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Sunderland Harriers start new league campaign with victory

Sunderland Harriers women's team : Jenna Wilkinson, Maria Davis, Laura Tedstone, Judith Thirlwell, Lucy Forster, Nikki Woodward, Michelle O'Neil and Michelle Avery.  Picture Eve Quinn.
Sunderland Harriers women's team : Jenna Wilkinson, Maria Davis, Laura Tedstone, Judith Thirlwell, Lucy Forster, Nikki Woodward, Michelle O'Neil and Michelle Avery. Picture Eve Quinn.
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Sunderland Harriers senior men’s team made a good start to their Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League campaign at the opening First Division fixture at Wrekenton on Saturday.

The Wearsiders won the match and now top the league after defeating second club Morpeth by just six points with Tyne Bridge Harriers finishing third.

With a field of 594 finishers for the six-mile handicap race, Sunderland fast pack men Ian Dixon and Kevin Jeffress charged through the field to ensure success.

Giving away a five minutes start to the slow pack, Dixon and Jeffress finished 37th (32.07) and 38th (32.08) respectively, for the fifth and sixth fastest times overall.

And with slow pack men Michael Thompson in 11th (35.19), Steve McMahon 14th (35.36) and Graham Pullan 23rd (36.24), the team were off to a flying start.

The last counter was Over-55 Paul Merrison who closed the scoring in 69th (38.06).

The race was won by Durham City Harrier and former Northern Cross Country champion Dan Garbutt in 31.58 for the fourth best time.

The fastest runner on the course was Morpeth’s Sam Hancox with 30.08, who got through to 10th from the fast pack.

The Sunderland women’s team made their First Division debut following promotion last season and they got off to a steady start.

They finished seventh with Jenna Wilkinson in the starring role with her hard-fought-for second place.

She recorded 26.17 in finishing 25 seconds behind Tynedale Harrier Lisa Tang.

The other counters were Judith Thirwell in 69th (30.47), Michelle O’Neil 87th (31.19) and Michelle Avery 88th (31.19). Morpeth’s Emma Holt in 17th (23.58) was the fastest.

Sunderland’s leading youngsters were Under-13 Ben Bewick in finishing sixth.

Under-15 Dillon Revell seventh and Connor Prior 10th plus Under-17 Cameron Lawton 11th (19.33).

Houghton Harriers won the Under-17/20 team race with Lydia James in second (20.34), Laura Megan Gregg 11th (22.15) and fast pack runner Eva Hardie 12th (19.52). Gosforth’s Rhian Purves was the quickest overall (19.32) in finishing eighth.

Will Bellamy’s run of good form continued by winning the Over-17 Men’s race (16.58) by just one second from Morpeth’s Tom Balsdan.

Houghton’s winning team included Izak Tayor in fourth (17.51) and Samuel Gibson with fifth (18.14).

Under-11 Tom Pigford finished eighth in his race.