Record fields for big event

Steve Potts.
Steve Potts.
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RECORD fields in the senior men’s and women’s events have been received for the 107th North Eastern Counties Cross-Country Championships at Hartlepool on Saturday.

A total of 511 men and 211 women are down to run at Summerhill Country Park in the championship organised by Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers.

The Championships were last held at the venue in 2007 when Sonia Samuels won the senior women’s race and Sunderland Harrier Mark Hood lifted the gold medal in the senior men’s contest.

That was Hood’s second win and he went on to gain his hat-trick the following year, but since then he has been blighted by injury and he will miss out again on Saturday.

The Wearsiders have 16 athletes entered for the senior men’s race, where they have a chance of picking-up medals in the six-to-count team competition.

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.

Brian Rushworth, the ten-times record-breaking champion and only a few days off his 50th birthday, hopes to be back on the start line for the 12k race on Saturday.

The former Inter Counties and Northern champion has been struggling with a leg injury but if he turns out he would be an integral part of the team chasing medals.

The other athletes pushing for a team counting position are: Kevin Calvert, Steve Potts, Steven Graham, Paul Redman, Michael Barker, Paul Merrison, Craig Isherwood, Steven Gordon, Nathan Reed and Alan Hodgson.

Calvert is capable of a top dozen position to put himself in contention for a place in the North East team for the Inter Counties Championships at Birmingham on March 9. Rushworth, Reed and Isherwood could squeeze into the top 25, while the rest of the squad will need to pack well, if a team medal is on the cards. Potts will be looking for improvement following his disappointing performance in last month’s Brampton to Carlisle 10-mile Road Race,

Durham City Harrier Rosie Smith will not be defending her women’s title and Morpeth’s Johnny Taylor will also be missing as they will be on international duty in the European Cross Country Championships in Budapest. New Marske’s 2011 champion Ricky Stevenson is not entered in the senior men’s race. Morpeth’s Olympic 1500m finalist Laura Weightman is down to run in the women’s race.

The first three finishers in each of the championship races will gain automatic selection for North East teams for the Inter Counties Championships in Birmingham.

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 season.

Timetable: 11am Under-13 Boys; 11.15 Under-13 Girls; 11.30 Under-15 Boys; 11.45 Under-15 Girls; 12.00 Under -17/20 Women; 12.20 Under-20 Men; 1.00pm Senior Men; 1.55 Senior Women; 2.30 Under-17 Men.

Medal presentations will take place after each race on the course.

Race headquarters are at Summerhill Visitor Centre, Summerhill Lane, Hartlepool, TS25 4LL. Changing accommodation: Summerhill Visitor Centre, Summerhill Lane, Hartlepool.