Sunderland Harriers’ hopes of team medals in the senior events of 113th North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships were dashed at Wrekenton on Saturday.
The senior men were outside the medals in fifth place while the women, last year’s bronze medallists, found themselves shunted back into sixth place this time.
The senior men found their medal chances slip away after the first of four tough 3km laps when expected team counters Ian Dixon and Andy Powell dropped out.
Dixon, one of the North East’s top Over-40 veterans was quite capable of a top 15 finish, but suffered after dashing into the lead after the start.
He said: “That was my intention to go hard from the start, but I realised after the opening lap I had made a mistake.”
Powell, who was competing after illness, clearly was not himself and also slipped by the wayside on the same lap.
That left Kevin Jeffress, out on his own, as the only Sunderland Harrier up among the front runners and he ran well to finish 14th (45.10) after losing a few seconds entering the home straight through a wrong turning.
The rest of Sunderland counters were Robert Walker 52nd (48.15), Nathan Reed 59th (48.44), Craig Gunn 63rd (49.27), Steve Rankin 67th (49.57) and Michael Thompson 73rd (49.52).
Sunderland Strollers finished ninth team, with Mark Anderson 34th (46.57), John Cook 58th (48.33) and Callum Thom 72nd (49.50), making the first 100.
Houghton Harriers took 19th with Lee Dover 33rd (46.53) and Rory Graham 89th (51.11) leading the way.
Morpeth won the team title and Middlesbrough athletes filled the first three places through Greg Jayasuriya the winner in 42.53, Middlesbrough Mandale’s Kieran Walker second (43.10) and Middlesbrough’s unknown Jack Willis third (43.27).
Sunderland Harrier Alice Smith ran well to finish sixth (33.47) in the women’s race despite her unusual preparation for the championship.
She had competed in a marathon just eight days prevously. She said: “I seem to race well after doing a marathon. I did my fastest 5km a week after a marathon.”
Jenna Wilkinson made her championship debut and also had a good run to finish 15th (33.05) and then came Amy Callaghan 37th (37.29) and Nicole Hufton closed the scoring in 43rd (38.00).
Jarrow and Hebburn’s Georgia Campbell won her first championship and led her club to the team title. In second place was Morpeth’s Emma Holt in 32.01 with Heaton Harrier Danielle Smythe a suprise third (32.14).
Houghton Harriers kept their medal flag flying with two individual bronze medals, a team silver and a team bronze.
Under-13 Brandon Pye got the medal haul underway with third place in his event, only five seconds behind the winner Tom Slane of Blackhill Bounders.
Then it was the turn of Will Bellamy in the Under-17s Men’s race where he also took a well deserved bronze to also lead Houghton to the team bronze. He was backed by Henry Johnson in 12th (22.43) and Izaak Taylor 33rd (25.08).
The Under-17 Women went one better than the men by taking the silver team medals in their event. They placed Eva Hardie seventh (27.13), Anna Pigford ninth (27.57). and Laura Megan Greggs 22nd (31.06) to finish behind Gateshead.
Sunderland finished fifth with Sarah Knight eighth (27.47), Eve Quinn 18th (30.05) and Hayley Dobinson 28th (32.28).
Former Houghton Harrier Alex Brown was runner-up in the Under-20 Men’s race (28.17) to his Morpeth clubmate Taylor Glover (28.06).