Sunderland Harriers go into the fourth Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League of the season at Aykley Heads, Durham, on Saturday, with both their men and women’s teams lying in midtable in their respective First Divisions.
The men are in sixth place and the women are fifth, as the season heads into the final stages of the season.
Both teams seem too far off the pace to be in with a chance of winning their league titles, but they need to keep up their momentum to ensure they don’t end up in a relegation battle.
The men’s league title looks as though it will be decided between two clubs, Morpeth, who are on four points and Tyne Bridge Harriers, on seven points.
Sunderland have 17 points and are seven points off a relegation spot.
The women are enjoying their first year in the First Division and have accumulated 16 points, with North Shields heading for the title race on eight points.
Sunderland senior men’s team will be headed by Craig Gunn, who is expected to make his Harrier League debut running from the slow pack in the handicap race.
Fast pack man Ian Dixon should be among the club’s team counters despite giving away a five minutes start to the slow pack.
The women have been strengthened by a number of recruits to their team and they are expected to feature on the tough Aykley Heads course.
Alice Smith is once again expected to be a team scorer, running from the fast pack.
Team manager Eddie Maddison said: “We have only two slow pack runners out on Saturday, so again we could be depending on Alice in getting through the field from the fast pack.”
Other possible team counters are: Jenna Wilkinson, Nicole Hufton, Amy Callaghan, Nikki Woodward Paula Goodson, Allyson McCourt and Judith Shotton.
Callaghan, Hufton and Goodson have all been promoted to the medium pack through their performances at the last fixture at Gosforth Park.
The leaders in the Sunderland Harriers cross country Grand Prix are: Judith Thirlwell 11 points, Paul Redman 10, Dale Wilkinson 9, Alan McManus 9, Shaun Bagley 9, David Wilkinson 8, Michelle O’Neil 8, Ian Dixon 8, Paul Merrison 8, Allyson McCourt 7, Darren Stoker 7, Michelle Avery 7, Nikki Woodward 6, Judith Shotton 6, Maria Davis 6, Colleen Compson 6, Aidan Lowthian 6, Karl Robinson 6 and Vince Emmett 6.
Parking for Aykley Heads is at Durham County Hall car park. It’s free and only 400m from the start. Do not try to park closer to the course as you will be charged.
There will be plenty of parking for everybody at County Hall, but please car share. There is no parking in the DLI car park this year.
Sunderland Harriers’ Kevin Jeffress and Paul Merrison represent England and Jacquline Etherington competes for Scotland in the British and Irish Masters’ Cross Country Championships at Swansea on Saturday.
On Sunday, Border Harriers host their 10-mile road race which also includes the Northern Championships and among the entries is Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon.
She makes her Brampton debut, but this will be her fourth trip over the 10 mile distance for the Olympic marathon runner.
Her best time over the distance is 57.10 from the 2013 Thirsk 10. Also in the Brampton field is Sunderland Harrier Ian Ritchie, whose best stands at 57.56 from 2014.
Stroller Chris Dwyer finished third in the Hamsterley Forest 10 mile road race in 64.11 and club-mate Jenna Maynard was fourth women in 32nd (67.40) . The race won by Andy Chadfield in 62.08.
Strollers’ Jamie Collin clocked a PB of 2.53.34 and Venessa Bennett recorded 3.48.20 in the New York Marathon.
Ritchie Gerry was the overall winner of the Strollers’ Urban Ultra – a race of over approximately 40 miles. Andrew Forbes and Michael Dixon were the winners of the relay.
Houghton Harrier Will Bellamy finished 13th Under-17 in the Milton Keynes UKA Cross Challenge and Erin Keeler-Clarke was 29th in her race.