SUNDERLAND Harriers showed much improvement with their result in the senior men’s race at the Northern Cross Country Championships at Pontefract on Saturday.
They finished 14th team out of 58 clubs to improve 21 positions on their result of last year at Knowsley.
While this performance is far adrift of their glorious days of the early 1980S, when winning in 1985 and finishing runners-up three times, it shows a step in the right direction.
They also had four men in the first 104 finishers, while last year they had just one – Nathan Reed 101st.
The mud-splattered course saw the club’s England masters cross country international Kevin Jeffress lead the club home in 55th. Next came a disappointed Craig Isherwood in 65th, despite improving 36 positions on his previous best.
Nathan Reed also moved up a notch in 70th and 20-year-old Irishman Liam Roarty finished 104th. Finalising the scoring were Michael Laws in 237th and Paul Redman 386th.
Three North East clubs finished ahead of Sunderland with Morpeth Harriers winning by nine points from Stockport, who had Sunderland brothers Patrick Martin in third (38.01) and Jack 10th (38.47).
Gateshead were tenth and Durham 11th with last year-s winner Dan Garbutt having to be satisfied with sixth this time (38.10). Morpeth’s Nick Swinburn was fifth (38.07).
Olympic triathlon gold medallist Alastair Brownlee (Bingley) finished second (37.50) to Stockport’s winner Andrew Davies (37.41).
The women’s race saw Sunderland improve from their last position of last year to finish 27th and having 14 clubs behind them, much to the delight of team manager Eddie Maddison.
The four counters were Judith Thirwell136th, Colleen Compson 197th, Vikki Cotton 213th and Maria Davis 228th.
The race was won by Stockport’s Ellie Vernon (28.22) with Durham’s Rosie Smith fourth (29.20).
Birtley continued their triumphant year by winning the under-17s team race by placing Kate Waugh in second, Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett was fourth, only four seconds off a medal, and Philippa Chambers finished 11th. Sunderland Harrier Jessica Fox was 49th.
Houghton Harrier Alex Brown was 40th in the under-17s and Sunderland’s Mark Smith was 49th, clubmate Sean Mackie was 35th in the under-15 boys’.
Houghton also had Eva Hardie in 40th and her twin Lily 69th in the under-13 girls. Henry Johnson finished 24th in the under-13s.
Sunderland Harrier Michael Wilson, making his indoor debut, finished second in the Welsh Championship under-20 800m (1.53.6) at Cwmbran on Saturday.