Who’ll be king of the Hill

George Harden, winner of the 0ver-50s 1500m at the North East Masters meeting.
George Harden, winner of the 0ver-50s 1500m at the North East Masters meeting.
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THE 24th running of tonight’s North East Vending Penshaw Hill race sees no clear favourite emerging from the entries so far.

With entries being taken tonight, it is anyone’s guess who may turn-up and spoil the party for some booked-in athletes who may have fancied their chances.

With last years winner, Sunderland Harrier Nathan Reed, not defending his title due to university exams, there will almost certainly be a new victor’s name to be added to the Penshaw role of honour.

During the history of the Start Fitness assisted race, Sunderland Harriers’ have dominated the men’s race, with Brian Rushworth winning it 18 times and only suffering defeat three times.

It took the younger legs of international fell runner Nick Swinburn in 2008, Sunderland Stroller Liam Taylor in 2011 and clubmate Nathan Reed last year, to unseat the King of Penshaw Hill after titanic battles throughout the three-mile gruelling hill race.

The only other time his name has not appeared on the trophy was in 1993 and 2002 when illness and injury forced him out of the race.

His last victory came in 2012 at the age of 49 and now aged 51, his age might have finally caught up with him. But he still showed outstanding form in his last race before injury laid him low again - in the Elswick Harriers’ Good Friday Road Relays.

While Rushworth, who was runner-up to Reed last year, cannot be discounted, if he makes a late decision to compete, the way may be clear for Sunderland’s Michael Barker and Steve Potts to put their names alongside Rushworth’s in the club’s hall of fame.

On the entries received so far, they are the leading lights. Barker was fourth last year and Potts returns to the tough race after missing the event for years.

The women’s race sees Sunderland Stroller Ashleigh Thorpe, the winner of last week’s PB Fitness multi terrain race, as the pre race favourite on the entries received so far. Sunderland Harrier 16-year-old Jessica Fox is the Harriers’ top runner after last year’s winner Michelle Avery stepped down from the race to volunteer as a course marshal instead.

The Penshaw race always sets off at breakneck speed, as the first male and female runner to reach the monument first on the opening lap wins the prime award.

The race starts at 7.15pm and late entries are available at the bottom of the hill. The prize presentation is in the Monument pub, Penshaw Village.

Also in the Monument pub, the presentation of Sunderland Harriers’ cross country grand prix will take place. Paul Redman, Dean Phillips, David Savage, Peter Richardson and Helen Higgins, are the winners in that order.

H Former Sunderland Harrier Jack Martin clocked a personal best for 5000m (14.11.97) in finishing eighth in the British Milers’ club Grand Prix at Sport City, Manchester. His brother Patrick was second in the B race in 14.24.88.

H Houghton Harriers’ young middle distance runners clocked personal bests in the British Milers’ Club Regional races at Maiden Castle.

Under-17 man Alex Brown won the E race in 4.19.3, Eva Hardie, an under-13, took the H race (5.09.0), under-13 Will Bellamy was fourth (5.13.6) and Henry Johnson, another under-13, finished fourth in the G race (4.59.2).

Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett (Birtley), an under-17, won the F race in 4.41.5 and her clubmate Danielle Elliott also clocked a PB in fifth (5.00.3).

The performance of the night was set by Crook’s Markim Lonsdale who won the A race (3.52.9) in one of the fastest times ever in the UK by a 15-year-old.

H In the second meeting of the North East Masters’ track and field league at Monkton, Sunderland Harriers had a number of winners.

Amanda Edwards won the over-35 100m (14.4) and 200m (30.8) and Sandra Jackson also did the sprint double in the over-40s, recording 14.4 and 32.00.

Over-60 Peter Richarson won the 1500m (5.21.7) and George Harden took the over-50s event in 4.46.6.

Houghton Harrier Steve Todner won the over-60 100m (13.7) and 200m (28.4).