Sunderland Harriers’ quartet set to revive men’s race at the North Eastern Counties Track and Field Championships

Philippa Ellis goes in four events at this weekend's North Eastern Counties Track and Field Championships.
Philippa Ellis goes in four events at this weekend's North Eastern Counties Track and Field Championships.

The North Eastern Counties Track and Field Championships moves to a new venue on Saturday and Sunday.

The Championship arrives at Middlesbrough Sports Village following a long association with Gateshead Stadium.

The two day event has a packed programme, catering for all age groups and both sexes.

The slick organisation will be stretched to the limit with around 500 athletes involved in the competition in the field and on the track.

One notable feature is the rise of entries in the Senior Men’s 5,000m, where in recent years, the race has struggled for numbers.

This time there are 21 entries and this follows the path of the 10,000m championship held at Monkton in April where a big entry of 37 entries was received and the race had to be split into two events.

The revival of these two endurance events can only be good news for the sport after many endurance athletes have been attracted to road running at the expense of the track.

Included in the entries is four Sunderland Harriers in Ian Ritchie and leading Veterans Steve McMahon, Rob Walker and Michael Thompson.

Hopefully, the inclusion of these four will encourage more Sunderland runners to contest the event in future years.

You have to go back to 1983 since the city club enjoyed their last success when Graham Smith won in 14.13.5.

Previous to that, Glenn Forster achieved his hat-trick with wins in 1981 (14.27.7), 1980 (14.16.5) and 1977 (14.31.6).

The Championship record is held by Steve Cram from 1984 (13.48.0).

But there is a disappointing entry in the 1,500m where only 15 athletes have entered making it a straight final.

Both Ian Ritchie and Steve McMahon are included for what looks like a busy weekend for the pair.

Houghton Harriers’ Henry Johnson and Will Bellamy, two talented Under-17s, bid for gold in the 800m, 1,500m and 3,000m.

Johnson, who clocked a personal best in the 800m (1.58.33) at the Leeds British Milers’ Club meeting at Leeds last week, goes again over the two laps and also in the 1,500m.

His time in the 800m puts him in 13th place on the UK ranking list.

Bellamy also competes in the metric mile, but he prefers the 3,000m to the 800m for his other event.

He also competed at Leeds and recorded 8.53.01 to take him to sixth on the Under-17 3,000m UK rankings.

Former club-mate Philippa Ellis, now with Gateshead Harriers who won the Scottish and North East indoor titles during the winter, goes in her speciality the Under-17 80m hurdles.

The pentathlete is also entered in the 100m, discus and shot.

Sunderland Harrier Michael Wilson, who has won six North East 800m titles since winning his first as an Under-13 in 2013, will not be involved this time.

He is currently on an athletics scholarship at New Mexico State University.

Competing in California at the weekend, he again dipped below the 1.50 barrier in finishing third in the Payton Jordan Invitational, recording 1.49.26.

This is the third time in the States that Wilson has been below 1.50 and his personal best now stands at 1.48.35 set on April 20, at the Bryan Clay Invitational.

Entries close tonight at midnight for the 2018 Siglion Sunderland City 10km and Half Marathon.

The Run Sunderland Festival takes place on Sunday from Keel Square for a third year. The start times are 10km: 10am. Half Marathon: 10.25am

All participants will receive a T-shirt, medal and goody bag. There is also limited parking, baggage services and plenty of fun activities for those not taking part.