Harriers slip to fourth in Masters Relay

Paul Merrison.
Paul Merrison.
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A DOGGED team performance just failed to gain Sunderland Harriers a place in the frame in the British Masters’ Road Relay Championship at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday.

The Wearsiders slipped from third to fourth during the final mile of the 18-mile event after being in second place at the halfway mark in the six-stage event for over-45s.

It was Tim Field who got the royal blue vests off to a steady start on the opening leg of the race, finishing seventh in 16min 35sec before Jon Dobson dropped to ninth with his 17.17 clocking.

Leg three saw Sunderland climb to their highest position through a superb leg by relay kingpin Brian Rushworth. He shot through to second with his excellent 15.55 for the sixth fastest time of the day and the quickest by an over-50.

Favourites Leicester were one minute 21 seconds ahead and on their way to victory. Sunderland’s time at this stage was 49.47, Dulwich were in third (50.07) and Salford fourth (50.08).

Salford moved into the silver medal position on leg four, 12 seconds ahead of Sunderland, who had Brian Bewick recording 17.16. At this stage, Sunderland were 72 seconds ahead of North East rivals Tyne Bridge Harriers.

Paul Redman, on the penultimate leg, huffed and puffed his way to a solid performance of 17.22 to keep the city club in third spot, 30 seconds ahead of Oxford. Tyne Bridge closed in on Sunderland and were now up to fifth through Paul Wilton’s 17.02 stint.

Paul Merrison (right) was on the glory leg but faced a mammoth task in trying to keep Tyne Bridge’s Scottish international Steve Cairns, who was 52 seconds behind, at bay.

Merrison, the oldest member of the team at 54, set off with real intent, but you could see by the one mile marker, he was facing a losing battle. Cairns was now into fourth and had cut the Sunderland lead to just 31 seconds. By the final mile, he was ahead and, at the finish, he was 23 seconds in front of the valiant Merrison to take the bronze medals.

Result: 1 Leicester 1.38.07, 2 Salford 1.40, 3 Tyne Bridge 1.41.04, 4 Sunderland 1.41.27, 5 Oxford, 6 Wolverhampton and Bilston 1.45.58. 7 Redhill 1.45.19, 8 Dulwich 1.46.22. 9 South London 1.49.33, 10 Neath 1.50.08.

H Boldon’s Andrew Stanton won (3.54.42) in the 1500m E race in the British Milers’ Club Grand Prix at Solihull. Sunderland Harrier Oliver James recorded a personal best of 3.56.63 in seventh in the D race. Durham City Harrier Dan Garbutt recorded 14.10.42 in finishing fifth in the 5000m.