For the second year in a row, Sunderland Harriers senior men’s team were shunted out of the medals in the 111th North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships at Durham on Saturday.
They finished fourth once again with the 14 times champions well off the pace, as the powerful Morpeth Harriers retained the title with Durham and Tyne Bridge taking the minor medals.
The challenging 12k course at Aykley Heads saw Morpeth Harriers having the first three finishers.
With Northern 800m champion Michael Wilson being the only Sunderland runner clawing his way into the top 20 in 16th (40.32), it was going to be a difficult goal for the rest of the six man team to follow their clubmate.
And so it proved, although they packed well with only seven places covering them, they were too far down the 420 strong field to threaten for a team place in the frame. It was Kevin Jeffress who was next home in 28th (41.27), Sparrow Morley was 29th (41.37), Michael Barker 30th (41.38), Ian Dixon 34th (41.48) and captain Nathan Reed 35th (41.49).
The challenging 12k course at Aykley Heads saw Morpeth Harriers having the first three finishers with 2014 champion Jonathan Taylor (36.42), holding off Nick Swinburn (36.45) and Carl Avery finishing third in 37.39. They had all six runners inside the first 15. Dan Garbutt, the former Northern champion, was fourth (38.20) to lead the Durham team.
One of the pre race favourites former Sunderland Harrier Jack Martin did not start.
Olympian Laura Weightman (Morpeth) cheered on by her coach Steve Cram was an easy winner of the woman’s race (28.10) from her clubmate Emma Holt (29.31).
Sunderland Harriers enjoyed their best ever team performance with their sixth place and only eight points off fourth, thanks to Alice Smith in 20th (33.47) Colleen Compson 27th (34.29), Vicky Younger 36th (35.00) and Nicola Woodward 42nd (35.39).
Houghton Harriers’ promising Alex Brown shone in the Junior Under-20s men’s race with a great silver medal performance (26.07) behind Morpeth’s Scott Beattie (25.27). Sunderland Harriers only medals came from their junior men’s team with third through Jack Tallentire eighth (27.40), Mark Smith 13th (29.23) and Chris Bell 16th (30.16).
Houghton also gained medals in the Under-15 Boys’ event. Last year’s Under-13 champion Henry Johnson made the transition to the older age group with a hard fought for bronze medal. He also led his team to third place with Will Bellamy in 21st and Matthew Cleugh 28th in support.
The Under-15 Girls’ were also in bronze medal form with Anna Pigford sixth, Eva Hardy eighth and her twin Lily 19th.
Sunderland Harriers Under-17/20 women’s team finished fourth with Jess Fox in sixth, Sarah Knight 18th and Eve Quinn 21st.
Connor Prior was run out of the medals in the Under-13 event, finishing in fourth.