SUNDERLAND Harriers will open their Start Fitness North East Harrier League campaign by hosting the first fixture of the season.
The Wearsiders make an earlier than usual start by putting on the meeting at Farringdon on Saturday, October 1.
Sunderland have lost the Premier League title only three times to South Shields, Wallsend and last season to Heaton, since the league was split into divisions. The Silksworth-based Harriers and Wallsend are the only clubs to have maintained their Premier League status since its formation.
The city club has won the title a remarkable 24 times since 1980, but finished in their worst position ever last season when they took fourth spot out of the ten competing clubs.
Team manager Paul Redman, who in his first season in charge led Sunderland to victory in 2010, said: “It was a disappointing performance from us. We realistically lost the title halfway through the season when we only put out a bare bones of a team at the rearranged Elswick fixture at Newcastle’s Town Moor and finished last.
“From then on we faced a mountain to climb. We made up a lot of ground in the next two fixtures with two wins, but we were still five points off the pace going into the last race at Prudhoe.
“There was just too much to make up and we were depending on other clubs slipping up. We have now got to put this behind us and by hosting the first fixture we should be able to get off to a good start. We are eager to get our hands back on the trophy.”
Sunderland Strollers are back in the Premier League after one season in the second division. The league’s yo-yo club won four of their six matches last season, losing to Crook at the Town Moor and to Alnwick and Crook at Prudhoe.
The Farringdon fixture last season was the most popular of the six with well over 300 runners competing in the senior race and the best entry of the season in the inaugural under-11s race.
Also decided at the annual meeting at Gateshead was a change to the women’s competition. The clubs will now be split into two divisions with the first ten teams in the league last season forming the first division. The rest of the clubs will be in the second division. Sunderland Strollers will be in the first and Sunderland Harriers in the second.
The full Harrier League fixtures are: Saturday, October 1 – Sunderland Harriers (Farringdon); Saturday, November 26 – Blaydon Harriers (Shibdon Pond); Sunday, January 8 – Elswick Harriers (Town Moor); February January 11 – Saltwell Harriers (Wrekenton); March 3 – Saturday Alnwick Harriers (The Pastures); Saturday, March 24 – Tynedale Harriers (Prudhoe).
Other cross country dates: Saturday, December 10 – Blyth, North East Cross Country Championships (Cramlington); Saturday, January 28 – Northern Cross Country Championships (Pontefract or Wakefield); February 25 – National Cross Country Championships (Parliament Hill Fields, London).
H The Tynedale 10k race takes place from Ovingham tonight (7.30). There are no late entries.
The Low Fell Watergate trail race (approx 10k) is held on Sunday. The Race HQ is at the football fields, Watergate Park, Lobley Hill. Senior race 10.30am, children’s race 10am (approx 2k). T-shirt/goody bag for all finishers in senior race only.