Sunderland Harriers capitalise on home advantage in North Eastern Harrier League meeting

The start of the senior men's race at the North East Harrier League Cross Country event at Herrington Country Park on Saturday. Picture by Kevin Brady
The start of the senior men's race at the North East Harrier League Cross Country event at Herrington Country Park on Saturday. Picture by Kevin Brady
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Sunderland Harriers took advantage of their home fixture to score a golden double in the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at Herrington Country Park on Saturday.

The Wearsiders, the only ever present club in the First Division, revelled in the tough, mud-bound course to score a resounding victory.

Runners in the senior men's race at Herrington Country Park on Saturday. Picture by Kevin Brady

Runners in the senior men's race at Herrington Country Park on Saturday. Picture by Kevin Brady

They were led home by a superb effort from Oliver James, who was running from the slow pack in the handicap race over approximately 10,000 metres.

He not only won the race but also recorded the fastest time of the day (34min 30sec) after enjoying a five-minute start from the fast pack.

James, who has been on his Christmas holidays from McNeese State University in America, where he is studying for a masters degree in physiology, led from start to finish.

The 23-year-old, who returned to Lake Charles, Louisiana yesterday, said: It was very tough out there.

“They don’t have cross country courses with conditions like this in the States.

“I’m very pleased with my run.

“I knew I was in good shape and getting the fastest time was an added bonus.’’

Runner-up Graeme Taylor (Jarrow and Hebburn) finished well behind James, recording 36.04, while Wallsend’s Jordan Middlemist (39.01) was third.

The second fastest runner on the course was Morpeth’s Lewis Timmins, who got through to 11th (35.44), running from the fast pack.

Sunderland packed well, with Loughborough student Mark Smith in sixth (40.08) and fellow slow pack man, 52-year-old Tim Field 10th in 41.00.

Then came fast man Kevin Jeffress 23rd (37.05), Steven Duffy 32nd (40.13) and Rob Walker in 58th (38.30).

Sunderland Harriers’ women were also in good form in finishing second in the Second Division behind Heaton.

They had fast pack runner Alice Smith in the fourth fastest time overall in seventh (29.42), while Linda Mudford finished 22nd (32.49). Vicky Haswell took 32nd (31.20) and Lauren Flaxen 59th (35.46).

Sunderland Stroller Wendy Chapman was fifth (31.06). The fastest runner of the day was Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson, who got through to second (27.22).

Houghton Harriers women finished second in the Third Division thanks to counters |Marquerite Harvey 38th, Katherine James 54th, Gillian Tomlinson 75th and Carla King 162nd.

Washington’s Katherine Common ran well for 12th.

Houghton’s strong Under-15 boys and girls squads both finished second in their events.

The girls team featured Lydia James in fourth, Anna Pigford sixth and Lara Megan Greggs 19th.

The boys relied on Henry Johnson (third), Will Bellamy (fourth) and Chris Coulson (24th). In the Under-11s race, Joseph McGinley was second and Thomas Pigford fifth.

Sunderland Harriers also saw their Under-17 women finish second, thanks to Eve Quinn (third), Sarah Knight (ninth) and Hannah Wight (27th).

* More pictures in today’s Sunderland Echo