FORMER Sunderland Harriers Patrick and Jack Martin are expected to return to the region from their Manchester base to compete in the 106th North Eastern Counties Cross-Country Championships at East Cramlington Nature Reserve on Saturday.
The brothers have both entered the senior men’s 12.1k championship in the colours of their new club, Stockport Harriers.
Both will be in with a shout of a medal-winning performance and selection for the North East team for the Inter-Counties Championships at Birmingham on March 10.
They have both tasted success previously, with Patrick winning the senior men’s title at Darlington in 2009 and the junior men’s crown in 2004. Jack won the under-13 title in 2000.
Without the Martin brothers in their squad, Sunderland Harriers will find it hard to win team medals of any description.
They will also be without their three-time champion Mark Hood, who is just getting back to training after another injury problem.
Also doubtful is record-breaking 10-time champion Brian Rushworth, who has just recommenced training after being on the sidelines during the summer.
The Wearsiders have 19 athletes entered for the senior men’s race, which has attracted a field of 459.
With six-to-count in the team race, Kevin Calvert, Steve Potts, Steven Graham, Paul Redman, Brian Bewick, Paul Merrison, Jon Dobson, Noel Hitchcock, Graham Lancaster, Steven Gordon and Alan Hodgson are all with a chance of a counting position.
The last time Sunderland won the senior team title, for the 14th time, was in 2006 at Herrington Country Park, when Hood won the first of his three titles.
The team was: 1st Mark Hood, 4th Brian Rushworth, 5th Patrick Martin, 12th Tom Doughty, 14th Steve Potts, and 18th Tim Field. Potts could be the only member of that team that turns out on Saturday.
In the junior men’s three-to-count contest, the city club has a much better chance of getting into the frame.
They have Nathan Reed, Oliver James, Jason Waite and Jake Archer to call upon.
The under-17s are also in with a shout if they can deliver the back-up for Michael Wilson and the improving Patrick Crombie. Joel Jones has a chance of an individual medal in the under-15 boys’ event.
In the women’s event, Michele Holt, Vicky Haswell and last Sunday’s Blyth Sands race winner Ingrid Hope are a useful trio – if they get to the start line. Amy Coulson can impress in the under-17s race, as can under-20 Alison Seadon.
A commemorative Start Fitness T-shirt for runners completing the championship and five North Eastern Harrier league fixtures will be presented to those runners who qualify at the end of the cross country season.
Timetable: 11am Under-13 Boys; 11.15 Under-13 Girls; 11.30 Under-15 Boys; 11.45 Under-15 Girls; Midday Under -17/20 Women; 12.20 Under-20 Men; 1pm Senior Men; 1.55 Senior Women; 2.30 Under-17 Men. Medal presentations will take place after each race on the course.
Directions: From A19 to Moor Farm roundabout, take second exit on to A189N signposted Ashington and follow signs to East Cramlington. The nature reserve is less than a mile away on the left.