Sunderland Harriers’ trio face race against time to catch the eye of North East selectors

Left to right: Jenna Wilkinson, who is chasing Inter Counties selection.
Left to right: Jenna Wilkinson, who is chasing Inter Counties selection.

The first major Cross Country Championship of the season took place last Saturday when the North Eastern Counties hosted their championships at Wrekenton.

And athletes had their first opportunity to show their early season form before final selection takes place for the Inter County Championships at Loughborough on Saturday, March 9.

With every age group covered for both male and female teams, from Under-13s to senior men and women, a mammoth task awaits North East selectors.

A total of 82 athletes plus non-travelling reserves will be selected for Loughborough for the 10 teams, when the selectors sit down to deliberate after the final selection race.

This is at the Northern Championships at Pontefract, on Saturday, January 26.

Of the 10 events on Saturday, the first three finishers in each race gained automatic selection for Loughborough and a North East vest.

Houghtons’ Under-17 Will Bellamy and Under-13 Brandon Pye booked their places on the team bus through finishing in respective third place finishers in their events.

Other Houghton Harriers who caught the selectors eye were Eva Hardie, with fourth place, and Anna Pigford, with fifth place in the Under-17 Women’s race, plus Henry Johnson, with ninth position in the Under-17 Men’s event.

Sunderland Harriers who are in with a chance of selection are senior athletes Alice Smith, Jenna Wilkinson and Kevin Jeffress.

Smith finished sixth woman and Wilkinson in her first season on the country scene took 15th position.

Jeffress finished 14th in the men’s race and like Smith made the North East team last year.

All three athletes need to compete in the Northern Championships to further their selection possibilities.

Jeffress said: “I have a half marathon in Torremilanos the week after the Northerns, but I will do Pontefract as I would love to be selected for the Inter Counties again.”

Also being considered for selection are clubmates Sarah Knight, who was fourth in the Under-20s women’s race and Eve Quinn, who took sixth.

The next race that will be considered for selection purposes is the Sherman Cup and Davison Shield, at Temple Park on Saturday, January 5.

This will also be the next race in the Sunderland Harriers Cross Country Grand Prix and marks the halfway stage of the season, with big points scores to be gained in the Northern Championship and the National Championship at Harewood, near Leeds on Saturday, February 23.

Over-45 Judith Thirlwell and Over-50 Paul Redman are joint leaders with 20 points and they are followed by Alice Smith 19, Dale Wilkinson 18, Alan McManus 18, Shaun Bagley 18, Darren Stoker 16, Maria Davis 15, Judith Shotton 15, Nicola Hufton 15, Jenna Wilkinson 15, Steve Rankin 15 and Amy Callaghan 15.

Over 300 entries have already been received for the Sunderland Strollers’ Pier to Pier race on Sunday, May 19. The Run starts alongside the Pier at South Shields.

A bus service is available from finish to the start before the race. After roughly one mile along the sandy beach the race moves to The Leas, here you can choose any route apart from the road or footpath down to Souter Lighthouse.

Anyone using the road or footpath will be disqualified.

At Souter Lighthouse there is a water station and then the race moves to the coastal path down to Sunderland, eventually moving back to the beach for the finish.

The race is approx 7 miles (11km) and starts at 10am.

Following the cancellation of the Durham City Harriers Cathedral Cross Country Relays, Birtley are in negotiations to host a relay event for senior men and women, plus veterans on the Durham City date of Sunday, January 13, at Lord Lawson School, Birtley.

The 35th Loftus and Whitby Poultry Run will be held on Sunday. The start time of the event is 11am.

It is a multi-terrain course approximately 8 miles in length with three challenging ascents. The start/finish is at Loftus Leisure Centre.