Sunderland Harriers are set to play waiting game

Houghton Harriers' Henry Johnson.
Houghton Harriers' Henry Johnson.

Sunderland Harriers will have to wait to see when they start their defence of the Start Fitness North East Harrier League first division title.

At the annual meeting of the league in Newcastle, where fixtures are arranged, the six meetings to decide league placings could not be fulfilled.

The league was due to kick off the season on Saturday, October 1, but the venue at Tanfield is now unavailable.

This vacant date will hopefully be filled soon with another venue, but it is getting more difficult to find a suitable course which can cater for the growing numbers of athletes that turn out for league races.

Around 4,000 athletes are expected to register through local clubs for league competition as record numbers continue to grow year-on-year.

But, it is not just the course that has to be big enough to cater for the masses, it is also car parking availability.

These important issues were the reason that Sunderland Harriers had to bring their 42 years of hosting Harrier League events to an end at Farringdon, just a few years ago.

Now Sunderland Strollers have stepped into the breach and have penciled in a fixture at Herrington Country Park on Saturday, January 7.

The date has yet to be rubber-stamped by the council, but the Strollers are confident it will go ahead.

The senior race will be over three laps taking in the two big hills, but different to the courses used for the North and National championships held there previously.

The league hosts races from under-11s to veterans with 10 races on the programme. And, it’s not just the senior events that are flourishing, the young athletes races are also attracting bigger numbers with growing fields in most of the age groups.

Blyth Running Club will host their league event at Druridge Bay for the second time on Sunday, October 9, on a busy weekend for the sport, with four other events taking place.

The Sherman Cup and Davison Shield will be hosted by South Shields Harriers on Saturday, November 19, at Temple Park, the day before the popular Brampton 10 mile Road Race.

A new event is planned for Saturday, November 19, at Thornley, when farmland will be used. The tough course at Alnwick will bring the season to a close on Saturday, March 4.

Durham City Harriers who hosted a league event at Aykley Heads, have stood down this time as they stage the North Eastern Cross Country Championships on the same course on Saturday, December 10.

The final format of the six league fixtures should be resolved shortly with dates and venue changes all possible.

The league has decided not to go ahead with the planned computerised chip timing.

The Northern Cross Country Championships will be held at Knowsley on Saturday, January 28.

Nottingham will host the English National Championships at Wollaton Park on February 25.

Houghton Harrier Alex Brown has been making waves in senior competitions on the roads and on the track, as he moves up through the age groups.

His time in the Sunderland 5k where he finished 16th (15.41) sees him ranked fifth under-17 in the UK.

Before that, he clocked 32.28 in the Tynedale 10k road race at Ovingham to finish fifth and place eighth on the UK list.

In April, he competed in the North Eastern track 10,000m championships at Jarrow where he just missed out on a medal in fourth, with the second fastest under-20 time in the UK with 33.23.5.

Henry Johnson claimed a massive 800m personal best in the British Milers’ Club Regional Races at Chester-le-Street.

The Houghton Harrier an under-15 won his race, recording 2.04.8 to slice over three seconds off his previous best.

Club-mate Will Bellamy, also under-15, was also in fine form with his best ever performance over the two laps, clocking 2.13.5.

Morpeth Harrier Carl Avery was an easy winner (1.13.34) of the 14 mile Northumberland Coastal Run from Beadnell to Amble.

Sunderland Harriers had Shaun Bagley in 159th (1.44.17) and Anthony Erskine 458th (1.51.49). Houghton Harrier Lee Carruthers was 281st.