Athletics: Sunderland Harriers’ women on course for first ever promotion to the Harrier League’s top flight

Sunderland Harrier Nicola Woodward
Sunderland Harrier Nicola Woodward

Sunderland Harriers’ women are on course for promotion to the First Division of the North Eastern Harrier League after winning the penultimate event at Thornley Hall Farm on Saturday.

They beat league leaders Heaton Harriers by six points to consolidate second place overall.

Houghton Harrier Will Bellamy

Houghton Harrier Will Bellamy

Now only a disaster in the final fixture at Alnwick – on Saturday, March 3 – would prevent the Wearsiders from competing in the First Division for the first time.

In what was regarded as the toughest course of the season, the Sunderland quartet took the strength-sapping conditions in their stride to pack their team counters in the first 50.

Nicola Woodward, running from the fast pack in the handicap race and giving away a start of three minutes and 20 seconds to the slow pack, blazed the Wearsiders’ trail by finishing 18th in an actual time of 30min 48sec.

Then came Lauren Flaxen, from the slow pack, in 38th (34.58). Vikki Cotton was next over the line in 33.41 and Linda Mudford closed the scoring in 50th (32.03).

Sunderland Strollers’ Ashleigh Bennett was 15th (32.15) and Houghton Harrier Kathrine James finished 21st (34.17).

Emma Holt and Jane Hodgson’ of Morpeth Harriers’ filled the first two positions’ running from the fast pack in 26.06 and 26.26 respectively.

Sunderland Harriers’ senior men’s team suffered their worst result of the season in finishing 10th and last in the First Division, dropping from third to fourth in the league.

The team was led by Martin Blenkinsopp in 30th (42.48) and Ian Ritchie 49th (38.42).

Houghton Harriers finished second team in Division Three to keep alive their promotion hopes, with Tom Whelan, in 51st, and David Gribben (56th) leading the club charge.

The race was won by Morpeth Harrier Karl Taylor (37.13), with the quickest time set by Jarrow and Hebburn’s Andy Burn, who got through to sixth from the fast pack (35.42).

Houghton Harriers saw their Under-15 girls’ team win again, with superb packing from runner-up Lydia James, in second, (13.33), Amy Leonard fourth (13.58) and Anna Pigford fifth (14.06). All ran from the fast pack.

The race winner, with the fastest time, was Gateshead Harrier Ines Curran (13.27).

Houghton’s Will Bellamy shot through to first place in the Under-15 boys’ race from the fast pack, clocking 11.49.

The club finished third team, with support from 13th-placed Chris Coulson (12.58) and Jack Seeney 19th (15.02).

Eva Hardie was sixth in the Under-17/20 women’s race and Thomas Pigford was fourth in the Under-11s event.