Sunderland Harrier Michael Edwards had a double reason to celebrate in the record-breaking opening Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League fixture at Tanfield on Saturday.
The 33-year-old won his first ever race and, to his delight, also led his club to a resounding team victory in the First Division of the senior men’s competition.
With 590 finishers in the men’s race – one short of the record – and a record 388 finishers in the women’s event, plus growing numbers in the youngsters’ races, there was much to entertain the big crowd on the farmland course.
Edwards ran a canny race to get his just rewards. Content to lay off the pace in the scramble on the opening lap, he made his move with just 800m to go of the 10k course, after THE early leader, Durham’s Robin Lintern, started to suffer from his early exertions.
Edwards, enjoying a five-minute start from the fast pack in the handicap race, powered home (38min 15sec) for a 10-second victory over Lintern.
The Sunderland team packed superbly, with five runners inside the first 14 and their sixth and final counter 34th, to score an emphatic victory over Tyne Bridge Harriers by 40 points.
The team scorers were all in the slow pack, apart from Kevin Jeffress, in fourth, who ran from the medium pack and recorded an actual time of 36.39 for the fourth fastest time of the day. The rest of the team was 55-year-old Paul Merrison in seventh (39.22), juniors Jonny Howe 10th (39.42) and Ben Craig 14th (39.49) and veteran Steve Gordon closing the scoring in 34th (40.48).
The fastest on the course was Tyne Bridge athlete Marc Fenwick, who got through to 23rd (35.24),
Sunderland Stroller Mark Anderson finished 26th (40.33) to lead his club into eighth position in the Second Division. Houghton Harriers were sixth in the Third Division, with Ryan Clark their top man in 56th.
The Strollers were seventh in the First Division of the women’s league, thanks to Clare Baharie in 21st (31.43), Gillian Ritchie 29th (32.09), Jenna Maynard 60th (33.19) and Vicki Booth 66th (31.23).
Sunderland Harriers finished fourth in the Second Division, with Vicki Cotton 44th (32.53), Coleen Compson 51st (33.01), Emma North 68th (33.24) and mediums packer Nicola Woodward 111th (30.24).
Guest runner Joasia Zakrzewski (Dumfries) won (26.31) running from the slow pack, with Durham City Harrier Rosie Smith, who ran from the fast pack, in an actual time of 25.03, finishing runner-up.
Sunderland Harrier Jess Fox was runner-up in the under-17/20 women’s race with the fourth fastest time (19.39), behind the race winner, Birtley’s Kate Waugh (18.08).
Clubmate Connor Prior finished third (13.06) in the under-13 race, with Houghton’s Henry Johnson, in 12th, the fastest (12.02). Houghton’s Nicola Phillips won the girls’ under-13s race, while Jamie Reed, in 12th, was the quickest under-15 with 11.38. To round off a great day for Houghton’s youngsters, twins Eva and Lily Hardie finished third and fourth respectively in the girls’ under-15s race.