THE North East Counties senior men’s team bids for a hat-trick of team titles at the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Birmingham on Saturday.
This year’s championships doubles as the trials for the World Cross-Country Championships, with under-20 and senior athletes chasing places in the British team for Poland
Men’s team manager Steve O’Gara has named a strong nine-man team that he believes can claim its third victory – having comfortably lifted the trophy in 2012 and 2011.
Despite a couple of athletes withdrawing from the squad, Carl Smith (Leeds) and Andy Wiles (New Marske), O’Gara still believes it is a formidable team.
He said: “It is still strong and has real depth. We will be going into the race targeting another win.’’
Last year Ricky Stevenson and Jonny Taylor finished second and fourth respectively. Stevenson is not included this time but Taylor returns.
He will be chasing a World Cross-Country place as will former Sunderland Harrier Patrick Martin, who made his GB debut in the recent Edinburgh International.
The much-improved Durham City Harrier Dan Garbutt following his fifth place in the National at Sunderland, is another contender.
Patrick’s brother Jack, who also competes for Stockport, is down in the team, while Morpeth’s Ross Floyd replaces Carl Smith and it is hoped that Dan Jenkin (Durham) will come in for Andy Wiles.
As well as the senior team, there are high hopes of success in the younger age groups – especially the under-20s.
Gateshead Harrier Calum Johnson will go into the race as one of the favourites to make the GB team after his recent international performances.
Sunderland Harrier Oliver James, who finished 20th at Sunderland in the National will be hoping for another fine run.
Durham City Harrier Rosie Smith, second in the Scottish National at Falkirk ten days ago, leads the women’s team.
Sunderland athletes Sophie Burnett (Birtley), Elleanor Daglish (Houghton) and Danielle Elliott (Sunderland Harriers) are included in the under-15 team.
There are ten teams in all selected for the North East at a cost of nearly £3000 to the North Eastern Counties AA.
H Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon, building-up for the Brighton Marathon on Sunday, April 14, slashed over a minute off her personal best in the Bath Half marathon.
She finished third woman in 71.20, behind Susan Partridge (Leeds) 70.31 and winner Polline Wanjiru (Run East) 70.27. Dixon now moves to second on the UK half marathon rankings behind Partridge.
This Sunday she intends competing in the Northumberland Half Marathon where she plans on running at marathon pace tempo and then carrying on for an extra 3 miles to make it up to a 16 mile run.
Sunderland Harrier Craig Isherwood was third in the Haweswater half marathon in 74.59 in the event won by Heaton Harrier James Buis in 73.03.