MARK HOOD’S return to the sport boosts Sunderland Harriers chances of being among the medals in the Royal Signals North East Road Relay Championships at Hetton Lyons Country Park on Saturday.
The Sunderland Harrier will be having only his second race in five months in the six-stage relay staged for the fourth time at the park by hosts Houghton Harriers.
Hood, 31, returned to action in last Saturday’s North Eastern Harrier League after being on the sidelines since September. He had been in fine form after clocking the fastest overall leg at his club’s Farringdon cross country relays.
But then the injury prone athlete’s problems started and it had been another long haul before he reappeared at Wrekenton.
He said after clocking the third fastest time of the day in the handicap race: “I suffered a stress fracture of the foot and didn’t start training again until Boxing Day.’’
“I was pleased with my run. I was strong towards the finish and managed to move up through the fast pack to finish 20th. Now I’m looking forward to the Signals.’’
Hood, a three times North East cross country champion, joins his new clubmate Weynay Ghebrisalasie, who will be having his fourth race for the club since seeking asylum in Sunderland. This will be the Eritrean Olympian’s second appearance in a relay, having recorded the fastest overall time in the Durham Cathedral event in January before he won the North of England junior cross country championship at Knowsley.
Joining Hood and Ghebrisalasie in the six-man team will be the in-form Oliver James, emerging Nathan Reed and busy racer Craig Isherwood. The final place looks likely to go to Michael Barker, a team bronze medallist in the North East cross country championship at Hartlepool in December.
Sunderland Harriers have two teams down to run, and a place in the first three will be the target for the Wearsiders who have won the championship 12 times. Their last success came in 2007, though they won bronze medals in 2009.
Last year they finished sixth with Kevin Calvert 11:09, Oliver James 11:43, Brian Rushworth 11:29, Mark Hood 11:25, Nathan Reed 12:11 and Craig Isherwood 12:42. The race winners were New Marske from Gateshead and Morpeth
The Sunderland over-50 four-man team defend their title and captain Rob Rush will select his team from Brian Rushworth, Paul Merrison, George Harden, Ken Bell, Peter Richardson and himself.
The veterans’ over-40s team, the winners in 2011, will have Jon Dobson, Steven Gordon, Graham Lancaster, Paul Redman, Alan Knebel and Tim Field, up for selection.
In the women’s relay, Sunderland Harriers, Sunderland Strollers and Houghton Harriers are all involved in the four-stage event.
The Strollers could get among the medals with their new signing Alyson Dixon in their team. She holds the women’s stage record with 11.31 from 2011, when she competed for Chester-le-Street.
The senior women’s and veterans’ over-35 plus veteran men over-50s relay starts at 12.00. The senior men and veterans’ over-40 are off at 1.15pm. Runners are asked to be in attendance by 11.30am for the selection of teams.
The championships, organised by the North East Road Running committee, has received its biggest entry yet at the relatively new venue.
Signals course records: Senior men – New Marske 65.27 – 2012, leg Ricky Stevenson (Elswick) 10.09 – 2012. Veterans 40: Sunderland Harriers 71.12 – 2010, leg Brian Rushworth (Sun Harr) 11.16 – 2010. Veterans 50: Sunderland Harriers – 79.35 – 2012, leg Paul Merrison (Sun Harr) 12.05 – 2012. Women: Chester-le-Street 49.12 – 2010, leg Alyson Dixon (Ch-le-St) 11.31 – 2011. Veterans: Tynedale 56.55 – 2012, leg.