Sunderland Harriers’ senior men won their third of four North Eastern Harrier League matches at Alnwick on Saturday, putting themselves on course for First Division glory.
They beat rivals Tyne Bridge Harriers by five points in the six-to-count team competition to head the table by three points. They now go into the final fixture, a week on Saturday, with a comfortable lead.
National cross country champions Morpeth Harriers appear to be out of the picture after finishing fifth team and are now five points behind Sunderland in third place.
The six-mile handicap race, run in the shadows of Alnwick Castle and along the banks of the River Aln, taking in farmers’ fields and woodland, was a true test for the cross country runner.
And Sunderland had the men in their ranks to deliver the result they needed to thwart the challenge of their closest rivals, Tyne Bridge and Morpeth, at the top of the league.
It proved to be a ding-dong battle with Tyne Bridge, who placed five men in the first 16 finishers, including 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th positions to head Sunderland at that point. But with Tyne Bridge’s last counter 49th compared to Sunderland’s 31st, it gave the Wearsiders a well-deserved narrow victory.
Farringdon school teacher Nathan Reed, running from the medium pack, led the city club home, charging through to third with the fourth fastest time of the day (37min 41sec). Next came two of the area’s top veterans, 50-year-old Tim Field, in a fine eighth (41.45), and 45-year-old Silksworth bricklayer Brian Bewick in a gutsy 11th (42.02).
Bewick is off to Gambia tomorrow where he will spend over two weeks as a volunteer on a building project. While there, he will be helping to organise a half-marathon and he leaves with more than 300 race numbers donated by the Harriers.
Medium pack man Ian Ritchie, making his club debut, was Sunderland’s fourth man home in 22nd (40.54), Michael Edwards scored once again for the team in 29th (41.24) and improving 18-year-old Jack Tallentire closed the scoring in 31st (41.36).
For good measure, they also placed fast pack man Steve Rankin in 34th (39.21) and Jake Archer in 35th (44.22), in a field of more than 400. Sunderland Stroller Jamie Collin was 27th (43.46).
The race winner was Saltwell Harriers’ new signing, Eritrean Abraham Tewelde, in 37.33. The fastest on the course was Jarrow and Hebburn’s Andy Burn in 10th (36.59).
Sunderland Strollers finished eighth women’s team in Division One, with Kay Snowball in 11th (33.31) their first counter. Sunderland Harriers were eighth in Division Two, with Emma North their first runner home in 37th (34.32).
Tyne Bridge Harrier Alison Dargie was the fastest runner on show in fourth (28.49).