Albert James eyes positive start to the Start Fitness Harrier League season

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Sunderland Harriers senior men’s and women’s team go into the first Start Fitness Harrier League of the season with ambitious intent at Wrekenton on Saturday.

The Wearside club, who finished senior men’s runners-up last season and won the First Division title in 2016, are the only North East club to have maintained their First Division status since the leagues inception.

Team manager Albert James said: “We are looking to have a strong start to this year’s Harrier League and we should have a decent team turning out at Wrekenton.

“It is important we get off to a good start as the six fixtures leave no room for a poor result as the league is so competitive between the 10 clubs.”

The league race is split into three packs, fast, medium and slow, with significant starts for the slow and medium pack from the fast pack.

Clubs can have a head start if they have a number of slow pack runners in their ranks as they receive a five minute start on the fast pack and half that time from the medium pack.

James has been out and about knocking on doors and the following have answered his call for the six-to-count team race: Simon O’Donnell (slow), Chris Bell (slow), Robert Walker (medium), Ian Ritchie (fast), Jack Tallantire (fast), Kris Cantle (slow), Michael Laws (slow) and Paul Blakey (medium).

The Harriers’ women’s team have ambitious plans for the season following a meeting at the club that saw a big turnout of members.

Last season they missed out on promotion by just one point, finishing in third place in the Second Division.

Club captain Colleen Compson said: “My ambitions for the season are to strive for promotion to Division One. We came so close last season and were let down by injuries and other targeted race priorities.

“We have rallied the troops and we are hoping for a better turnout this season, giving us a better chance of success.”

For Saturday, she will be relying on Nikki Woodward, Alice Smith, Amy Callaghan, and Vicki Cotton for the four to count team race.

Compson has received a timely boost before Saturday’s event with one of her squad, Jacqueline Etherington, being selected for the Over-35 Scotland team for the British and Irish Masters’ Cross Country International being held in Gransha Park Derry, Northern Ireland on November 18.

The approximate times of the Harrier League events are: 12.15: Under-11 Boys and Girls, 12.25: Under-13 Boys, 12.35: Under-13 Girls, 12.45: Under-15 Boys, 12.55: Under-15 Girls, 1.05: Under-17 and Under-20 Women, 1.10-1.15: Senior and Veteran Women, 1.50: Under-17 Men, 2.15: Senior and Veteran Men.

Sunderland Strollers took in three marathons at the weekend and their top result came from Over-45 veteran Wendy Chapman, who clocked a personal best of 3.13.35 to finish second woman in the Hull Marathon. Gary Hargrave recorded 3.20.06.

Lyne Valentine travelled to Scotland for the Loch Ness Marathon and finished third Over-60 (3:39:34), while in the Berlin Marathon, Jen Deighton recorded a personal best of 3.29.24.

Eight Houghton Harriers received awards at the North East Track and Field Grand Prix presentation evening for finishing in the first six of their age groups at the end of the season.

Two of them also won athletes of the match awards through their performances in the final meeting at Jarrow.

Philippa Ellis won the Under-15 Girls’ long jump with a distance of 5.69m to top the UK ranking list. Henry Johnson clocked 9.08.34 to win the Under-15 Boys’ 3,000m. This was just outside his best of 9.08.24 which lists him seventh on the UK chart.

Ellis, was one of four Houghton athletes that won their categories. The others were seniors Laura Fenwick and Phil McCluskey plus Under-17 Luke Carroll.

The Ellis family also had Lexie as runner-up in the Under-13 Girls’ and Dominic fourth Under-20 man. The other prize winner was Thomas Bowdon with second Under-17 man.

Sunderland Harriers hold their Annual Meeting at Lakeside club next Monday at 7.15pm. All members are asked to attend. The annual awards to members will be presented.