Houghton Harriers mark anniversary in great style

Record-breaker Will Bellamy.
Record-breaker Will Bellamy.
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Houghton Harriers, who celebrate their 70th anniversary this year, achieved their best ever endurance team result in the Elswick Harriers Senior Men’s Good Friday Road Relays at Newburn.

The cold, damp conditions did not deter athletes and the massive crowd of hundreds of spectators, who took in the five events on the programme for all age groups.

Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell leads Houghton's Alex Brown.

Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell leads Houghton's Alex Brown.

The senior men’s four-stage event, consisting of legs of approximately two miles, saw a record number of 118 teams finish.

And the women’s event saw 114 teams finishing their three-stage relay.

Houghton certainly made the most of the exciting atmosphere, rising to the occasion with their young team to head many of the North East’s more established clubs, including Sunderland Harriers.

They got off to a great start when Junior Under-20 Alex Brown led the big field home on the opening leg, clocking the second fastest time of the day (10min 35sec).

He was helped to that time by Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell, who pushed the early pace and had a 20-metre lead at halfway.

Powell said: “I didn’t slow. Alex upped the pace in the last 1k and I had nothing to respond with.”

Next off for Houghton was talented 15-year-old Henry Johnson, who slipped to second place despite his storming run of 10.54.

Club captain Lee Dover maintained the momentum with an 11.33 clocking on leg three to set off anchor man Matthew Phillips, who finished a clear third with his 11.50 mark.

It was a double delight for the Houghton team as they beat Sunderland Harriers for the first time.

Powell was happy with his 10.38 leg, the fifth fastest time overall, to finish third on the opening leg, steering Sunderland into fourth place.

The other team members were Steve McMahon (11.15), Sean Mackie (11.40) and Craig Gunn 11.41.

Results: 1 Morpeth 42.53, 2 Tyne Bridge 44.07, 3 Houghton 44.52, 4 Sunderland, 45.14, 5 Gateshead 45.17, 6 Tynedale 45.20.

Fastest legs: Calum Johnson (Gates) 10.30, 2 Alex Brown (Houghton) 10.35, 3 Kieran Hedley (Morpeth) 10.36, 4 James Young (Morpeth) 10.37, 5 Andy Powell (Sunderland) 10.38.

Sunderland Harriers’ veterans claimed the silver medals in their event after leading until the final leg.

Morpeth’s Fergus Bates (11.49) did the damage.

The Sunderland team featured Tim Field (12.16), Rob Walker (11.15), Michael Thompson (11.55) and Martin Blenkinsopp (12.48).

North Shields’ Guy Bracken, just back from the European Indoor Championships in Madrid, where he won two gold medals, was the quickest on the course.

Sunderland’s Walker was the second fastest (11.15), along with Morpeth’s John Butters on the same time.

Gateshead women won the senior women’s relay, with Stacey Smith having a blistering opening leg, clocking by far the fastest time of the day (11.22).

Sunderland Harriers ran well to finish seventh, thanks to Eve Quinn (13.47), Amy Callaghan (14.10) and Sarah Knight (13.34).

Sunderland Strollers finished second veterans’ team, behind North Shields, courtesy of Ashleigh Bennett (14.09), Jennifer Deighton (14.18) and Wendy Chapman (13.59).

In the Under-15 boys’ race, Houghton Harrier Will Bellamy won (7.49) to slice three seconds off the previous record.