New-look Sunderland Harriers gunning for Durham City Harriers’ Summer Cross Country Relays glory

Hong Kong based Sunderland Harrier Gavin Massingham.
Hong Kong based Sunderland Harrier Gavin Massingham.

Sunderland Harriers go into the Durham City Harriers’ Summer Cross Country Relays tomorrow night with a new-look team for the senior men’s 3x3000m event.

Oliver James and Michael Wilson will join Andy Powell, the only remaining member of the team that finished fourth last year.

James is based in the States on an athletics’ scholarship at McNeese State University, Lake Charles in Louisiana, while Wilson starts an athletics scholarship at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, next week.

James, who has been at university in the States since 2014, will have his first competition since April when he competed over 5,000m in Houston, Texas and clocked 14.59.79.

This will be Wilson’s first race since May when he recorded 3.47.27 for 1,500m in the British Milers’ Club Grand Prix at Solihull.

Interestingly, for Wilson, his New Mexico University is at altitude, 5,312 feet above sea level.

Powell is the man in form having clocked personal bests for 5km (15.32) and 10km (32.29) this summer.

Hopefully, the team assembled by team manager Albert James will be good enough for a place in the frame.

The Harriers will want to emulate their performance of Sunday when they retained the Gosforth Harriers three-stage relay title, with two of their athletes running the fastest times overall.

It was an entirely different team to that which competes at Maiden Castle tomorrow.

It saw Gavin Massingham, on holiday from Hong Kong where he is a teacher, storm to the fastest time of the day with his superb effort of 9.47.

He was four seconds quicker than his clubmate Ian Dixon, who competes in the Over-35 veterans’ relay tomorrow.

The third man of the victorious Gosforth team was Mark Smith, who returned to competition after a long absence through illness. He recorded 10.27 on the anchor leg.

Dixon will lead the veterans in defence of their title at the Maiden Castle relay and the other two members of the team will be selected from Steve McMahon, Ian Ritchie, Kevin Jeffress and Michael Barker.

The Wearsiders have two senior teams and four veteran teams entered.

Sunderland Harriers senior women’s team were also successful at Gosforth, winning both the senior relay and veterans’ event.

Alice Smith was the fastest female of the day with her anchor leg of 11.36. The other two members of the senior team were Under-17 Eve Quinn (12.26) and Amy Callaghan (13.18).

The veterans’ gold medal winning team was Vikki Cotton (13.03), Colleen Compson (13.25) and Vicky Younger (12.35). The Harriers have two senior and two veteran teams entered.

The senior team will be led by Alice Smith, while the new event for Under-17s sees Eve Quinn, Sarah Knight and Hannah Wight, down on the team entry.

The veterans’ Over-35 squad sees Jaqueline Etherington, Vicky Haswell and Nikki Woodward in action.

Etherington, Haswell and Nikki Woodward were part of the veterans team that broke the North East Masters’ 4x400m relay record with their performance of 4min 27.7sec at the last league meeting of the season at Monkton.

Joining them was Anna Harris, who led off with a time of 65.55, Woodwood recorded 68.43, Etherington (63.97) and Haswell 68.07.

The Durham Relays event takes place at the Graham Sports Centre, Maiden Castle, Durham.

All races are for teams of three. Each runner runs two laps of a fast, mostly flat, grass course (each lap approx 1,500m).

Race one at 6.30pm: Senior Men and Women, including Under-17s. Race two at 7.05: Veteran Men and Veteran Women Over-35.

The final North East Grand Prix takes place at Gateshead tonight at 7pm. There are graded races for 800m, 200m and 400m.

On Sunday, the Darlington 10km takes place with Gavin Massingham having his final race before flying back to his base in Hong Kong.

Alice Smith is in the women’s race. The race starts at at 10.30am.