Sunderland Harriers used home advantage to put in their best performance of the season in the senior men’s race in the North Eastern Harrier League at Herrington Country Park on Saturday.
Over a gruelling three-lap course which climbed the highest hill of the park, the defending champions won the 10k handicap race for the first time this season.
This followed ninth, sixth and third places in the previous three league meetings and they have now lifted themselves into fourth place in the First Division with two fixtures remaining at Thornley and Alnwick.
While it looks as though that Tyne Bridge Harriers have the league title in the bag on seven points, Sunderland are only three points behind second club Morpeth, who have 16 points.
Gateshead are third with 17 points.
The Wearsiders got off to a great start by placing their first three counters inside the first 10 in a field of 550. It was Steven Duffy, running from the slow pack, who led the royal blue vests for most of the race until the closing stages, when he was passed by medium pack runners Michael Barker and Kevin Calvert.
Barker, in a purple patch of form after increasing his weekly training mileage to 70 miles, was first in from the medium pack in fifth in an actual time 34min 25sec.
Next was Calvert, who was welcomed back to the Wearsiders after a brief spell with Morpeth Harriers, who finished in seventh (34.43). Duffy, having his best ever cross country race, was ninth in 37.30.
Fast pack man Kevin Jeffress finished 28th (34.02) and Ian Dixon 33rd (34.13), while the sixth and final counter was over-50 Paul Redman, having his race of the season, to finish 48th from the slows (40.14).
Houghton Harrier Thomas Grey was 32nd (39.31) and Sunderland Stroller Ken Maynard finished 42nd (39.59).
The race winner was Morpeth’s Ian Harding, from the slow pack, in 33.20.The fastest on the course was Andy Burn, despite a five-minute start to the slow pack, who got through to 11th in an actual time of 32.17.
Sunderland Harriers women’s team dropped from third to fourth in the Second Division after finishing fifth team.
The team with actual times was: Vicky Younger 14th (29.38), Alice Smith 52nd (28.50), Nicola Woodward 96th (29.40) and Linda Mudford 103rd (33.52). Morpeth’s Emma Holt was the quickest on the course running from the fast pack with 25.07 in third.
In the younger age group races, Houghton Harriers were beaten by one point by Morpeth in the Under-15 girls’ race.
They placed Lydia James third, Eva Hardie fifth and Anna Pigford 13th.
The Under-13 girls’ were third with Amy Leonard third, Nicola Phillips sixth and Madelaine Turner 36th.
At the Old Monks Race at Hart Village near Hartlepool yesterday, Callum Greig, who has moved from Run Peterlee to Sunderland Harriers, finished 15th. in the race won by Mike Jefferies of Sedgefield.
Two Sunderland Strollers picked up prizes. Lyne Valentine was first female veteran over-60 in 77th, while Bill Kirk was the first male over-60 in 90th.