Sunderland Harriers’ Senior challenge

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SUNDERLAND Harriers face a busy day on Saturday when they stage their 29th Open Cross-Country Races at Farringdon.

Club officials will be out early in the morning preparing the course for the expected 500 athletes expected to converge on the popular course that starts on the football field at the back of Farringdon Community Sports College and skirts Gilley Law.

The highlights of the meeting are the senior men’s and veterans’ relays and the Wearsiders hope to return to winning ways in the senior men’s event.

Last year, they were beaten by just seven seconds by Gateshead Harriers who lifted the title for the first time. Sunderland filled the next two places and Mark Hood clocked the fastest leg of the day (9.12) in a valiant attempt to catch Gateshead on the last stage.

Hood (left), the three times North East Cross-Country champion, is hoping to be in action again on Saturday after being forced to miss the Middlesbrough 10k last Sunday after going down with a bug.

Club secretary Michael Hill said: “With Mark in the team that will greatly strengthen our chances. We have won the relay 20 times and would love to make it 21.”

Hood’s fastest time on the course came in 2007, again with the fastest time of the day (8.21) – six seconds faster than New Marske’s four-minute miler Ricky Stevenson.

Last year’s team was Steve Potts (9.24), Brian Rushworth (8.57), Steven Duffy (9.28) and Hood (9.12).

Hill added: “We will not know until later in the week who will join Mark in the A team. But Kevin Calvert, following his PB of 33.31 in the Middlesbrough 10k on Sunday is in contention and Jake Archer is also in the frame.’’

The Sunderland Harriers’ veteran last year suffered a rare defeat, finishing third behind winners Morpeth. They may struggle again as Brian Rushworth is still struggling with an Achilles tendon injury and may miss out. Also missing will be Paul Besford and Brian Bewick.

Relay runners are asked to meet in the Farringdon College hall at noon for the declarations of teams. Marshals are needed and are asked to meet at 11.30am at the start, finish area on the course.

Sunderland Strollers have three teams entered and they will be led by their top man Liam Taylor, who could be in contention for the fastest lap of the day.

There are 11 events on the programme which starts at noon with the under-11s race over 1000m for boys and girls.

The rest of events are over the same course of 1.8 miles and the time-table is: 12.15 Under-13 Boys and Girls, 12.30 Under-15 Boys and Girls, 12.45 Under-17 Men and Under-17 Women, 1.00 Senior Men’s and Veterans’ Relay, 1.50 Senior Women.

Late entries are available on the day.

H Sunderland Harriers will not now stage the first North East Harrier League of the season on Saturday, October 29, at Farringdon. It will now be staged by Blyth Running Club after Elswick Harriers have been forced to cancel their league date at Newcastle’s Town Moor on January 8.

Blyth, who host the North Eastern Counties Cross-Country Championships in December, will put on a fixture in Cramlington on Saturday, October 8, which means it will be the opening event of the series.

Revised dates: Sat, Oct 8: East Cramlington (hosted by Blyth). Sat, Oct 22: Sherman Cup/Davison Shield, Temple Park, South Shields (South Shields and Jarrow and Hebburn). Sat, Oct 29: Farringdon (Sunderland). Sat, Nov 26: Shibdon Pond (Blaydon). Sat, Feb 11: Wrekenton (Saltwell). Sat, March 3: Alnwick (Alnwick). Sat, March 24: Prudhoe (Tynedale).