Seniors hope to put on a master-class

Len Christopher.
Len Christopher.
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SUNDERLAND Harriers will be relying on their golden oldies for medal success in the North East Masters’ Cross Country Championships at Darlington on Saturday.

They will turn out two strong men’s teams in the over-55s and over-65s events at the Darlington School of Mathematics, Eggleston View course.

The over-55 team bid to repeat their success of the Durham Cathedral cross country relay last month, where they won the gold medals.

The team of Paul Merrison, Peter Richardson and Steve Winter triumphed, despite a hiccup at the final changeover. Winter was not in place to take over from Richardson and lost about 50 meters. But they still beat second club Morpeth by over 90 seconds and both Merrison and Richardson, an over-60, clocked the fastest times in their category.

This time they compete over 7.3k in the three-to-count team race and Merrison will be the favourite to win the individual award.

The over-65s call upon Len Christopher, Billy Bittlestone and Eddie Maddison, to chase team gold in their event, over three laps of the 5.5k course.

Christopher, won the London Marathon over-55 gold medal in 2002, Maddison is an ever present in the Great North Run and Bittlestone is in training for the April’s London Marathon. The main danger for the trio could be Claremont, the winners at Durham.

The first race for women and men, over-65, is off at 11.30. The men from over-35 to over-60 starts at 12.30pm.

H Three Houghton Harriers, under-13s Eva Hardie and Jamie Reed plus under-15 boy Alex Brown, have been included in the North East team for the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Birmingham on Saturday, March 8.

Eva’s twin sister Lily has been named as a reserve and Eleanor Daglish is a reserve for the under-17 women’s team.

Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett, who competes for Birtley, is included in the under-17 women’s team.

For the first time ever, Sunderland Harriers have not a single athlete included in any of the five squads, including reserves.

Six Morpeth Harriers are included in the senior men’s team that is led by Durham’s Dan Garbutt, the North East and Northern champion.

Team: Dan Garbutt (Durham), Yared Hagos (Wallsend), Nick Swinburn, Johnny Taylor, Matt Nicholson, Peter Newton, Lewis Timmins, Richard Morrell (all Morpeth), Carl Smith (Leeds).

Durham’s Rosie Smith, the North East champion, heads the women’s team. Team: Rosie Smith (Durham), Danielle Hodgkinson (Wallsend), Alex Snook, Elaine Leslie, Stacey Rogers (all Jarrow and Heb), Emma Holt (Morpeth), Tracy Milmore (Birtley), Carolyn Ollis (Middlesbrough and Cleve) and Stef Maclean-Dann (NSP).

Selectors picked 126 athletes, including reserves, for the ten age groups, ranging from under-13s to seniors.

H Athletes have their final chance to shine in the Inter Counties Schools’ Cross Country Championships at Meadowfield on Saturday, before teams are selected for the English Schools’ Championships at Castle Donnington, Derby, on Saturday March 15.

H The third England Athletics-Endurance Training Session will be held on Saturday at Maiden Castle Sports Centre at 10.30am.

The session will be arranged to accommodate runners of all ages and abilities from the U/15 age group upwards. Athletes may do the full session or part, as they or their coach sees fit.

The session will be led by Stan Taylor, the coach mentor for the North-East.

The session will be held on grass, and there are showers and changing facilities at the Sports Centre. Please either email Stan at or telephone him at 07841504494 or 07984097898, if you wish to take part.