Sunderland Harriers turn down National final place – despite top-25 finish in Northern 6-Stage Road Relay

Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell
Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell
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Sunderland Harriers had a solid performance in the Northern 6-Stage Road Relay Championships at Manchester on Saturday.

They finished in the first 25 in the 6x6.5k relay at Sport City to qualify for the National final at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday, October 7.

But the Wearsiders have turned down their invite as a number of their squad are unavailable for Sutton Park.

Team manager Albert James said: “The team ran well, but there are three or four of them unavailable for the final. It would not be fair to rely on the youngsters to cover them as the competition is extremely strong.

“The last thing we want is for them to be blown away and become disheartened.’’

The Wearsiders took 21st place (2hr 8min 10sec) behind last year’s bronze medallists, Morpeth, in fourth (2.02.15), Tyne Bridge, in eighth (2.03.35) and Gateshead Harriers were the final club to qualify in 25th (2.10.30).

In-form Andy Powell got Sunderland off to a good start with the club’s fastest time (20min 15sec) in finishing 21st out of the 130 teams contesting the relay on the first leg.

Kevin Jeffress was next off and he recorded 20.34 to claim six spots to finish 15th (20.34) and lift the team to their highest position throughout the race.

Over-40 veteran Ian Dixon then dropped to 22nd (21.14) before Manchester GP Matty Devlin moved up one place to 21st (21.54).

Veteran Paul Blakey, racing just seven days after his Great North Run exertions, brought Sunderland into the top 20 again in 19th (22.06) before Loughborough student Mark Smith slipped back to 21st (22.07).

Sunderland Harriers’ B team finished 74th (2:25:05).

The team featured Jack Tallentire (56th) 22:04, Sean Mackie (58th) 22:45, Christopher Bell (67th) 23:48, Callum Greig (70th) 25:13, Tony Allinson (74th) 25:38 and Daniel Smith (76th) 25:37.

Lincoln Wellington won (1.58.32), with all their athletes running under 20 minutes. Salford were second, with Liverpool third.

The fastest Morpeth Harrier was Washington-based Over-45 super veteran Ian Hudspith (19.43), with Carl Avery on 19.46.

Former Sunderland Harrier Patrick Martin recorded 19.10 for Stockport Harriers, who finished 16th.

Other North East clubs involved were Durham City in 29th (2.12.24), North Shields 35th (2.13.34), Elvet Striders 64th (2.21.05) and New Marske 69th (2.22.40).

The fastest runner was Jack Morris of Stockport (19.10).

Sunderland Harrier Jacqueline Etherington added the bronze medal to her steeplechase gold in the British Masters’ 10,000m (40.16.2) at Monkton.

The race was won by Joasia Zakrzewski (Dumfries) in 37.13.6. Charlene Jacobs-Conradie (Luton) was second with 37.34.3.