SUNDERLAND Harriers travel to Liverpool on Saturday bidding to improve on their result of last year in the Northern Athletics 12-Stage Road Relay Championship.
Last year, at Heaton Park, Manchester, they finished 18th after a period of non-attendance in the championship.
I’m confident they could challenge for a top-10 placeAlbert James
This time, the club is back on the up and a top-10 finish has been signalled as their target.
While they still have much to do before they approach their heady days of the 1980s, when Harriers won twice, progress is expected to be made at Sefton Park.
It was at Blackpool in 2003 when medals last came the way of the Wearsiders in the 12-stage race, which tests the strength in depth of the leading northern endurance clubs.
Team manager Albert James has selected his dozen but misses the club’s top man, Mark Hood, who is still on the injured list. Ritchie Kemp, Ian Dixon and Michael Laws have also had to withdraw through other commitments.
However, the team selected is still stronger than last year’s squad, which should see them move up the pecking order in the fearlessly contested race.
With stages one, three, five and seven covering the long legs of approximately 4.9 miles and the other eight legs over 2.8 miles, the team, in running order, is: Nathan Reed, Michael Wilson, Craig Isherwood, Sparrow Morley, Kevin Jeffress, Tony Noble, Andy Powell, Steve Rankin, Steve McMahon, Matty Knowles, Michael Edwards and Matty Fearn.
James said: “It is not as strong as the original selections, but it is still a useful team that will be competing together for the first time.
“I’m confident they could challenge for a top-10 place.’’
One member of the team was in action in Sunday’s Thirsk 10-mile road race, which was won by Morpeth Harrier Johnny Taylor (48min 45sec) in a time just outside the course record.
More than 1,000 runners finished the race and Kevin Jeffress finished fifth (54.12) to improve on his previous best time oof 55.27.
Clubmate Noel Hitchcock was 14th (57.06), a big improvement on his previous fastest (59.44), and Michael Laws took 19th (58.02) on his debut.
Sunderland Strollers had a big turnout of 48 runners at Thirsk. The race is part of the Strollers’ club championship.
Aidan Crowe was first home for the Ashbrooke club in 60.26. Their other leading results were: Tim Allsop (60.59), Ritchie Gerry (63.02) and Declan Munnelly (63.30).
Luke McCormack slashed more than two and a half minutes off last year’s time to finish in 64.10, while Michael Armstrong clocked 64.14, Mike Hobson (64.57), Kel Scott (65.05), Carl Smith (65.09), Andy Duke (66.58) and Dan Anderson (67.54). Lyne Valentine was third over-60 woman in 72.16.
Sunderland’s Patrick Martin (Stockport) was just four seconds outside his personal best when finishing third (65.23) in the Wilmslow Half Marathon.