Sunderland Harriers pinning hopes of Northern Cross Country success on Under-20s men’s team

Eva Hardie and Anna Pigford, who finished fifth and fourth respectively in the intermediate girls race at the County Schools' Championships at Barnard Castle.
Eva Hardie and Anna Pigford, who finished fifth and fourth respectively in the intermediate girls race at the County Schools' Championships at Barnard Castle.

The Northern Cross Country Championships moves to a new venue when they are staged on Saturday at Harewood House, Leeds.

The landscaped South Park, below the house, will be used as the area of the event and depending on the success of the championships, it could stage the National Championships next year.

Sunderland Harriers will be looking to their Junior Under-20 Men in the hunt for team medals in the four-to-count competition.

They will be relying on Loughborough student Mark Smith, Chris Bell, Jack Tallentire, Sean Mackie and Joseph Pomfret.

They won team bronze medals in the North Eastern Championships in December in the three-to-count competition through Smith, Bell and Mackie.

Pomfret, the grandson of 1964 Olympic steeplechaser Ernie, will be making his Sunderland Harriers’ championship debut.

Sunderland won this title in 2002 when they romped away from the competition by scoring 58 points to second placed Liverpool’s 97.

The team scorers that day at Allestree Park, Derby were Richard Kemp 10th, Lee Browell 11th, Gavin Massingham 18th and Mark Hood 19th. And to show the strength of the squad, they also placed Peter Groark 22nd and Chris Stoker 28th.

The Wearsiders’ women’s team were also medallists in the North Eastern Championships at Redcar in December, winning bronze medals.

The team of Alice Smith, Vicky Haswell, Nikki Woodward and Vikki Cotton are back in action at Harewood House, but a place in the frame this time looks beyond them with the stiffer competition.

The Under-17 women’s team were also medallists at the championships, but this time they lack a fourth counter for the team race.

Nevertheless, Sarah Knight and Eve Quinn still have plenty to run for as the North Eastern team selectors will be finalising their teams the next day for the Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Loughborough in March.

Houghton Harriers also have youngsters in consideration for a place on the team bus for the Inter Counties, and they will be out to impress on Saturday.

They are in with a chance of both individual success and team medals if they manage to turn out full strength squads.

The club’s main chance of medals comes from the Under-15 Boys, with Henry Johnson and Will Bellamy, who filled first and second places in the North Eastern Championships.

The Under-15 Girls have a strong team as seen at Redcar when they won the team race through bronze medallist Lydia James, Anna Pigford 9th, Nicole Phillips 10th and Amy Leonard 12th.

And Alex Brown could go close in the Under-20 Men’s race.

The Sunderland Harriers Cross Country Grand Prix is heading towards its end and this will be at the North Eastern Harrier League on Saturday, March 3, at Alnwick.

The Northern Championships is a big point scorer for senior and junior men. There are eight points up for grabs and nine points if you are a team scorer.

The leading contenders going into the Northerns are: Vikki Cotton 25, Paul Merrison 23, Alice Smith 23, Paul Redman 22, Sean Mackie 19, Karl Robinson 19, Allan McManus 18, Linda Mudford 18, Chris Bell 17, Vicky Haswell 15, Lauren Flaxen 15, Catherine Purdy 13, Lucie Forster, 12, Robert Walker 12, Shaun Bagley 12, Nicola Woodward 11 and Mark Smith 11.

Young runners braved freezing conditions and a gruelling snow covered course at Barnard Castle School to contest the Durham County Schools’ Cross Country Championships.

West Wearside (Houghton and Washington) had a good championship, winning six medals including two first places through Henry Johnson (Inters) and David Race (Juniors Boys).

The others were: Chris Perkins second (Juniors Boys), Amy Leonard second (Junior Girls) and third places were gained by Eve Quinn (Senior Girls) and Lydia James (Inter Girls).