Sunderland Harriers put in a solid performance to finish 19th in the Northern Athletics 12-stage Road Relay Championship at Blackpool on Saturday.
While the Wearsiders were never going to challenge the leaders, it was a spirited run by the team which was forced to make a number of late changes to the squad.
Tony Allinson, a 43-year-old veteran, was brought into the team at the 11th hour and he was given the anchor leg for his debut appearance.
He was a bag of nerves before he set off on his 5.2k leg from the Stanley Park track, but soon settled down as he made his way through the crowds in the park on the sunny spring day.
He held onto his 16th position before losing three places in the closing stages, but he managed to keep Sheffield at bay, clocking 20min 38sec for his leg and bringing the nearly 48-mile race to an end.
Steve McMahon opened for Sunderland on the long leg of 9.4k and finished 32nd (32.22) before middle distance specialist Michael Wilson hauled back 12 places with his short leg stint of 16.36.
Ian Dixon pegged back another two spots with a 31.54 clocking on long leg three.
Kevin Jeffress put in the club’s best performance of the day by recording a splendid 16.13 to hoist the Wearsiders to their highest position of 13th on leg four, with the 19th fastest time overall. He was second fastest North East runner behind Gateshead’s Chris Parr.
Junior Jack Tallentire (33.49) then slipped back to 19th before Jake Jansen 17.14 and Steven Duffy (32.57) consolidated 16th position.
On leg eight, Jason Waite finished 17th (18.14) and next off Nathan Reed (17.54) returned to the changeover in the same position.
Leading over-55 veteran Paul Merrison was then sent on his way and he climbed into 16th (18.49) and this was maintained by 11th leg runner, 18-year-old Chris Bell (18.57), before he sent Sunderland glazier Allinson on his way.
Sale Harriers won the event from Liverpool and Salford, with the leading North East clubs being Morpeth in seventh, Gateshead 11th and Tyne Bridge 12th.
Fastest long legs: 1 Dejene Gezimu (Liverpool) 28.27, 2 Ben Connor (Derby) 28.28, 3 Lewis Moses (Gateshead) 28.54.
Fastest short legs: 1 Thomas Lancashire (Bolton) 14.49, 2 Chris Parr (Gateshead) 15.21, 3 Carl Hardman (Salford) 15.21.
The women’s relay was won by Rotherham, from Leeds and Leigh, with Jarrow and Hebburn in fourth.
The Jarrow team was Georgia Campbell (5) 35.37, Gina Rutherford (5) 19.32, Angela McGurk (5) 19.47, Alexandra Sneddon (4) 35.30, Elaine Leslie (4) 20.00, S Pattinson (4) 18:58.
In the inaugural Young Athletes 5k Championships, Chester-le-Street’s Emily Chong was second Under-15 (19.01) and Sunderland Harrier Eve Quinn was ninth Under-17 (19.52).