Defending senior men’s champions Sunderland Harriers had to settle for the runners-up position in the First Division of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at the final fixture at Alnwick on Saturday.
But there was disappointment for the club’s women, who just missed out on promotion to the First Division, after a nail-biting conclusion to their league campaign.
With the backdrop of Alnwick Castle in the distance, the traditional cross country course of farmers’ fields, testing hills and mud proved a course for even the stronger runners.
And with promotion and relegation to be resolved, clubs turned out runners in their droves for the handicap races for all age groups.
With Tyne Bridge Harriers out of reach at the head of the senior men’s league, Sunderland wanted to ensure that they held onto second spot.
And they did so comfortably, holding off third club Heaton by four points.
They finished fourth team on the day, with their six team counters headed by medium pack man Jake Jansen in 19th in an actual time of 40min 53sec.
Veteran Ian Dixon, running from the fast pack, finished 28th (38.54), then came Aidan Crowe (medium) in 34th (41.36). Slow pack man Mark Head was 36th (44.12), Graham Lancaster(slow) was 92nd (45.42), and Paul Redman (medium) ended 197th (45.17).
Durham’s Michael Grimes won the race from the slow pack (37.43) and Birtley’s Michael Openshaw, the 2001 National Cross Country champion, also from the slows, was third (38.56).
The fastest runner overall was Saltwell’s Abraham Tewelede in eighth (36.50).
Houghton Harriers finished second to Blyth in Division Three to finish fourth in the league.
They had good runs from Alex Brown (medium) fifth in 37.14 and tri-athlete Tom Whelan (slow) 11th (42.44).
The Sunderland Harriers women’s team lost out on promotion by just one point and only four points covered the three clubs in the final team race, with Gosforth winning on 53pts to gain promotion in second place.
Morpeth scored 55 points and did enough to head the table, while Sunderland were a frustrated third on 57.
The Sunderland counters were Alice Smith (fast) 16th 29.42, Vicky Young (fast) 36th 31.00, Amy Callaghan (slow) 47th 34.33 and Coleen Compson (fast) 120th 32.37.
Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett (Birtley) warmed up for this Saturday’s Inter-Counties Cross Country Championship at Loughborough by finishing second (16.10) to clubmate Kate Waugh (15.49) in the Junior (Under-20) race.