RECORD fields were the order of the day in the opening fixture of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at East Cramlington on Saturday.
While morning snow and icy conditions were looking to put a dampner on the event, the sun broke through the clouds and relatively warm conditions prevailed to greet a total of nearly 900 runners for the ten events.
But it was in the senior men’s race with 425 finishers and the women’s event with 179 finishers that saw new ground being made.
“If the weather conditions had been a bit more favourable in the morning, I think we would have had a lot more competitors. It’s not so long ago that the women’s races were attracting just 30 runners,’’ said a league spokesman.
Sunderland Harriers’ senior men, the league’s most dominant club, having celebrated 23 wins since 1980, appear to be on a downward spiral. Their last win came in 2010 and they finished third and fourth in the following season’s.
But at the Blyth Running club’s promotion they finished only ninth of the ten competing club’s. This equalled their worst ever performance, but with five fixtures still remaining they have time to get back on track.
They could only place three men in the first hundred, with Steve Potts sixth (35.30), Paul Redman 45th (36.07) and Jon Dobson 91st (37.23). Potts, running from the slow pack with a five minutes start, had the joy of being the first Wearside finisher, in sixth, after recovering from a mid race lull that saw down in the teens.
Sunderland Strollers had the satisfaction of getting one over their neighbours in finishing eighth team. They had Graeme Thorpe as their first counter in eighth, only five seconds behind Potts. Ken Maynard was the only other Stroller to finish in the top hundred in 49th (38.52).
Newly-promoted Durham City Harriers made it a bleak day for Wearside by finishing tenth and last, ensuring all three local clubs occupy the bottom three places in the first division. Dave Jenkin, running from the medium pack was the club’s first counter in 14th.
The race was won by top triathlete Calun Johnson (Gateshead) from the slow pack in 32.51.
Morpeth won the team race easily with Jonny Taylor the fastest on the course in 11th (30.54).
Houghton Harrier Alex Brown finished second in the under-15 boys’ race.
The women’s race was won by medium pack runner Alison Dargie of Elswick with Newcastle’s University athlete Emily Stewart getting through to second from the fast pack.
The Strollers women finished 13th team with Jill Kisler their first runner home in 37th. Sunderland Harrier were 20th with Helen Higgins the first to finish in 108th. The city club finished fourth in the under17/20 team race with Anna Robinson 12th, Alex Pearson 17th and Amy Coulson 20th. The under-13 girls’ were also fourth with Sarah Bell in third, Abbie Little 27th and Laura Hand 27th. Houghton’s Lily Hardie was third under-11 girl.
H Sunderland Harrier Craig Isherwood finished sixth (1.14.26) and Sean Smith 29th (1.24.35) in yesterday’s Jedburgh’s half marathon.
Wallsend’s Yared Hagos won the £250 bonus for winning and breaking the course record with his run of 1.06.28.