Athletes to congregate at Durham

Michael Wilson.
Michael Wilson.
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DURHAM City Harriers promote their Cathedral Cross Country relays over a new course on Sunday with a record number of teams contesting the three events.

Over 250 teams are expected to compete in the senior men, veteran men and senior and veteran women’s relays.

This will be by far the biggest number of teams that have ever contested a North East relay.

The course used for Durham’s Summer Relay will be used for the three-stage 3000m event over two laps of 1500m, taking in the big hill used previously in the televised international cross country.

This will certainly sort the men from the boys’, as athletes will climb that hill twice, putting a different slant on the race, as the previous relay was run over a pancake flat course.

Durham City Harriers, who scooped a golden individual double in the North East Cross Country Championships at South Shields in December, with wins from Dan Garbutt and Rosie Smith, will be looking for further success in the senior men’s and women’s relays. They have named two strong teams, with the men’s squad including Garbutt, Ben Douglas and Dan Jenkin. The women have Smith, Aiveen Fox and Chloe Price down to run.

Sunderland Harriers have two senior men’s teams, three women’s teams and six veteran teams entered.

The senior team, who enjoyed their last win in 2009, will be turning out a new look team. Mark Hood, Nathan Reed and Michael Wilson, are the trio that have been selected for A squad.

Hood, who is trying to get back to fitness after another injury problem, had a fitness test in the Riverside parkrun at Chester-le-Street on Saturday and clocked just over 17 minutes to win. It was a slow time for the three-times North East cross country champion, as he has recorded 15 minutes over the same course. But his clubmates will be pleased to see he is back to competing and only time will tell if he can get back to his best. Wilson, the North East junior 800m champion, makes his first appearance in the senior ranks. The 18-year-old has also been blighted by injury and his performance is eagerly awaited in his first race of the season. Reed, whose winter programme got off to slow start, has increased his training from 50 to 70 miles a week and he was rewarded for his improved form by winning the Old Monks race on Sunday.

The veteran men’s relay, which incorporates the North East Championships, gets the relays underway at 10.15. The senior and veteran women’s relay starts at 10.55 and the senior men’s race is off at 11.35. Runners are asked to turn-up one hour before their event for team declarations. Race HQ is Durham. University Cricket Pavilion at The Race Course, Green Lane. There are prizes for the first three senior men’s and women’s teams, the first veteran men’s and women’s team by 10 year age band and fastest leg prizes by 5 year age band.

H Sunderland Strollers had their annual presentation of club trophies at the Comrades club in Silksworth and the following athletes were successful.

Club champion - Steven McMahon, runner-up - Paul Dunlop. Women’s champion - Rachel Ball, runner-up - Alyson West. Road running winners: Division 1 - Steven McMahon, Division 2 - Aidan Crowe, Division 3 - Louise Outterson, Division 4 - John New, Division 5 - Kirsty McSween. Most Improved - Harry Harrison , Stroller’s Stroller - Julie Cook. Age group trophies - M40 - Jon Davies, F40 - Mel Davies, M45 - Ritchie Gerry, F45 - Joy Champion, M50 - Phil Watson, F50 - Jill Connolly, M55 - Malcolm Cox, F55 - Lyne Valentine, M60 - Ron Avery, M65 - David Williams, M70 - John Wilson.

Winter Handicap -1st Richard Wilson, 2nd Emily Bowman, 3rd Judith Shotton

Team prize - Jenna & Ken Maynard & Steve Allen.

H The Durham County Schools’ Cross Country Championships takes place at Meadowfield on Saturday. Provisional race times are: Year 7 Girls 10.25, Year 7 Boys, 10.40, Senior Girls 10.55, Senior Boys 11.15, Junior Girls 11.40, Junior Boys 11.55. Inter Girls 12.15, Inter Boys 12.40.