Sunderland Harriers step it up

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SUNDERLAND Harriers will be looking to move further up the First Division table in the third Harrier League of the season at Blaydon on Saturday.

The Shibdon Pond Park fixture marks the halfway mark of the season and the Wearsiders are lying in joint fourth place.

They lifted themselves up to that spot at the last meeting at Farringdon when they finished second to league leaders Morpeth.

The Blaydon event will be the final outing for many of the athletes before the North East Cross Country Championship at Cramlington on December 10.

Sunderland’s challenge at Blaydon will again be led by Kevin Calvert who finished 21st at Farringdon and just failed to gain promotion to the fast pack by one place.

Others expected to feature include Oliver James, who missed out at Farringdon as he got the start-time wrong and arrived while the race was in progress. He is a first year junior, but is still capable of a leading position, enjoying a five-minute start running from the slow pack.

Alan Hodgson, a Sunderland parkrun regular, hopes to gain promotion to the medium pack.

The 40-year-old veteran finished inside the top 50 at Farringdon and he must finish inside the first 30 to realise his ambition. He is the current leader in the club’s grand prix and he will be out to gain extra points.

Sunderland Strollers are in a relegation fight at the bottom of the table while Houghton Harriers continue their promotion quest from the third division. Sunderland Strollers are fifth in the women’s first division.

In the younger divisions, Sunderland Harriers are lying third in the under-13s and under-15s table and are second in the under-17s. Joel Jones (under-15) and Patrick Crombie (under-17) are both lying in third place in the grand prix.

The meeting starts at 12.15pm with the under-11s race. The senior men’s race is off at 1.15pm and the women at approximately 2.30pm. There is no parking on the roads and grass verge alongside the course. There is car parking behind the youth club.

H The region is well represented in the Masters’ International Cross Country in Glasgow on Saturday. Eight athletes, including Sunderland Harrier Paul Besford, who receives his second vest, will line-up for England at Bellahouston Park.

Stewy Bell (Chester-le-Street) the Masters’ cross-country champion in 2009 will lead a trio of North East athletes in the England over-40 team.

North Shields Poly duo Iain Twaddle and Gary Moore, together with Besford, will form the backbone of the England over-40 team.

Others included in the international are Christine Lee over-70 and Alison Dargie over-35 (Elswick), Terry O’Gara over-70 (Wallsend) and Guy Bracken over-45 (North Shields).

Three other athletes are on standby in case of any drop-outs, with Blaydon’s Caroline Acaster named as one of the reserves for the over-40 event. Morpeth pair Paul Waterson and Walter Ryder, wait for an over-45 and over-70 call respectively.

H Former Sunderland Harriers’ Patrick and Jack Martin join the elite in the UKA European Cross Country Trials at Liverpool on Saturday.

 Places for Slovenia on December 11 will be decided.