Sunderland Harriers’ king of the Penshaw Hill race is wide open

Brian Rushworth and Nathan Reed, who is doubtful for the Penshaw Hill Race

Brian Rushworth and Nathan Reed, who is doubtful for the Penshaw Hill Race

The Sunderland Harriers’ Penshaw Hill race tonight appears to be wide open with a number of athletes capable of adding their name to the roll of honour.

With last year’s winner Nathan Reed struggling with an Achilles’ tendon injury, it is anyone’s guess who will reach the monument first after completing the challenging three mile course.

Morpeth’s 2015 winner Emma Noble is back again to defend her women’s title and is the athlete in form and favourite to win again.

This is the 26th running of the event, sponsored by North East Vending Ltd and Start Fitness, and another exciting race is in prospect.

Of the entries received so far, three athletes stand out with a chance of adding the Penshaw title to their list of this year’s honours.

They are the 2014 champion Scott Ellis of North Shields, Sunderland Harrier Steve Rankin and Houghton Harriers’ 17-year-old Alex Brown, who makes his debut.

Ellis will be bidding to improve on his ninth place finish of last year, Rankin can be a force if he can curtail his early impetuous start, while promising Alex Brown bids to make waves in the senior competition. He surprised many with fourth place in the North East track 10,000m championship.

With a prime award for the first athlete to reach the monument first on the opening lap, Rankin could find himself involved in the chase and could see himself suffer during the race from his early exertions.

But it is still possible to win the hill prime and continue to win the race. That was done many times by Sunderland Harrier Brian Rushworth when winning the race a remarkable 18 times with his last victory in 2012.

It was in 2013when Rushworth, aged 50, lost for the first time to a clubmate, finishing 14 seconds behind Nathan Reed.

In the women’s race, Noble will face Jarrow and Hebburn runner Georgia Campbell, second last year, Sunderland Harrier and five times winner Michelle Avery and her improving clubmate Alice Smith, plus 18-year-old Jess Fox.

The race starts at 7.15pm. Late entries will be taken until 7pm. Prizes will be presented in The Monument pub, Penshaw Village, at approx. 9pm.

Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon is one of four British marathon runners, selected for the Rio Olympic Games, included in the British team for the half marathon team cup at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam on 6-10 July.

Dixon and brothers Callum and Derek Hawkins, plus Tsegai Tewelde are all due to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games this summer in the marathon.

They have targeted team medals in the half marathon at the European Championships as the perfect way to prepare for Rio.

Sonia Samuels in consultation with British Athletics, has passed on selection for Amsterdam in order to focus on her preparations for the Olympics.

Women’s team: Alyson Dixon, Tina Muir, Charlotte Purdue, Gemma Steel, Susan Partridge and Lily Partridge.

“These are two very strong teams and we firmly believe both can finish on the podium in Amsterdam this July,” said Neil Black, British Athletics Performance Director.

Matt Jones, who clocked another personal best (2.26.34) in the Edinburgh Marathon on Sunday to finish sixth and first Brit, admitted that he changed his race plans just six days before the race.

The Sunderland Harrier, whose ambition is to represent Wales in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, said: “I only decided to race the full marathon on Monday, after originally intending to do the half.

“It was just five weeks after I did the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara, so it was not a bad run

“There’s still much work to be done, but it’s nice to get these moments which make it all worthwhile. I am just having the time of my life right now!

“The race went pretty much perfectly, according to plan. My aim and prediction was 2.26.30 and I was just four seconds over. I ran even splits throughout and finished strongly as usual.

“The conditions were ideal and although it’s not the fastest marathon course, I can’t complain for a second.

“To get a PB of over a minute on my run in Seville, which was super fast, is very satisfying.

“So now I have a few months of graft before Bournemouth in October where I’ll be hoping to get around in 2.24, setting myself up for a winter push for London and then Berlin 2017. I say 2.18 and the Commonwealths is still on!”

Sunderland Harrier Michael Barker has been adding a new athletics event to his portfolio and has got off to great start with two Trail race victories.

The Ashbrooke athlete won the Fulwell Quarry Trail race following his victory in last month’s Washington Trail race.

At Fulwell, he had an easy win, taking the title by over two minutes. He clocked 36.38, ahead of North Shields’ Daniel Richardson, who recorded 38.46 and Steven Dickson, of Derwentside, who finished third in 39.31.

Sunderland Harrier Darren Stoker took 10th (42.14) and Michelle Avery was first woman in 13th (42.28).