Sunderland Harriers double up for team triumphs in Farringdon Cross Country Races
Sunderland Harriers had a double reason to celebrate at their own Farringdon Cross Country Races in the wet on Saturday.
The Wearsiders won both the senior men’s and veteran men’s four-stage relays, over 1.8 mile legs, for the first time since 2009.
It was a glorious golden double for the city club, who led the over-40 veterans’ relay from the off and came from behind to clinch the senior men’s title.
Steve Rankin led off for the senior team and clocked an impressive 9min 14sec to finish fourth before handing over to Kevin Jeffress, who lifted the team into third place with his determined stint of 9.21.
Michael Barker, drafted into the team at the last minute, was the man who took Sunderland into the lead on the penultimate leg, with his run of 9.40.
Then it was left for anchor man Steve McMahon to bring home the bacon and he did so in tremendous style by clocking the club’s fastest time of 9.07.
Durham City Harriers finished runners-up – 31 seconds behind Sunderland – after Dan Jenkin clocked the fastest time of the day on the first leg, with his sizzling 8.53.
He was one of only two men to go under the magic nine-minute mark – Birtley’s Adrian Bailes was the other in finishing behind Jenkin in 8.59 on leg one.
Morpeth finished as third club.
Houghton Harriers had a superb run from 17-year-old Alex Brown on the opening leg in third (9.05).
With Lee Dover (9.40), Ryan Clark (10.23) and Steve Johnson (10.50) backing up, the club finished a surprise fifth.
Sunderland Strollers were eighth, with Mark Anderson their fastest on 9.57.
Sunderland Harriers’ veterans’ triumphant squad included Ian Dixon, with a storming run on the opening leg.
The 40-year-old set the team up nicely with easily the quickest time overall (9.16) – beating the second best (Robert Walker of North Shields) by 32 seconds.
Steve Potts (9.55), Tim Field (10.23) and Steve Gordon (10.44) maintained the momentum to win by more than two minutes from North Shields, with Elswick third.
The Sunderland B team were seventh, thanks to Alan Hodgson (10.44), Darren Stoker (11.20), Paul Redman (11.48) and Alan Knebel (11.35).
The Farringdon cross country, now in its 34th year, is famous for the Gilley Law stream which all events, apart from the under-11s, have to negotiate.
It can flood in wet weather and Saturday it did, a rare occasion.
At the start of the meeting, the stream was an inch deep, but during the senior relay it was up to your thighs and getting deeper.
The last race on the programme was the senior and veteran women’s race and officials decided that the stream was too deep for athletes to cross safely.
They then put their plans in place and a detour took the women around the hazard safely.
Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett (Birtley) came home a lot drier than she could have been to win an exciting race in 10.19 from clubmate Chloe Price (10.24).
Sunderland Harrier Alice Smith was third (10.52) with club-mates Nicola Woodward (11.43) and Vikki Cotton (11.59) finishing eighth and 11th respectively
Houghton Harriers were well to the fore in the younger athletes’ races over the same distance as the other events.
Amy Leonard won the under-13 event (11.16), Lydia James took the under-15 girls’ title (11.07), with Anna Pigford third, Eva Hardie fourth and her twin, Lily, sixth.