Sunderland Harriers return to the Northern Athletics Cross Country Relays Championships at Sheffield on Saturday for the first time since 2014.
The Wearsiders have entered two senior men’s teams and two senior women’s teams for the four-stage relays at Graves Park.
With a new team management structure in place for both the men’s and women’s teams, headed by enthusiastic Jimmy Johnson and Coleen Compson, they are both eager to get their tenure off to a good start.
While both teams will not be contenders for medals, in the fiercely contested events, just mixing it with the big guns should be enough to revive team competiveness among the runners.
Men’s team manager Johnson said: “This is a big event and it is pleasing to see the number of athletes that want to be involved. We should always have representation at Sheffield and hopefully this will be a new start.
“We are not expecting to be medal contenders but we are determined to give a good account of ourselves and move on from there.’’
One target Johnson maybe looking for is beating the performances of 2014 when the team finished 12th.
The team was Craig Isherwood (11.10), Kevin Jeffress (11.13), Michael Barker (11.36) and Nathan Reed (11.29).
Only Reed remains from that team and he will be joined by Michael Wilson, Andy Powell and Steve Rankin. Three of the team, Wilson, Powell and Rankin were involved in the Sunderland Harriers North East Road Relay Championship title success at Hetton.
Johnson proudly held aloft the Signals trophy and returned it to the Harriers trophy cabinet for the first time since 2007. This undoubtedly has rekindled team spirit which has led to the Sheffield date.
The Sunderland B team is Michael Edwards, Chris Bell, Steve McMahon and Craig Gunn.
The women have yet to announce their team but with Amy Callaghan, Gemma Frost, Vicky Haswell, Jenna Wilkinson and Claire Cook, down on the team sheet, a reasonable squad could be assembled.
Houghton Harriers are among the favourites in the Under-17 Men’s three-stage relay - if they are back to full strength. The Northern Road Relay Champions were missing one of their top runners in Will Bellamy in the England National Road Relay Championships at Sutton Coldfield on October 6, where they finished down the field in 14th.
If they have Bellamy back in the team and joining Henry Johnson and Samuel Gibson, who were the team that won the Northern Road Relay, they are capable of winning a Northern double.
Houghton also have an Under-13 Boys team, an Under-17 Women’s team and a Senior Men’s team, all down to run.
Timetable of Events: 11:00 Under 17 Women 3 Stages 2300m, 11:05 Under 17 Men 3 Stages 2300m, 11:45 Under 11 Girls 3 Stages 1500m, 11:50 Under 11 Boys 3 Stages 1500m, 12:15 pm Under 13 Girls 3 Stages,1800m,12:20 Under 13 Boys 3Stages 1800m, 12:40 Under 15 Girls 3 Stages 2000m, 12:45 Under 15 Boys 3 Stages 2000m, 13:15 Senior Women 3 Stages 2 miles, 14:10 Senior Men ‘The Cutlers Relay’ 4 x 2 miles.
Sunderland Harrier Michael Barker won the Beamish Hall Trail Race by nearly two minutes. He recorded 39.15 to defeat Heaton Harrier Ian Robertson (41.00).
Sunderland Stroller William Bowman was ninth (47.02).
Sunderland Harrier Michelle Avery won the women’s race (49.11) to finish 18th overall.
This was Sunderland Harriers second double win of the weekend with Liam Taylor (10k) and Craig Gunn (half marathon) winning their events at the Kielder Water running weekend with impressive victories.