Sunderland Harriers returned to winning ways in their own Farringdon Cross Country Senior Men’s Relay on Saturday.
The Wearsiders, who have won the event 21 times since the relay’s inception in 1983, had been denied victory since 2012.
Our efforts to get our endurance runners up to the next level is gradually coming together.
But this time they were back on the right track, improving on their third place of last year, to claim a well-earned win in the four-stage relay.
This was team manager Albert James’ first target for the forthcoming winter season and the Tunstall man was delighted with the outcome.
He said: “This was a great win in a closely fought race.
“Our efforts to get our endurance runners up to the next level is gradually coming together. We had four teams in the first 11 to finish, which is a good indication of where we are at now. I have got to be delighted with the overall progress.”
Steve Rankin opened for Sunderland and he brought the royal blue vests home in third, clocking 9min 3sec for the course of 1.8 miles. Ahead of him was Gateshead’s Dan Johnson (8.54) and Birtley’s Adrian Bailes (8.59).
Kevin Jeffress took Sunderland into the lead on the second leg just before the changeover, after his stint of 9.06. Matty Devlin (9.35), making his relay debut, paid for his super fast start by slowing and slipping to second on the penultimate leg.
Now it was left to anchorman Steve McMahon to chase Gateshead in his quest for relay glory.
He also had Tyne Bridge and Morpeth hunting him down as they fought over the medals. But it was McMahon who prevailed after his 9.09 leg brought Sunderland home in 36.53.
Tyne Bridge were second (37.10), Morpeth third (37.35) and Gateshead fourth (37.40). Ross Floyd (8.54), who brought Morpeth into third place on the last leg, was the fastest of the day. ahead of Dan Johnson.
The Sunderland B team that finished sixth was Steve Potts (9.30), Nathan Reed (9.31), Michael Edwards (9.52) and Craig Isherwood (9.33). The C team was 10th, with Michael Laws (10.10), Richard Kemp (10.12), Michael Barker (9.53) and John Morley (10.00). The D team, in 11th, was Jonathan Howe (9.40), Ben Craig (9.33), Chris Bell (10.15) and Nicolas Killeen (11.13).
The last Sunderland team to win in 2012 was Nathan Reed (9.18), Mark Hood (8.35), Damien Weston (9.37) and Craig Isherwood (9.27).
Hood, who has been suffering from a foot injury, returned on Saturday in the Albert Park parkrun in Middlesbrough, finishing second in 16.44.
Sunderland veterans (39.31) finished second to Tyne Bridge Harriers (38.36) in the over-40s men’s relay.
The Sunderland team was Tim Field (9.53), Michael Thompson (9.37), Paul Merrison (10.18) and Paul Blakey (9.43).
The B team were eight,h with Paul Redman (11.20), Jon Dobson (11.34), Steve Graham (10.36) and Steve Gordon (10.36).
Sunderland Strollers were 10th, thanks to Mike Hobson (11.07), Steve Tinwell (11.03), Malcolm Cox (12.36) and Ken Maynard (10.56).
Tyne Bridge Harrier Steve Cairns (9.19) was the fastest on the course, with Michael Thompson third best.
South Shields Harrier Georgia Campbell won the women’s race in 10.37, Gosforth’s Rachel Lundgren was second (10.45) and Birtley’s Tracy Millmore third (10.49).
Sunderland Harrier Jess Fox, 17, made her senior debut and shone in taking fourth place (10.50), five seconds ahead of Durham’s Chloe Price.
Sunderland also had Vikki Cotton in 21st(12.28), Gillian Turnbull 25th (12.35) and Emma North 27th(12.37).