Preparations begin for the North Eastern Harrier League cross country season with growing numbers expected

Houghton Harrier Laura Fenwick.
Houghton Harrier Laura Fenwick.

The cross country season proper gets underway with the first Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League fixture of the season at Wrekenton on Saturday, September 30.

This unique handicap event where runners run from packs called slow, medium and fast, with a time allowance between each one, is going from strength to strength.

The organisers have ordered 3,500 numbers for the forthcoming season to cater for the growing number of club runners expected to turn out for the six fixtures.

With 10 events on the programme for all age groups and both sexes, plus two open events for Under-11s, the meeting has to run like clockwork.

The slick organisation and the rapid results service for the number of athletes taking part is the envy of many leagues up and down the country.

The event has grown to such an extent that as well as a suitable course to cater for the number of runners attending the events, car parking requirements are also a main issue.

Gone are the days when car parking was not given a second thought and many good cross country courses have been lost in recent years through the shortage of parking spaces.

Sunderland Harriers’ Farringdon cross country course was one such venue and, after 43 years of organising Harrier League events, they were forced to call a halt through safety reasons.

The popular course was just too small to cater for the growing number of runners and parking was a major issue.

In the 1970s, before the Farringdon course was discovered, the club organised Harrier League events in the Barnes Park extension where runners had to jump two streams on a challenging hilly course. Changing was in Grindon Boys’ club.

Now, Sunderland Strollers have come to the rescue and they are hosting a Harrier League event at Herrington Country Park for the second year to keep Sunderland in the Harrier League picture. This event takes place on the January 6.

As well as the Harrier League fixtures, there are two other important cross country events on the fixture list.

They are the Sherman Cup and Davison Shield at South Shields and the North Eastern Cross Country Championships at Redcar.

The fixtures are: Saturday, September 30 - Wrekenton, Sunday, October 8 - Druridge Bay, Saturday, October 28 - Sherman Cup (Temple Park, South Shields), Saturday, November 18 - Aykley Heads (Durham), Saturday, December 9, North Eastern Cross Country Championships (Redcar), Saturday, January 6, 2018 - Herrington Park (Sunderland), Saturday, February 10 - Thornley Hall Farm (near Peterlee), Saturday, March 3 - Alnwick Castle.

Sunderland Harriers have moved up from 21st to 17th in the Northern Six-Stage Road Relay Championship after 12 teams were disqualified through having athletes in their team who were not registered with England Athletics.

The club’s B team have also advanced through the placings from 74th to 64th.

Morpeth Harriers jumped into the medals in third place from originally being placed fourth after the disqualification of runners-up Salford Harriers at Sport City, Manchester.

Houghton Harrier Over-50 Phil McCluskey won the North East Masters’ pentathlon championships at Monkton, scoring 2509 points.

His performances were: discus (23.57), long jump (3.94), 200m (26.27), javelin (28.51) and 800m (2.29.65).

Club-mate Laura Fenwick finished second in the senior women’s contest scoring 1731 points. Her results were: shot (5.98), long jump (3.66), 200m (28.14), javelin (14.28) and 800m (2.53.82).

Over-35 Sunderland Harrier Nicole Woodward finished third in the women’s pentathlon with 2427 points. Her results were: shot (6.11), long jump (4.27), 200m (29.63), javelin (22.65) and 800m (2.22.89).

Houghton Harrier Philippa Ellis, representing Durham, finished 18th in the English Schools’ Junior Girls’ Pentathlon Championships at Boston with 2684 points.

Her performances were: 75m hurdles (11.50), shot (9.21), high jump (1.38), long jump (4.87) and 800m (2.50.65).

Tom Bowdon was 33rd in the Intermediate Boys’ Octathlon with a score of 3455 points.

His results were: long jump (5.80), discus (20.93), javelin (18.56), 400m (56.26), 100m hurdles (16.11), high jump (1.62), shot (7.95) and 1500m (5.08.93).

Late entries are still available for the Hellhole 10km on Sunday (10am). Race registration is at the Louisa Centre, Front Street, Stanley.

Tynedale Harriers’ Jelly Tea 10 Mile Road Race hosts the North East Championships on Sunday at 10am.

It is a fast and flat new course, out and back from Ovingham Middle School westwards towards Bywell.