebecca Maughan was second under-17.