THE expected clash of Sunderland’s Martin brothers, Patrick and Jack, in the 110th North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships at Newcastle’s Town Moor on Saturday is off.
The pair were expected to challenge for the much valued senior men’s individual title that has seen many North East distance running greats over the years listed among the champions.
But Jack has now pulled out of the 12k race for all the right reasons – he has been selected for his first England vest in Brussels the following week.
The 26-year-old finished runner-up to Durham’s Dan Garbutt last year, who then went on to win the Northern Championship.
Patrick, the oldest of the brothers at 29, was also selected for Brussels, but had to reluctantly turn down his selection, due to him being in Lisbon on the day of the race.
They both caught the selectors eye through their impressive performances in the National Cross Country Relay Championship at Mansfield and the European Trials at Liverpool. At Mansfield, they helped their club Stockport win the title.
They transferred to Stockport in 2011 after moving to the North West, following many years of service to Sunderland Harriers.
It was in the Royal blue vest of Sunderland that Patrick won the senior title in 2009 at Darlington.
In 2011 Patrick was runner-up to New Marske’s Ricky Stevenson with Jack finishing third.
They were expected to improve on that result at the Town Moor with Morpeth’s Nick Swinburn and Durham’s Dan Garbutt the expected main challengers.
Patrick said: “It looks like a good field on Saturday and a tough course. I was disappointed to have to turn down Brussels through a previous engagement, but hopefully I will get another chance.’’
Sunderland Harriers, winners of the senior team title 15 times with their last victory coming in 2006, were hoping to get back in the medals after a couple of barren years.
But their top man Mark Hood, a three-time champion, has been forced to pull out with a recurrence of a foot injury that has put him on the sidelines for the past week.
There is also a doubt over the appearance of Oliver James, who is on an athletics scholarship in America.
He is flying in from the States at the end of the week, but jet-lag may halt him from making his senior debut.
The Sunderland team is: Kevin Jeffress, Nathan Reed, Craig Isherwood, Steve Potts, Michael Barker, Ian Dixon and Noel Hitchcock.
In the women’s race over 8k, Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon is on the entry list.
If she runs she will face the defending champion Rosie Smith of Durham City Harriers, who beat Dixon by 11 seconds for the title last year at South Shields.
Also entered is Morpeth Olympian Laura Weightman.
Race registration is at Royal Grammar School (Eskdale Terrace, Jesmond, NE2 4DX), which is just around the corner from Jesmond Metro Station.
There is no designated parking for competitors/spectators and those attending the event are urged to use public transport links to the city.
Haymarket Metro and Jesmond Metro station are both a short walk away from the Town Moor.
The meeting starts at 11am with the under-13 boys’ race. The senior men’s event is off at 1.00pm and the women at 1.55pm.
The next North East Harrier League, due to take place on January 17 at Bedewell Park, will now take place on January 31, due to the clash with the Durham Schools’ Cross Country Championship.