Quartet of Sunderland Harriers gunning for British and Irish Masters selection

Four Sunderland Harriers travel to Bath this weekend with international selection up for grabs in the British Masters' Cross Country Championships on Sunday.

Wednesday, 9th March 2016, 11:39 am
Steve McMahon.

Over-35s Kevin Jeffress and Steve McMahon will join over-50 Tim Field and over-55 Paul Merrison, seeking selection for the British and Irish Masters’ Cross Country International in Glasgow on November 12.

The championship is the main selection race and the quartet realise that they stand a better chance of catching the selectors’ eye through competing in the BAMF Championship.

McMahon said: “Last year my performances over the season were taken into consideration as I did not compete in the championship.

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“I was named as a reserve, so I will be trying to better my chances of selection at Bath.”

Last year in Dublin, McMahon impressed many by winning the reserves race. His increase in training mileage to over 90 miles each week has seen an upturn in his form this winter.

This suggests he will stand a good chance of achieving his goal on the playing fields of Bath University.

Seaham man Jeffress, the North East Masters’ Cross Country champion, bids to win his third vest in a row.

Last year his Dublin performance was blighted by a chest infection and he intends to make amends for that by impressing on Sunday and gaining another vest.

Field is yet to win his first international honour and goes into Sunday’s race in fine form after a good run in the North Eastern Harrier League at Alnwick last Saturday.

He has had a relatively quiet season, so the carrot is there to end his winter with a successful outcome.

Merrison, 57, won his fifth England vest at Dublin. He made his international debut in 2000 followed by appearances in 2004, 2005, 2014 and last year.

He has won three team golds and two team silvers.

His best individual run was in 2004 in Croydon when he finished fourth M45. He was second England counter last year in the team that finished runners-up to Ireland.

He said: “I am a championship runner and at the present time I hold NEMAA M55 titles for cross country, 5km Road, 5km Trail and 5km Track.”

Houghton Harrier and double Commonwealth Games marathon representative Lynn Cooper makes her debut as North East female team manager for the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Birmingham on Saturday.

But she has received an early blow with four times North East Cross Country champion Rosie Smith withdrawing from the team through work commitments.

The Durham City Harrier was expected to join Shildon’s Kate Avery, the European silver medallist in a strong spearhead for the team.

Cooper was delighted to see Avery back competing for the North East as she has not appeared in the Inter Counties since 2011. She has been studying in the States for some time.

Without Smith, the team will be weakened, but the former Scottish international believes they still have a good squad.

Glasgow-born Cooper, who is an established middle distance coach at Houghton, has a number of talented young athletes under her wing.

Henry Johnson, the North East under-13 cross country champion, finished a fine 27th in the English Schools’ junior boys’ race at Nottingham on Saturday.

This follows his 12th place in the National Cross Country Championship at Donington ten days ago and now faces a third tough race in three weeks at Cofton Park on Saturday.

Sunderland Harrier Jess Fox was also in good form at Nottingham last Saturday, finishing 57th and second Durham counter in the senior girls’ race.

The Bede College student goes in the junior women’s race at Birmingham.

Stewy Bell made his debut as North East men’s team manager last year and got off to great start by winning the team trophy for a record five times in a row.

Only Morpeth Harrier Nick Swinburn is missing from last year’s winning team, through concentrating his training on his marathon debut at London in April.

The Sunderland Harriers selected are: Junior Men: Mark Smith, Jonathon Howe and Jack Tallentire. Junior Women: Jess Fox and under-15 Sarah Knight.

Houghton Harriers selected are: Under-17 Men: Alex Brown. Under-13 Boys Henry Johnson and Will Bellamy. Under-13 Girl Nicole Phillips.

Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett (Birtley) is in the Junior Women’s event.