Sunderland Harriers’ trio get call-up for British and Irish Masters

Sunderland Harriers' Paul Merrison.
Sunderland Harriers' Paul Merrison.

Three Sunderland Harriers have been selected for the British and Irish Masters’ Cross Country international at Swansea a week on Saturday.

Kevin Jeffress and Paul Merrison compete for England, while Jacqueline Etherington is in the Scotland team.

Jeffress goes in the Over-35 event as does Etherington in the women’s race, while Merrison makes his Over-60 debut.

The three athletes have enjoyed previous selections, with Merrison winning his seventh England vest through the age groups and for Jeffress, this will be his fourth honour in the Over-35 category.

Etherington competes for Scotland for the second time.

Jeffress, the North East Masters’ cross country champion, said: “I’m over the moon to have been selected again, especially with it being my last year in this age group and with such strong competition to gain a place in team. I have had a great year and continue to improve.”

The Seaham man’s best performance was in 2014 when the championship was held at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham.

He was 11th overall and sixth in his age group and second counter for the England team.

He helped England Over-35s win the team title for the first time since the Over-35 category was introduced.

Merrison, who turned 60 last month, said: “I’m delighted to win my seventh international cross country vest after injuring my Achilles’ competing in the North East Masters’ Championships at Darlington back in February.

“This forced me to miss the end of the cross country championship season, including the British Masters’ Championship at Forres in Scotland.

“I returned to fitness to run 17.59 in the 5,000m at the North East Masters Track and Field Championships in June followed by a 17.59 at the Sunderland 5km in July and a 17.57 at the Quayside 5km in August.

“Those sub 18 min 5kms put me in a good position to gain selection when I moved up to the M60 age group.

“I must thank Chris Smith at Tyneside Sports Therapy for getting me back to full fitness.

“My best individual performance was in 2004 when I came fourth in the M45 age group, so the aim in Swansea is a top-three finish in the M60 age group and to win an individual medal.”

Other North East athletes selected are: Over-55 Carole Page (Alnwick), Over-35 Michael Joyeux (Quakers) and Conrad Franks (Gateshead), Over-40 John Butters (Morpeth), Over-45 John Clifford (Evenwood).

The Heaton Harriers Memorial 10km Road Race is staged on Sunday and among the entries is Sunderland Strollers Olympian Alyson Dixon.

Sunderland Harriers have Alice Smith and Jenna Wilkinson included in the women’s race, plus leading veterans Paul Blakey and Rob Walker.

In accordance with tradition, there will be a two minute silence to precede the main race. Please ensure you are in the start area before 11am.

The first prize for the men’s and women’s race is £200. A £200 bonus will be added if the 29.32 winning time (Men), and sub 34.04 winning time (Women) are beaten.

This year the race hosts the North Eastern Counties 10km Senior Women’s and Men’s Road Race Championship.

The Race HQ has changed and will now be at Newcastle High School for Girls, Senior School Hall, Tankerville Terrace, NE2 3BA.

Timetable of events: 9.15am Mini Minor’s Under-11 Boys/Girls – Approx 1km. 9.30am Under-13 Boys/Girls – 3km, 9.45am Under 15-Boys/Girls – 3km,

10.15am Under -17 Men/Women and Under 20 Men/Women – 5km,

11am Senior/Veteran Men/Women 10km.