Dominant Sunderland Harriers produce a masterful display

Sunderland Harriers' Michael Barker.
Sunderland Harriers' Michael Barker.

Sunderland Harriers dominated the North East Masters’ Cross Country Relay Championships at Birtley yesterday.

The hurried arranged fixture following the cancellation of the Durham City Harriers event at the Race Course was a huge success for Birtley Harriers with 171 teams entered.

And Sunderland Harriers made the most of the occasion by scooping the Over-35 and Over-45 men’s relay gold, plus bronze medals in the Over-65 competition.

They also provided three runners that ran the fastest lap times in their category and placed three teams in the first eight in an entry of 74.

Team Captain Dean Phillips said: “It was one of our greatest performances by the lads.

“The Over-35s won by a street as did the Over-45s. Every athlete in the race ran above themselves on the day. They deserve our congratulations.”

It was Michael Barker who got the show off to a perfect start by leading on the first leg with his time of 10.24 which gave him the second fastest time overall behind Gateshead’s Conrad Franks, who was the quickest overall with his 10.05 posting.

Next off for Sunderland was Kevin Jeffress, who recorded 10.32 before Steve McMahon anchored with the fastest time for an Over-40 (10.29) to give Sunderland a 47 seconds victory over Gateshead.

In third place was Sunderland Over-45s, with Rob Walker, who finished fourth on the opening leg (10.44), before handing over to Over-50 Tim Field, who claimed the quickest time for his excellent effort of 11.01.

Paul Blakey closed in for the Wearsiders with the best time for an Over-45 with 10.35.

The Sunderland C team also ran up to form with their eighth place through Aidan Crowe (11.44), Graeme Pullan (11.21) and Paul Redman (12.00) and the D team claimed 18th through Alan McManus (12.42), Darren Stoker (11.57) and Peter Shaw (12.52).

Not to be out done, the Over-65s of David White (15.28), Steve Winter (17.38) and Len Christopher (18.38) grabbed bronze medals.

Sunderland Strollers also clinched bronze medals in the Over-55 age group through Richard Barker (12.43) Bill Kirk (14.24) and Ken Maynard (11.56).

The improving Washington club had their best performance in finishing 10th, with Jason Oshin (11.41) John Kelly (11.57) and Carl Smith (12.00).

The Sunderland Harriers’ women were also in the medals in finishing second to Morpeth in their Over-35 competition, with Alice Smith the fastest of the trio (11.48), then came Jacqui Etherington with a speedy 12.01 for the fastest Over-40 and Gemma Frost closed in with her run of 12.18.

The Sunderland B team finished 10th with Vicky Haswell (12.03), Nikki Woodward 12.26 and Vicki Cotton (14.00).

Morpeth won the men’s relay with Carl Avery the quickest of the field (9.01) ahead of Jarrow’s Chris Parr’s (9.14).

Houghton Harriers finished in 11th with Lee Dover (10.09), Tom Whelan (11.25) and Rory Graham (12.09).