Sunderland Harriers senior women's team make club history in the North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships
It was the first time in the long history of the event that the Wearsiders had won medals.
Third place was a significant improvement after the team had finished in their highest place of sixth in last year’s championship at Aykley Heads, Durham.
With three athletes in the first 17 finishers a team medal place was on the cards, but the fourth counter was way down the field.
This was Vikki Cotton who had made a late decision to compete after being on the sidelines with an Achilles tendon injury.
With much training missed the Whitburn runner was far from her best. But shouts of encouragement from club supporters around the course informing her that the team had a chance of medals, made her raise her pace.
A spirited last lap of the 8k race saw her make up many places and with outstanding runs from Alice Smith in eighth, Vicky Haswell 11th and Nicola Woodward 17th, a battle weary Cotton closed the scoring in 52nd.
Now the team had to wait until the results were declared and they were not confident that they had done enough to secure medals.
Club women’s team manager Eddie Maddison and coach Simon Taylor were also not hopeful, but cheers were heard when the results were announced with Sunderland named the bronze medallists. They had beaten fourth club New Marske by just three points and 20 clubs had closed in teams.
Unfortunately, Cotton was not at the presentation as she thought the medals were lost!
Sunderland Harriers Under-17 women’s team of Sarah Knight 11th, Eve Quinn 19th and Hannah Short 27th would have won their team championship, if only Under-17s had been counted in the competition.
Because entries are a lot fewer in the Under-17s and Under-20s, they are joined together to make one race and both age groups athletes are counted for team purposes.
Darlington won from Sunderland by just four points, with the South Durham club’s impressive Under-17 India Pentland beating all the Under-20s to win the race. Under-20 Jess Fox was Sunderland’s first counter in sixth.
Houghton Harriers have three club members already selected for a place in the North East team for the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Loughborough on March 10.
They all impressed with quality performances by finishing in the first three at the North East Championships in the Under-15 events, which entitled them to automatic selection.
They were Henry Johnson, the winner of the Under-15 Boys’ race and runner-up Will Bellamy plus Lydia James who was third Under-15 Girl.
Senior men’s winner, former Sunderland Harrier Jack Martin, made it third time lucky with his emphatic win in the North Eastern Senior Men’s Championship.
This followed his third place at Cramlington in 2011 and second at South Shields in 2013.
He now joins his brother Patrick a winner of the title twice.
He won the 2015 championships at Sedgefield and the 2009 title at Darlington in Sunderland Harriers colours.
In the 2011 championship, won by New Marske’s Ricky Stevenson, Patrick was second and Jack third. They both compete for Stockport Harriers after moving to Manchester.
Sunderland Strollers have a party of athletes in Lanzarote enjoying the sunshine and taking part in a series of events.
The Lanzarote International Marathon saw Jarrow and Hebburn’s Brendan McMillan finish sixth (2.42.53). Over-50 Stroller Brian Carroll recorded 3.36.40.
In the half marathon, Over-45 Gary Hargrave clocked 1 36.52, Over-40 Michael Dixon (1.42.11) and Over-55 Lesley Watson ran 1.48.41 in the women’s race.
The first Run Nation Dalton Park 10k is held at the Outlet Shopping centre near Murton on Sunday (10am).
The race is over two laps and held over a flat, fast course. The start and finish is in the Dalton Park Outlet Shopping Centre.