SUNDERLAND Harriers dominated the North East Masters’ Cross Country Championships at Darlington on Saturday.
The Wearsiders scooped three individual golds, one team gold and two silver medals, with nine of their 11 athletes coming away from the championship with medals around their neck.
Team captain Dean Phillips said: “It was a great day. This was probably one of our best ever championships.
“To win three individual championships is a great achievement and Kevin Jeffress, Paul Merrison and Peter Richardson deserve our highest praise.
“Just two of our athletes did not win a medal, but they joked we could have had a whip round for them so they could have gone home with something. The team spirit was marvellous.”
International Kevin Jeffress faced a tough challenge in the 35-44 race with John Archer (Low Fell), Ryan McLeod (Elswick) and Stewy Bell (Blackhill) all vying for honours.
But it was the Sunderland Harrier that proved the stronger, easing away from his rivals in the early stages over the fast parkland course, to win the overall race from Archer by 35 seconds in 24min 6sec.
With former Sunderland Stroller Steve McMahon finishing seventh and Tony Allinson 37th, the Harriers scored a double by winning the team race.
Paul Merrison, a regular winner at the championship through the age groups, which has seen him being rewarded with England vests, finished 12th in the race to win the over-55 title.
Peter Richardson (44th) beat his great rival Gary Pemberton (North East Vets) by 11 seconds and two places to win the over-60 title.
Fred Judson, in 58th, backed Merrison and Richardson in the team competition to take silver medals.
They were beaten by Sunderland Strollers, by just five points, who had Ken Maynard in 18th and second over-55 to Merrison, Kevin Blyth 39th and Malcolm Cox 52nd.
Sunderland Harriers’ other set of silver medals came from the over-45 team with Alan Knebel 28th, Dean Phillips 48th and Dave Savage (54th).
Results: 1 Kevin Jeffress M35 (Sun Harr) 24.06, 2 John Archer M35 (Low Fell) 24.41, 3 Mark McLeod M35 (Elswick) 25.16, 4 Chris Auld M45 (Crook) 25.32, 5 Stewy Bell (Blackhill) 25.32, 6 Fergus Bates M45 (Morpeth) 25.54, 7 Steve McMahon M35 (Sun Harr) 26.16, 8 Matt Tomlinson M40 (Tyne Bridge) 26.31, 9 David Best M35 (Crook) 26.32, 10 Steven Medd M35 (Gates) 26.37, 11 Tommy Brannon M45 (NSP) 26.41, 12 Paul Merrison M55 (Sun Harr) 26.42.