Sunderland Harriers’ Masters stake England claims

The North East Counties' team who won the Inter-Counties Cross Country Championship's senior team title. Picture by Hudson Stoker
The North East Counties' team who won the Inter-Counties Cross Country Championship's senior team title. Picture by Hudson Stoker
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Three Sunderland Harriers did their England selection prospects a power of good in the British Masters’ Cross Country Championships at Bath yesterday.

They are vying for selection for the British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country International in Glasgow on November 12.

The Bath championship event is the most important race which counts towards selection for the international.

And Kevin Jeffress, Steve McMahon and Paul Merrison ran up to form to catch the selectors’ eye.

Jeffress was first (25min 34sec) in the 35-39 years category with third place overall in the race, while Steve McMahon, last year’s reserve, was second in the same age group in seventh (26.32).

Merrison was third over-55 in 24th and second England runner (27.58) to put another England selection back on the cards.

Tim Field finished 11th over-50 in 23rd (27.52), while Alan Hodgson was 51st (29.57), Dean Phillips 78th (32.30) and Tony Allinson 80th (32.58).

The Wearsiders are awaiting the official results of the team competition, where unofficial results put them in first place.

The North East came away with a bagful of medals in the British Athletics Inter-Counties Cross Country Championship at Birmingham on Saturday.

The senior men won the team championship for the sixth time in a row, with Johnny Taylor (37.50) leading the squad home in third place.

Then came Phil Wylie (38.59) eighth, Callum Johnson 12th (39.07), Carl Avery 14th (39.22), Greg Jayasuriya 19th (39.48) and Dan Jenkin 23rd (40.07).

They then went on to make it a double celebration by taking the Daily Telegraph Trophy for the county to finish their first nine counters, with Lewis Timmins 51st (41.10), Robert Balmbra 57th (41.24) and Harry Coates 86th (42.02) adding to the score.

The North East women were also in medal-winning form, with Shildon’s Kate Avery taking the title in 29.02 and leading the team into second place behind Yorkshire.

Durham’s Rosie Smith was next team scorer in seventh (30.58) and she was followed by Danielle Hodgkinson 32nd, Emma Noble 33rd (32.23), Mary Ferrier 64th (33.18) and Alison Dargie 66th (33.21).

Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett (Birtley) finished 24th (23.02) to lead the under-20 women’s team to silver. Sunderland Harrier Jess Fox just missed out on a team medal as fifth team scorer in 44th (24.09).

In the junior men’s under-20 race, Sunderland Harriers had three of the North East’s four team counters behind James Cripwell in 19th (28.46). They were Mark Smith in 48th (30.05), Jack Tallentire 75th (30.56) and Jonny Howe 95th (31.29), securing ninth team place.

Houghton Harrier Henry Johnson, the North East under-13 champion, brought the curtain down on a fine cross country season, by finishing sixth and steering his team into the silver medals.

To add to the medal haul, Josh Cowperthwaite was third in the under-15 boys’ race and Scott Beattie equalled that finish in the under-17s.

A group of Sunderland Harriers travelled to Manchester yesterday in the search for personal bests in the fast Trafford 10k, which was won by Tom Lancashire in 28.56.

First man home for the Wearsiders in 87th was Nathan Reed in 31.52, taking four seconds off his previous best. There were also PBs for Andy Powell (32.23), Ian Dixon (second over-40 in 33.19) and Matt Devlin, who knocked nearly three minutes off his fastest time with 33.31.

PBs were also recorded by Michael Thompson, sixth over-45 in a best for this age group of 33.48, Michael Edwards, who recorded his quickest of 34.43, Ian Ritchie (34.59), Johnny Johnson (38.57) and Aidan Crowe (41.56).