Sunderland Harriers prove to be muddy marvels in Druridge Bay test

Sunderland Harrier Mark Smith
Sunderland Harrier Mark Smith
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Sunderland Harriers top the North Eastern Harrier League senior men’s First Division after winning their second match of three at Druridge Bay on Saturday.

This marked the completion of the first half of the season and they now go into the New Year with a one-point lead over Tyne Bridge Harriers, with Morpeth a further point adrift.

Sunderland Harrier Matthew Jones at Druridge Bay

Sunderland Harrier Matthew Jones at Druridge Bay

The win was on the cards after the first lap of three of the six-mile mud-bound course which proved a real test for the cross country runners, who also had strong winds to contend with.

Team manager Albert James said: “It was a well deserved victory in what were very trying conditions.

“The team packed extremely well up front, but it was an all round team effort that got us the win.’’

The Wearsiders had four men in the first six in the handicap race, in a field of more than 550, with Nathan Reed leading the way.

The Farringdon Community Sports College science teacher, running from the slow pack, finished third (36min 27sec) to lead the royal blue vests to a resounding win.

Next came under-20 Mark Smith, the son of Graham (the 1984 North Eastern Cross Country champion), in fourth (37.02), who had his best endurance performance of his young career.

Teesside-based Matthew Jones, a recent new signing for the Harriers after his Kielder Marathon victory, made his cross country debut and finished fifth (37.32).

Sunderland is his first ever club, as he has been running unattached, winning this year’s Hull Marathon in 2.35.26.

The James Cook Hospital doctor has competed in the parkrun at Albert Park on many occasions, with a best of 16.24. His 10k best is 33.39 and half marathon 73.37, after finishing third in this year’s Edinburgh event.

Another under-20, Chris Bell, was the fifth Sunderland counter with a fine run in 16th (40.40), while, at the other end of the age scale, the ever-consistent Paul Merrison, at the age of 57, finished a superb 52nd running from the medium pack in an actual time of 39.35 to close the Sunderland scoring.

Sunderland Stroller Andrew Forbes was 15th (40.38).

The race was won by Morpeth’s Graeme Taylor, from the slow pack, who clocked 35.15, with George Lowry (Jarrow & Hebburn) in second (35.30).

Justina Heslop (Elswick), from the slow pack, was a runaway winner of the women’s race in the fastest time of the day (22.40).

Sunderland Strollers finished ninth team in the First Division, with Ashleigh Bennett in 26th (26.32) and Kay Snowball 34th (28.49), as the club’s leading runners.

Sunderland Harriers finished seventh in the Second Division and have dropped to third in the league.

Houghton Harriers scored a double in the under-13 age groups, with the boys’ team of Henry Johnson, in second, Will Bellamy (11th) and Matthew Lumb (16th), winning the team race.

The girls’ team repeated that success, with Nicole Phillips sixth, Anna Pigford 16th and Amy Leonard 21st.