Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League makes Herrington Country Park debut

Sunderland Harrier Ian Dixon.
Sunderland Harrier Ian Dixon.

The Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League will use Herrington Country Park to stage their fourth fixture of the season on Saturday.

This is the first time the league have used this venue, although it has been used previously for National and Northern Cross Country Championships.

The last event held there was the National Cross Country Championships in 2013 over a snow-bound course.

Previously, Sunderland Harriers had been heavily involved in hosting Harrier League races for over 42 years, firstly at the Barnes Park Extension in Ettrick Grove, and then at the Farringdon and Gilley Law course, before sadly coming to an end in 2011.

The popular course proved too tight for the growing number of participants and parking problems became a big issue.

Now Wearside Athletics Network, comprising the Harriers, Sunderland Strollers, Houghton Harriers and Sunderland Tri Club, have taken it onboard to support the league, who have been having major problems in catering for the rising number of competing athletes with a suitable venue.

A Wearside Network spokesman said: “We got off to a slow start, but we are now in full flow and have a course that should prove to be a real test for the cross country runner.

“We are confident that the Network will be able to deliver on what was promised.

“No doubt there will be few lessons learned over the next few days, but they may come in useful if we decide to do this again.”

The Network have appealed for volunteers for marshalling duties and helping to set up the course from 8.30am on the morning of the race. Car parking duties have been taken on by Sunderland Rotary Club.

The Sunderland Harriers senior women’s team are in promotion contention in the Second Division.

They are in third place on the same points total as Morpeth (10) and one point behind leaders Gosforth.

On Saturday, team manager Eddie Maddison will be calling on fast pack runners Alice Smith and Colleen Compson, medium packers Gemma Frost, Rachael Moore and Vicky Younger, for the four-to-count team competition.

Sunderland Harriers’ senior men will be relying on Steven Duffy to get the team off to a good start running from the slow pack.

The Washington athlete makes a rare appearance over the country. He will enjoy a five minutes start over the fast pack and two and half minutes start from the medium pack in the race over approximately 10km.

Clubmate Ian Dixon tops the league veterans’ Grand Prix table, two points ahead of Birtley’s Darren Purvis.

Sunderland have eased themselves away from the relegation mire and are now seventh in the First Division and five points off the bottom two.

Houghton Harriers are involved in four league campaigns. They are second in the Under-13 Girls and Under-15 Girls, third in the Under-15 Boys’ and second in the senior men’s Division Three table.

They also have Henry Johnson second in the Under-15 Boys’ grand prix table, Lydia James is second in the Girls’ Under-15 league, while Nicole Phillips is third Under-13.

The Sunderland Harriers’ Cross Country Grand Prix enters the final stages of the competition on Saturday with big points to be awarded at the Northern Championships at Knowsley (Jan 28) and the National Championships at Nottingham (Feb 25).

The Grand Prix leaders at the head of the table are: Rachael Moore 22pts, Paul Redman 19, Nicola Woodward 19, Vicky Younger 19, Alice Smith 19, Ian Dixon 19, Colleen Compson 18, Jason Waite 17, Craig Harriman 17, Paul Merrison 15, Karl Robinson 15, Kevin Jeffress 15, Barry Maskell 14, Alan Hodgson 14.

Olympian Alyson Dixon won the Sunderland Strollers’ Stroller of the Year Award at the club’s Christmas party presentation at the Barnes Hotel.

Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell went into the New Year with a personal best for 10km set in the Ribble Valley 10km at Clitheroe. He finished 44th in 32.41.

Harrier League timetable. All times are approximate: 12.15pm Under-11 Boys and Girls, 12.25pm Under-13 Boys, 12.35pm Under-13 Girls, 12.45pm Under-15 Boys, 12.55pm Under-15 Girls, 1.05-1.10pm Under-17 and Under-20 Women, 1.10-1.15pm Senior and Veteran Women, 1.50-2.00pm Under-17 Men, 2.15-2.25pm Senior and Veteran Men.