Sunderland Harriers senior men’s team go into the third of six North Eastern Harrier League fixtures with relegation worries at the new venue of Thornley Hill Farm, Peterlee on Saturday.
The Wearsiders, who are the only club never to be relegated from the First Division, are sitting fourth from the bottom of the table.
They have won the league more times than any other club, overtaking Heaton Harriers in the 2009/2010 season with 25 wins.
The defending champions of the Sisterton Trophy now find themselves in a relegation battle, just two places off the drop, sharing the same points total as Gosforth and Elswick (15) with Crook at the bottom of the league with 18 points.
Sunderland team manager Albert James has sent out a rallying call to his troops for a big push on Saturday to steer off the threat of relegation.
He said: “I’m confident we will be out of trouble before the end of the season.
“It is ironic that we won the title last season and now we see ourselves in this position.
“This is certainly an unusual position for us to be in, but the league can be like that with its handicap system.”
The league race is run with three packs, slow, medium and fast, and gives most club runners an opportunity to count for their club in the six-to-count team race.
It is extremely popular with around 600 runners turning out for the three divisions.
Nathan Reed, Kevin Jeffress and Andy Powell have already indicated they will be on the start line for Saturday and all of them are from the fast pack.
They will have a lot to make up as they will be giving the slow pack five minutes start and the medium pack two and a half minutes.
Sunderland Strollers are fourth in Division Two on eight points, with Alnwick top on five points.
Wallsend are second with six points and Birtley are third on the same points total. Houghton Harriers are two points behind leaders Blyth at the top of Division Three.
The venue is at Thornley Hall Farm DH6 3LY. The first race for Under-11s is off at 12.15pm. The senior women start at 1.10pm and cover two large laps of 6.50k. The senior men are off at 2.15pm and complete three large laps of 9.75k.
Houghton Harriers’ had two individual silver medallists in the Sherman Cup and Davison Shield at South Shields on Saturday.
They were Henry Johnson in the Under-15 boys’ and Lydia James in the Under-15 girls’ event. Sunderland Harriers’ sole medallist was Jess Fox with second in the Under-17/20 women’s race.
Now the three are preparing for the North East Championship at Aykley Heads, Durham, on Saturday, December 10.
Sunderland Harrier Gavin Massingham, working in Hong Kong, finished sixth in the Asics Hong Kong 10km Challenge in 34.11.
Michael Wilson, the Northern 800m champion and competing for Birmingham Univesity, finished 49th in the Birmingham Cross Country League Division One at Cheltenham.
He finished 10 seconds ahead of his former Sunderland Harriers’ clubmate Liam Roarty, who was competing for his new club Cheltenham.
Dave Lash and Barry Marlee were lucky in the Sunderland Harriers’ draw for a London Marathon place. Lash has a marathon best of 3.25.55 and Marley’s fastest is 3.44.27
Sunderland Stroller Luke McCormack won his own club’s 35-mile ultra run in and around Sunderland.
Debbie Defty from Run Peterlee was first woman home, with Ritchie Gerry and Michael Dixon claiming the relay prize.
Entries are now open for the Sunderland Strollers’ Pier-to-Pier race on Sunday, May 14. Almost 100 entries have been received so far.