Sunderland Harriers net bronze

Sunderland Harrier Paul Merrison.
Sunderland Harrier Paul Merrison.
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SUNDERLAND Harriers hit the medal trail again by winning team bronze in the 107th North Eastern Counties Senior Men’s Cross-Country Championships at Hartlepool on Saturday.

On a torturous, hilly, quagmire of a course at Summerhill Park, the six counters ran out of their skins to finish just 12 points off second place, from the 30 clubs that finished a team.

In recent years, medals have been hard to come by after being one of the most dominant club’s for almost the last three decades. Last year they failed to get on the podium.

But, despite their top man, Kevin Calvert, dropping out of the race after appearing to having difficulty on keeping his footing, the rest of the lads did all that was required of them to ensure medals did not slip from their grasp.

It was a back-to-form Steve Potts who led the charge, finishing 17th (44.05). He said: “I never thought that we would be in with a shout of medals after Kevin pulled out.

“I can remember the last time we won the championship six years ago. I was fifth team counter in 12th!’’

Following Potts home for Sunderland was Craig Isherwood in 21st (44.21), then came Nathan Reed 28th (45.26) and Michael Barker 41st (46.43). Fifth counter Paul Merrison, at the age 54, made club history by being the oldest ever team winner of a medal in 50th (47.25). Closing the scoring was battling over-45 veteran Paul Redman in 53rd (47.42). Sunderland also had three other runners making the top 100 with Steve Graham 57th (47.50), Steve Gordon 67th (48.35) and Alan Hodgson 87th (50.07).

Morpeth easily won the team contest on 75pts, Tyne Bridge were second with 198, and Sunderland third (210). Gateshead were just two points behind in fourth with New Marske making it an exciting finish for the medals on 224. Durham finished sixth on 372 with Dan Jenkin 12th (43.00). Sunderland Strollers finished 20th (982) with Steve Rankin in 35th (46.10). Houghton were 22nd with Tom Grey in 89th (50.10).

Andy Wiles (New Marske) won his first title in 39.48 from Leeds City athlete Carl Smith (39.52) and third placed Lewis Timmins (Morpeth) who recorded 39.57. Peter Newton (Morpeth) was fourth (40.31), Ross Floyd (Morpeth) fifth (40.47) and Dominic Shaw (New Marske) sixth (41.30).

Middlesbrough Mandale won the senior women’s team race with three in the first four. Kirsty Legg winning in 33.28, Kerry Matthew third (34.47) and Josphine Stone fourth (35.09). Jarrow and Hebburn’s Alex Snook was second (34.48). Aiveen Fox led Durham to third team place in finishing sixth (36.08). Sunderland Strollers finished 11th with Rachel Ball 28th (41.01). Sunderland Harriers were 20th.

Houghton Harriers snatched the bronze medals in the under-15 girls’ race being led home by Eleanor Daglish in sixth. Jennifer Welsh was 17th and Rachel Jones 27th. Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett (Birtley) was fifth.

Sunderland’s under-17 men’s team just missed out on medals in fourth. They had Joel Jones in seventh, Ben Craig 24th and James McAnaney 32nd. Sunderland Harrier Oliver James was sixth in the under-20 men’s race and Houghton Harrier Alex Brown finished fifth in the under-15 boys’ race.