SUNDERLAND Strollers rallied the troops to put in their best ever performance and ensure first division survival in the final fixture of the Start Fitness Harrier League at Prudhoe on Saturday.
The Ashbrooke club finished in second place in the tough six-mile handicap cross country race behind league winners Gateshead Harriers to avoid the drop to the second division.
They had to beat Elswick Harriers to ensure they stayed up and they did so emphatically, as the Newcastle club joined Alnwick in the trip to division two.
Team manager John Woodward said: “It was a great result for us to finish in second. It is by far our best result ever. We had a great turnout and they all ran out of their skins. We are off to Ashbrooke now to celebrate.”
They were led home by 52-year-old Paul Roper who finished 17th from the slow pack in an actual time of 36.55.
He is now promoted to the medium pack for next season through finishing in the first thirty. Kevin Blyth was next over the line for the Strollers in 23rd (37.30), then came medium packers Chris Dunn 33rd (35.21) and Niall McCardle 35th (35.33), followed by slows Ken Maynard 36th (38.04) and Steve Tinwell 39th (38.06).
Sunderland Harriers finished third in the league behind Gateshead and Morpeth after taking sixth overall in the Tynedale Harriers promotion.
They were steered in by Nathan Reed in fourth (34.48) and he was followed by Paul Redman 54th (35.57), fast packer Craig Isherwood 92nd (34.18), Alan Hodgson 107th (37.07), Steve Graham108th (37.10) and Peter Richardson 159th (41.12).
Durham City Harriers gained promotion to division one as league two champions. They also provided the winner in Dan Garbutt (31.28) who was the second fastest runner on the course behind Heatons’ James Buis, who got through to ninth from the fast pack in an actual time of (31.23).
Keith Lowery (left) led the Houghton Harriers celebrations in claiming 12th place (34.17) and team promotion to division two.
Sunderland Strollers finished second to league winners Tynedale to consolidate their fourth place in the first division. The club’s counters were Ashleigh Thorpe in 12th (27.09), Jill Kisler 23rd (29.32) and Dianne Shotton 40th (30.31).
The race winner was Durham’s Rosie Smith who charged through from the fast pack to win the race in an actual time of (21.01).
Sunderland Harriers under-15 team finished second to Gosforth but won their league by a street and for the first time ever. The four runners that have counted throughout the season are Danielle Elliott, Anna Robinson, Alex Pearson and Merial Smithson.
In the other races, Patrick Crombie got through to third from the fast pack in the under-17s event. His Sunderland Harriers’ clubmate Joel Jones was fourth in the under-15 boys’ from the fast pack and Amy Coulson was fourth in her under-17s race. Owen Jackson finished fifth in the under-11s. Houghton Harrier Alex Brown was sixth under-13 boy and third fastest overall.
H Wallsend’s Yared Hagos won (49.40) yesterday’s Thirsk 10 mile road race from New Marske’s Andy Wiles (51.22). Chester-le-Street’s over-55 Ian Bloomfield won his category in 28th (61.49) and Claire Simpson won the women’s race in 36th (61.10).
Sunderland Harrier Michelle Holt clocked (68.01) and over-55 Vince Emmett (71.56). Sunderland Strollers had over-55 Lynne Valentine on 75.04 and over-40 Kirsten McGowan with 76.16.