The North East claimed three gold, one silver and two bronze individual medals in a superb Northern Cross Country Championships for the region at Witton Park, Blackburn on Saturday.
With intermittent freezing hail showers and two gigantic hills to contend with, where many athletes took falls down the steep, muddy downhill section and then being covered head to foot in mud - it was not a course for the faint hearted.
I’m delighted with my medal, it was a very hard course.
But the tough mud-splattered route proved no barrier to Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett, who ran her best ever cross country race to clinch the bronze medal in the under-20 women’s championship.
The Hylton Lane athlete, who competes for Birtley AC, looked to be out of the medals going into the last lap of the 5.5k race, but her gritty determination took her into the frame.
The Benedict Biscop teaching assistant said: “I was in fourth spot but the girl in front of me was starting to tire. I bided my time and went passed her. I’m delighted with my medal, it was a very hard course.”
Burnett had another reason for celebration as her club also won the team race. Providing the support were 17-year-old were Amber Leigh in18th and Danielle Coulson 42nd.
Birtley also had the winner of the under-17 girls’ race in tri-athlete Kate Waugh.
The other North East medallists were gold: Under-15 Boys: Josh Cowperthwaite (Middlesbrough Man), Under-17 Men: Scott Beattie (Morpeth). Silver: Under-20 Women: Phillippa Stone (Middlesbrough Man). Bronze: Senior Women: Rosie Smith (Durham).
Sunderland Harriers had much improved results from last year’s championship at Pontefract. The senior men’s team were second North East team to finish in 12th behind defending champions Morpeth who were down in fifth place this time. Nathan Reed was the first Sunderland finisher, improving 12 positions on last year to take 59th. Then came solid runs from Kevin Jeffress in 73rd, Steve McMahon 133rd, Ian Dixon 150th, Aidan Crowe 154th and Matt Devlin 171st.
The women’s team celebrated with their best ever team result in the Northern Championship. They finished fourth North East team in 21st with counters Nicola Woodward 111th, Colleen Compson 147th, Sarah O’Mahoney 158th and Emma North 185th. The winner of the race, Leeds City athlete Claire Duck, who won the 2011 Penshaw Hill race.
Sunderland Harriers also saw good performances from Jess Fox in 12th in the under-20s women’s race, Mark Smith with 22nd in the under-20s men, Connor Prior 33rd in the under-13 boys’ and Sarah Knight 40th in the under 15 girls’ race.
Houghton Harrier Henry Johnson, the North East champion, finished ninth in the under-13 boys’ event with clubmate Will Bellamy 29th. Nicolle Phillips finished 25th in the under-13 girls’ and Alex Brown 28th under-17 men.
Results: Senior Men: 1Charlie Hulson (Sale) 43.16, 2 Peter Huck (Barrow) 43.24, 3 Jack Morris (Stockport) 43.32, 4 Carl Hardman (Salford) 43.44, 5 Andrew Davies (Stockport) 44.07, 6 Carl Avery (Morpeth) 44.44.
Teams: 1 Salford.
Women 1 Claire Duck (Leeds) 30.21, 2 Sarah Tunstall (Kendall) 30.41, 3 Rosie Smith (Durham) 30.44, 4 Sophie Cowper (Lincoln) 31.10, 5 Susan Partridge (Leeds) 31.16, 6 Hattie Archer (Hallam) 31.24, 7 Emma Holt (Morpeth) 31.26.
The County Sports Hall final proved a successful day for the Sunderland teams, with the Under-15 girls winning their event, the Under-15 boys finishing second and the Under-13 girls taking third.
Molly Gardener (Under-15 girl) and Sonny Finch (Under-11 boy) were named athletes of the match in their respective age groups. Sonny Finch, Joe Armstrong (Under-13 boys) and Philippa Ellis (Under-13 girls) broke Tyne and Wear records.
The Sunderland athletes now have to wait to see if they are selected to represent Tyne and Wear in the North East Regional Final on Saturday the 12th March at Temple Park.