Albert James steps down as Sunderland Harriers’ team manager after six years at the helm. James must have thought he would be in for a smooth ride when he witnessed Sunderland take the silver medals at the NECAA Royal Signals relays at Hetton Lyons Park in February 2012, the team included 2012 Olympian Weynay Ghebrasalasie and his own son, Oliver.
However, James was soon to find out it wouldn’t be as easy as that with both the aforementioned athletes no longer living in the north east it was a baptism of fire. His first race in charge was the 31st Farringdon Cross Country Relays in September 2013 where he only had four men to select from, one of whom was a 17 year old making his senior debut. The team gave it their best but only finished 8th out of 25 in a time of 41:03, the club’s worst ever performance in the event.
Undeterred but realising more must be done if the club were to be competitive James set about rebuilding the senior men’s squad, he helped to recruit many new athletes and bring many back from the side-lines. The squad grew in size and subsequently quality as the lads trained together and their success continued to attract more runners.
Arguably James must successful season came in 2015-2016 when the team won the Farringdon cross country relays, Heaton memorial 10km, Pier to Pier, Gosforth relays and the coveted North East Harrier League which proved the club’s strength in depth. This is the season the club secured their best Northern 12 stage result in recent years on home soil at Silksworth, this was especially satisfying as this was an event the club had not contested for a number of years before James took the helm.
Many expected that more success would soon follow but this wasn’t the case. A number of factors including injury and athletes moving out of the area meant some lean seasons followed in 2017 & 2018. This is one of the reasons James wanted to get involved in coaching to help some of the injured and disenfranchised athletes back in to the fold. The future looks bright for James and the senior men and some of his best results have been picked up at the very end of James’ leadership.
The lads had hoped to deliver 4 out of 4 wins in relay season but unfortunately they were beaten at the Ken Jefferson memorial relays on Saturday 14th September 2019 but still claimed three wins, one second place and one third place finish in the four relays contested. James Johnson is the manager in waiting and has duly filled in for James during his recent time in USA (Johnson helped seal the North Eastern championship at the Signal relays in this time), he will officially take up the role after election at the AGM in October. Albert James will focus on his coaching and all of the senior men wish him the best of luck in this role.
Heaton memorial 10km 2015
Gosforth Relays 2016, 2017, 2019
Farringdon relays 2015 , 2016
North Eastern Harrier League 2015-16
Durham Summer relays 2019
North Eastern Signals road relays 2019
Northern 5km team silver medallists 2017 & 2019
North Eastern XC team bronze 2014