SUNDERLAND Harriers won their first fixture of the season to jump into third in the First Division of the Start Fitness North East Harrier League at Wrekenton on Saturday.
The Wearsiders, who won the coveted Sisterson Trophy for 10 of the previous 11 years before Heaton were first-time winners last season, are still in with a shout of lifting the cup once again.
After starting their campaign disastrously by finishing seventh at Cramlington, they have pulled their socks up to finish second, third and now first in their last three fixtures.
This has lifted them to third place with 13 points, six points behind Gateshead and five adrift of second club Morpeth.
With two fixtures left, at Alnwick and Prudhoe, the city club knows it may have to rely on the two clubs ahead slipping up, as well as ensuring that they maintain their momentum.
Team manager Paul Redman said: “We realise that we face a difficult task, but it is not impossible.’’
At the frozen Wrekenton course, it was Pallion’s Craig Isherwood, a 27-year-old window cleaner, who steered the royal blue vests to victory.
Running from the slow pack with a five minutes start in the six-mile handicap race, he finished fifth in 34.18.
Next came medium packer biathlete Oliver James, ranked fifth in the UK for the run, swim sport in the under-19s age group, who finished eighth in an actual time of 32.20.
Michael Barker, like Isherwood, returning to the sport and the Harriers after an absence of 14 years, had a pleasing comeback to take 13th (35.24).
Veteran Alan Hodgson also gained promotion to the medium pack by finishing inside the first 30 in 27th (36.27).
He was followed by Steven Graham in 69th (35.25) and Kevin Calvert, racing in training shoes, closed the scoring as the eighth-fastest runner on the course with 33.14 for 82nd.
Fastest of the day was South Shields Harrier Luke Adams, who got through to 31st (31.37) running from the fast pack.
He was one second ahead of the winner, slow pack man Michael Grimes, who clocked 31.38 to steer Durham City to victory in the Second Division.
Sunderland Strollers lifted themselves off the bottom of the First Division ahead of Alnwick by finishing seventh in the league.
They had Steve McMahon in 15th (35.36) and medium men Chris Dunn 24th (33.47) and Niall McArdle 78th (35.34), as their leading men. Houghton Harriers had Tom Grey in 16th (35.50).
The women’s race had the Strollers in fourth behind winners Newcastle University.
The Ashbrooke club’s counters were Cath Clinton in 11th (28.15), Ashleigh Thorpe 17th (26.37) and Rachael Ball 39th (27.52).
The race was won by Newcastle University student Emma Williams in 25.45. The fastest runner of the day was Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson, who got through to fourth with a time of 23.15.
Sunderland Harriers under-15 girls’ team won their team competition again through third-placed slow pack runner Merial Smithson, fast packer Danielle Elliott in seventh and Anna Robinson in 13th, with Alex Pearson 14th.
Debut boy Kane Murray, in fourth, led the under-15 boys’ team into fourth.
Houghton, with Ben Mitchen in eighth, were sixth. Patrick Crombie was fifth in the under-17s after originally being omitted from the results for wearing the wrong number. Sunderland under-13 boys’ were fifth team, with Luke Phillips 18th.