Sunderland Harriers’ James places his faith in six of the best

Ian Dixon.
Ian Dixon.

Sunderland Harriers are one of six North East clubs that contest the Northern Athletics Senior Men’s Six-Stage Road Relays on Saturday in Manchester.

The Wearsiders are sending two teams to Sport City and they are detertmined to improve on their result in Blackpool last year.

At Blackpool, the A team finished 32nd after one of their runners went off course and three of the runners in the B team ran faster than three of the club’s A team.

Hopefully, this time, there will be no hiccups and the team will run up to form and make a massive improvement on their position of last year.

Team Manager Albert James has selected an A team squad that he believes can chase an ambitious place in the top ten.

With 112 teams contesting the relay over legs of approximately 6k, this will be no easy task.

The first 25 teams, including B teams, qualify for the National final at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday, October 8.

James is relying on Andy Powell, Kevin Jeffress, Steve McMahon, Sparrow Morley, Barry Maskell and Michael Wilson, to deliver the result he is hoping for.

Powell, the lead-off man last year, will be out to improve on his 25th position at Stanley Park.

England masters international Kevin Jeffress returns to the team after missing last year’s relay, while 37-year-old Steve McMahon is one of the most improved runners in the squad.

North East 1,500m champion Sparrow Morley makes his six-stage relay debut, while Barry Maskell and Michael Wilson are returning to fitness and are looking to this race to measure their form.

Wilson, the Northern 800m champion, is building-up his winter training after a busy track season.

Maskell, an under-23, is a recent signing for Sunderland from Gateshead Harriers and has a best for 5km of 15.10.

Jake Jenson, Steven Duffy, Jack Tallentire, Jason Waite, Johnny Howe and Michael Edwards, complete the six B team runners.

Jenson returns to competition, Duffy is back in the team after a long absence, while Tallentire was the slowest runner in the B team last year and looks bound to improve on this performance.

Johnny Howe has had a late call-up, the 24-year-old Waite is back to competition after being on the sidelines since his teenage days through injury.

He won the Sunderland Parkrun on Saturday in 17.38, while Edwards ran well at Blackpool last year.

The B team finished 68th last year and they are bidding for a position in the top 50.

The six North East clubs at Sport City on Saturday are Blackhill Bounders, Durham, Gateshead, Morpeth, Sunderland Harriers and Tyne Bridge. Sunderland and Morpeth have two teams entered.

Also on Sunday, is the Redcar Half Marathon and Sunderland Harriers have three athletes that should appear in the prize list.

Over-40 Ian Dixon, Over-45 Michael Thompson and Alice Smith, are at the top of their various categories.

Dixon is in the form of his life and makes his half marathon debut. With a personal best for 10 miles of 56.26, a time for the half marathon of around 75 minutes should be within his grasp.

Thompson is one of the leading Over-45s in the North East and has a best for the distance of 67.37 set in 1997.

His most recent performance over the 13.1 mile distance was in this year’s Great North Run where he clocked 77.09.

At Redcar last year he finished ninth overall and first Over-45 in 77.06, which will be his target time this time.

Alice Smith, an improving athlete, recorded 87.58 in the Great North Run on her half marathon debut.

She will be out to beat that time on a Redcar course that is regarded as fast.

Other Harriers’ down to run include: Tony Allinson, Coleen Compson, Marie Davis, Dennis Hern, Dave Lash and Paul Pickford.

The 34th Redcar Half Marathon starts (10am) and finishers along the seafront at Redcar.

Three Sunderland Strollers have been made honorary members of the club.

They are Michael Crozier, John Woodward and Bob Blair.

Each have played a significant role in the development and activities of the club over many years and their endeavours have been duly recognised.