Sunderland Harriers face a conundrum when they select their teams for the annual Durham City Harriers senior men’s and veterans cross country relays at Durham on Sunday.
Team Manager Albert James and veterans’ captain Dean Phillips have to decide whether they should go with a possible stronger senior team or do they ensure their veterans’ team are strong enough to retain their title.
Michael Barker is the athlete to emerge on the scene after the Ashbrooke man showed a rich vein of form when leading the medium pack home in the North Eastern Harrier League at Herrington Country Park on Saturday.
He is an Over-35 so qualifies for the veterans’ team, although he could still run for the senior A team.
The other athlete who could be considered for the senior team is Andy Powell.
James said: “I’m thinking of going against the grain and pulling a veteran into the senior team with the rejuvenated Mick Barker.
“He would then team up with Barry Maskell and Kevin Calvert.”
That would leave the veterans’ with the same team to defend their title.
The 2016 team with their times were: Ian Dixon (9.52), Kevin Jeffress (9.38) and Steve McMahon (9.44). They won the three-stage relay at The Racecourse by over one minute.
There is a question mark over McMahon’s form after an impressive summer. However, McMahon is an athlete at home over the shorter distance and the 3km course could reignite his form. It is his place that could be challenged by Barker.
Last year, the senior team of Nathan Reed (9.19), Liam Roarty (9.46) and Michael Laws (10.09) finished outside the medals in fifth.
None of them are available this time as Reed is recovery from an Achilles tendon injury and Laws a back injury. Roarty has moved to Cheltenham.
There are three Sunderland senior teams and 10 veteran teams entered for the relay with each runner completing two laps of a fast, mainly flat, grass course.
The times of the three races are: 10.15am Veteran Men (35+), 10.55am Senior Women/Veteran Women (35+), 11.35am Senior Men.
The venue is at the Racecourse, Green Lane, Durham, DH1 3JU.