Sunderland Harrier Gunn fights off pain to win bronze at Aykley Heads

Craig Gunn, a bronze medal winner at his first cross country race.
Craig Gunn, a bronze medal winner at his first cross country race.

Sunderland Harrier Craig Gunn crowned his cross country debut by winning the bronze medal in the North Eastern Harrier League’s senior men’s race at Aykley Heads, Durham, on Saturday.

He was running from the slow pack in the six-mile handicap race and his performance helped to steer his club to third place and to consolidate their fourth place in the First Division.

Wearing brand new spikes, he finished with bloodied feet, but the pain was subdued as he celebrated his performance.

He was out of the medals on the first lap of three on the gruelling Aykley Heads course, with mountainous hills to contend with, as the field of 580 snaked their way around the course.

Then on the final lap, in the finishing straight, there was a slight hiccup, as he took a wrong turning, but was immediately steered back on course by the race stewards and his medal was now assured.

Despite running from the slow pack, he was the second fastest Sunderland Harrier on the course (38.23) behind fast pack man Ian Dixon, who recorded 36.01 for 22nd place for the quickest Over-40 on show.

Through his performance, Gunn is now promoted to the medium pack.

Second counter for Sunderland was comeback man Steve Rankin in 10th (40.27), who is also promoted to the mediums, then came Steve McMahon (53rd) 39.33, Rhodesian Keith Mwashita 62nd (42.27) and Paul Redman 77th (42.58).

The Sunderland women’s team are enjoying their first season in the First Division and they are lying in sixth place of 10 clubs.

Their team counters were medium pack runner Jenna Wilkinson, who gains promotion to the fast pack through finishing 10th (30.04), then came Alice Smith, the seventh fastest runner overall, running from the fast pack in21st (28.24), Nicole Hufton finished 46th (31.50) and Amy Callaghan closed the scoring in 87th (32.48).

Sunderland Strollers, men equalled their best result of the season for fifth team place in the Second Division.

They are in eighth place in the league. Ken Maynard was the club’s first runner in 37th (42.08).

Maynard’s daughter Jenna led the Strollers women home in 52nd (31.57) in the team that finished fourth in the Third Division.

Washington Running Club had their best performance of the season in the Third Division of the women’s league in finishing in second place.

The team was Helen Clark 11th, Kathryn Common 64th, Alex Charlton 69th and Nicole Clark 162nd.

In the younger age groups, Houghton Harriers had a number of good performances.

Brandon Pye was runner-up in the Under-13 Boys’ race and Tilly Abbott finished fifth in the Girls’ race.

The Under-15 Girls’ team finished third with counters Amy Leonard in fifth, Nicole Phillips 9th and Erin Keeler Clarke 20th.

The Under-17 Women’s team equalled that and so did the Under-17 Men.

The teams were Eva Hardie in third, Lydia James 10th and Anna Pigford 13th. The men were Will Bellamy fourth, Sam Gibson 11th and Jack Seeney 18th.

Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon’s winning run (55.01) in the Brampton to Carlisle 10m Road Race on Sunday puts her in second place in the 2018 UK rankings list.

Elish McColgan (Dundee Hawkhill) heads the list on 54.43, while Steph Twell (Aldershot) has dropped to third with 55.16, both these performances were achieved in the Great South Run in Portsmouth.

Elswick Harriers host their Norman Woodcock Road Relays at Gosforth Park on Saturday at 1pm.

Sunderland Harriers have a big entry and include Ian Dixon, Nikki Woodward, Sarah Knight, Vicky Haswell, Kevin Jeffress, Alice Smith, Tim Field, Michael Thompson, Steve McMahon, Rob Walker, Nathan Reed and Ian Ritchie.

There are three athletes per team and each team must include a female.

Race categories are: Seniors 16-39 years, Veterans 40-49, 50-59 and 60 and over. There are awards for each category.

Race headquarters are at Parklands Golf Course, follow marshals instructions.

The course is a traffic-free, circular, flat tarmac path: 1.66 mile lap, per runner.