THE third fixture of the North Eastern Harrier League at Wallington Hall on Saturday will mark the halfway point of the season.
The Morpeth Harriers’ promotion was a new addition to the fixture list last season and it proved a good course, going through the National Trust grounds.
It is mainly over rolling grassland with a few steep downhill sections and a climb through woodland.
Sunderland Harriers senior men’s team are lying in fifth place in the first division on 10 points, with neighbours Durham at the top with three points.
The Wearsiders, who finished fourth team at Aykley Heads on Saturday, see five of their six team counters gain promotion to faster packs in the handicap race for the rest of the season and the following one.
Mark Hood, who finished sixth, Steve Potts 13th, Liam Roarty 35th and Noel Hitchcock 46th are promoted to the fast pack, while Paul Blakey in 49th moves up to the medium pack. Only John Hunt in 109th did not get promoted.
The new rule says that the first 10 percent of the field are promoted and the higher number than in previous seasons is stretching most clubs strength in depth for future fixtures.
Sunderland will have to start relying on their fast pack men to get through the near 600 strong field after giving away a five minutes start to the slow pack.
It is a tall order for some of the athletes, but for Hood, it should not be a problem, as he is top class country runner at his best.
Team manager Albert James has his work cut out to ensure a steady supply of good quality club athletes who can be relied upon to get up the field and be a team counter.
He has already penciled in Nathan Reed and Kevin Jeffress, who are still in the medium pack for Wallington.
League positions: 1 Durham City 3pts, 2 Tyne Bridge 6, 3 Gateshead 7, 4 Morpeth 7, 5 Sunderland Harriers 10, 6 North Shields 13, 7 South Shields 13, 8 Wallsend 16, 9 Heaton 16, 10 Low Fell 19.
Sunderland Strollers did their promotion chances a power of good by winning the second division match at Aykley Heads.
Kevin Noble in seventh, Ken Maynard 43rd and Steve McMahon 53rd, have all been promoted to the medium pack.
The Ashbrooke club are now in fourth spot with nine points with Tynedale heading the league with three points.
Houghton Harriers, in division three, are in fifth place on 14 points with Jesmond Joggers on top with four points.
Sunderland Strollers are joint bottom of division one of the women’s league, with Birtley on 19points. Tynedale are top with two points.
Sunderland Harriers are sixth in division two with 14 points. Morpeth head the table on two points.
The Sunderland Harriers cross country grand prix leaders going into Wallington are: Judith Thirwell (18), Nicola Woodward (18), Donna Corrigan (17), Paul Redman (17), Lucie Forster (15), Liam Roarty (15), Gary Fox (15), Dean Phillips (15), Alan McManus (15), Caroline Fleetwood (13), Michael Lavender (13), Steven Potts (13), David Lash (12), Simon Park (12).
Helen Higgins, Barry Marley, Peter Richardson, George Harden, Tony Allinson, Susan Clughen, Jason Leonard and Albert James make up the field, all with 11 points.
Travel directions to Wallington are: Head North on A1 past the Team Valley and Metro Centre then take the A696/A167 exit (sp Jedburgh/Airport/City Centre).
At the roundabout, take the first exit onto A696 and continue straight on for next four roundabouts for approx 16 miles.
Turn right onto B6342 and follow road through three zigzag bends, turn left and over the humpback bridge.
Wallington Hall and grounds will be straight ahead. Parking will be available within the grounds. There will be a parking charge.