Sunderland Harriers’ senior men’s team bid to maintain their upward trend when they compete in the Northern Cross Country Championships at Knowsley on Saturday.
They are targeting a top 10 team place after finishing 12th at Blackburn last year and 16th at Pontefract in 2015.
This time the Wearsiders have only Ian Dixon, Steve McMahon, Nathan Reed and Aidan Crowe, remaining from their scoring six of 2016.
Nathan Reed was the first Sunderland finisher at Blackburn, in 59th. Then came solid runs from Kevin Jeffress in 73rd, Steve McMahon 133rd, Ian Dixon 150th, Aidan Crowe 154th and Matt Devlin 171st.
Reed is doubtful this time as he has been struggling with an Achilles’ tendon injury, Jeffress has opted out to concentrate on the North East Masters’ Cross Country Championships the following week, while Devlin has moved to Bristol.
Kevin Calvert, Steven Duffy, Barry Maskell and Jason Waite all come into the team.
Calvert finished 78th last year and will be keen to improve on that performance.
This will be Waite’s Northern debut and Duffy’s first appearance since 2010, while Maskell, an Under-23, makes his senior debut.
Sunderland Harriers have only won the team championship once – at Thirsk in 1986. The last team medals won were bronze in 1991.
The Sunderland women’s team is Colleen Compson, Gemma Frost, Rachael Moore and Vicky Younger, but there is injury doubts over Frost.
Hylton Lane athlete Sophie Burnett and her Birtley teammate Kate Waugh go in the Under-20 Women’s race where they are medal contenders. Burnett won bronze in this age group last year while Waugh was the Under-17 gold medallist.
Houghton Harrier Alex Brown, the winner of the County Schools Cross Country title on Saturday at Barnard Castle, will be a contender for a leading place in the Under-20s Men’s race.
The Northern Championship is the final race for those athletes looking for selection for the North East teams for the Inter Counties Championships near Loughborough on March 11.
Teams from Under-13 to seniors will be selected when selectors meet on Sunday at Gateshead to finalise teams.
Sunderland Harrier Jenna Wilkinson established a Sunderland Harriers women’s club record when finishing 36th in 3hr 34min 25sec in the Dubai Marathon.
Houghton Harrier Philippa Ellis has been back in action after her winning double in the Under-15 60m hurdles and shot at the Scottish National Indoor Open at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow last week.
Ellis finished second in both the 60m (8.33) and shot (8.78) at the Gateshead College Indoor Series.
Sunderland Harriers had Declan Murray finish second in the Under-20 60m in a personal best of 7.41, and Jordan Beaver also recorded a PB in winning the Under-17 60m (7.64).
Murray also won the pole vault with 3.40m.
The Sunderland Strollers Beginners Group welcomed 100 beginners to the start of their 16 week programme.
Sessions cost £1 per week or £10 for the entire course. It operates out of their Ashbrooke headquarters on Tuesdays at 6.30pm.
The North Eastern Harrier League has asked Wearside Athletics Network to host the Herrington Country Park fixture again next year.
The Network also has an invitation to stage the North East Masters’ Cross Country Championships in 2019 or 2020 at Herrington.
H Olympic 110m hurdles silver medallist Colin Jackson has launched his second annual Sanlam ‘Go Dad Run’ 5km and 10km for men and boys.
It will take place at the Silksworth Community Pool, Tennis and Wellness Centre in Sunderland on the morning of Sunday, April 2.
Jackson will be there to set the runners off and hand out the medals and he will be joined by a number of well known sporting names including local footballing legend Kevin Ball and double world champion athlete Jamie Baulch.
Full details can be found at the website www.godadrun.co.uk
Colin created and initially funded Go Dad Run himself in 2013 as a means of getting men and boys thinking about their health after two of his uncles developed prostate cancer.
Registration is on their website at www.godadrun.co.uk/find-your-event/sunderland-2017.html