Sunderland Harriers’ over-35 veteran team came out on top once again in the highly competitive 32nd Durham Cathedral Cross Country Relays at the Racecourse yesterday.
Competing against 82 teams, the Wearsiders retained their title (29min 14sec) easily from Morpeth Harriers (30.05), leading from the off in the three-stage event over legs of 3,120m.
It was the oldest man in the team, 40-year-old Ian Dixon, who found the extra finishing speed to head Gateshead’s Rob Dobson by just one second on the opening leg to give Sunderland a good start in first place.
Then came masters international Kevin Jeffress, with the fastest time of the day (9.38), to send Sunderland anchorman Steve McMahon on his way with an emphatic lead.
He clocked the second fastest time overall (9.44) to emphasise just how good his form is, being one of only seven runners to dip below the 10-minute barrier.
And there was still more to come from Sunderland as the leading teams closed in.
The Harriers’ over-45 team finished eighth overall, through Michael Thompson (10.18), Tim Field (10.24) and Alan Hodgson (11.15) to claim the bronze medals in their category.
Then came the over-55 team, finishing 28th overall to win their category in a tight finish, with Morpeth just 11 seconds behind and Tyne Bridge Harriers a further two seconds off the pace. The Sunderland team was Paul Merrrison, the quickest overall with a 10.53 clocking, over-60 Peter Richardson (12.55) and Steve Coxon, in his first race for years, with 11.52.
Sunderland Strollers over-35s finished 16th thanks to Jamie Collin 11.10, Declan Munnelly 11.27 and Mark Anderson (10.52).
Sunderland Harriers finished a creditable fifth in the senior men’s relay, with Nathan Reed (9.27), Liam Roarty (9.38) and Michael Laws (10.09) in the event won by Morpeth. The Sunderland B team were 14th, courtesy of Ben Craig (10.20), Steve Rankin (10.38) and Aidan Crowe (10.36).
Shildon’s Cameron Boyek was the quickest runner on show with a superb 8.52 on the first leg. Gateshead’s Chris Parr was the next best (8.59) on the anchor.
Gateshead won the women’s relay (33.37) ahead of Durham City (34.05), who had the fastest runner over the Racecourse in international Rosie Smith, on the first leg, with swift 10.43. If Durham had included Laura Lee in their A team (she recorded 11.06 for the B team on the first leg), Durham would have won easily.
Sunderland finished ninth with a brilliant run from 17-year-old Jess Fox, who recorded the eighth fastest time of the day on leg one (11.25) to finish fifth. Emma North (13.13) and Sarah O’Mahoney (12.39) were the other team members.
The over-35 team won their first ever medals, securing silver in their category thanks to Nicola Woodward (11.59), Coleen Compson (13.28) and Vikki Cotton (13.21) finishing 13th overall.
Sunderland Strollers were 16th overall, with Ashleigh Bennett (12.20), Vicki Booth (12.43) and Jen Deighton (13.54), to take third place in the over-35s.