The 23rd Sunderland 5km Road Race, staged at Silksworth Sports Complex tonight, should live up to expectations with class fields expected in chasing North East and Northern Championship medals.
This will be the second year of a three year contract in staging the Northern Athletics event, and promoters Sunderland Harriers are determined to get in on a slice of the action.
Last year they just missed out on team medals in both the men’s and women’s races in the three to count team contest.
But this time they are gunning for a place in the frame and believe they can unsettle some of the more fancied clubs.
Probably the more likely medalists are the club’s much improved women’s team, who finished fourth last year.
The team counters in 2015 were 16-year-old Jess Fox, having an outstanding run in 14th (19.02), Nicola Woodward was 17th (19.53) and Judith Thirlwell finished 23rd (20.39).
Only Fox returns tonight and she will be joined by Michelle Avery, April Smith and Vicky Younger plus two 15-year-olds in Eve Quinn and Sarah Knight.
Avery has been the Harriers’ leading runner for nearly a decade and returns after missing last year’s race, while Smith is a much improved runner.
Just 10 days ago, she finished first woman and second overall in the Hamsterley Forest multi-terrain Marathon in 3hrs 17mins. She also recorded a personal best in the Sunderland Parkrun with 18.48 in May.
Among the leading women entered are: Tracy Millmore (Birtley), Alex Sneddon (Jarrow and Hebburn), Emma Holt (Morpeth) and Sophie Cowper (Lincoln Wellington), who has clocked a 16.32 5,000m
The Sunderland men’s team includes the first three finishers for the club from last year in Kevin Jeffress, 16th in a personal best of 15.32.
Sparrow Morley was next in 23rd (15.50) and Andy Powell was 25th (15.53) to give Sunderland fifth team in the Northern Championship.
They will be joined by Steve McMahon and Steve Rankin. All five look to shatter their PBs.
The leading men entered so far are Sam Hancox (Morpeth), Dan Jenkin (Durham), Greg Jayasuriya (Midds & Cleve), James Askew (Durham), Ross Floyd (Morpeth), Chris Smith (Morpeth) and Max McNeil (Salford).
Again there will be two races with the women’s and over-50 veteran men off at 6.45pm, with the senior men and over-40 veterans starting at 7.20pm.
With much more elbow room having the two races instead of one, athletes were rewarded by dozens of personal bests on the fast two-lap course.
A total of 134 PBs were set from the two events last year, with 55 from race one for women and men veterans’ over the age of 50, and 79 in race two for senior men and over-40 veteran men.
In the senior men’s race, an amazing 22 runners in the first 25 finishers set a PB, with Leeds City athlete Carl Smith, the winner in 14.37, being one of those missing out, although his time was a season’s best.
The women’s winner, Tyne Bridge Harrier Justina Heslop, shot to the top of the UK over-35 veterans’ ranking list with her time of 16.28.
The men’s over-50 winner Guy Bracken (North Shields) moved to second overall in his category with his clocking of 15.39.
The course record is held by Martin Scaife with his 14.23 from 2004, the women’s record stands to Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon, who became the first woman on the course to dip under 16 minutes, recording 15.52 in 2014.
Sunderland Harriers list of sub 16-minute men on the course is now 20 strong after last year’s race.
While dipping below 16-minutes is the bench-mark for many a leading club runner, only two Sunderland Harriers have been under 15 minutes – Brian Rushworth and Mark Hood. Rushworth has won the race six times and Hood twice.
The under-16 minutes list with the year of achievement is: 1 Brian Rushworth 14.34 – 2000, 2 Mark Hood 14.39 – 2011, 3 Gavin Massingham 15.08 – 2008, 4 Derek Mullen 15.11 – 2000, 5 Graham Lancaster 15.16 – 2001, 6 Patrick Martin 15.19 – 2006, 7 Richard Kemp 15.20 – 2003, 8 Tom Doughty 15.21 – 2004, 9 Kevin Calvert 15.21 – 2014, 10 Kevin Jeffress 15.32 – 2015, 11 Lee Browell 15.33 – 2001, 12 Andrew Lilliendale 15.37 – 2002, 13 Mark Donkin 15.38 – 2001, 14 Dave Grover 15.44 – 2000, 15 Steve Potts 15.46 – 2004, 16 Ian Haggan15.47 – 2003, 17 Sparrow Morley 15.50 – 2015, 18 Andy Powell 15.53 – 2015, 19 Jack Martin 15.58 – 2004, Nathan Reed 15.59 – 2015.
The race headquarters for registration and presentation is Silksworth Sports Complex.
The course is over two laps which takes in both lakes, with the small fishing lake the first circuit to be completed.
The finish is on grass, behind Sainsburys. There will be a limited number of late entries available.